Holtsclaw flourishes as young media member

By Matt Hill

   He may not be as wild as ESPN's Dick Vitale, but Wes Holtsclaw is a diaper dandy when it comes to sports broadcasting.
   Holtsclaw, a senior at Cloudland High School, did color commentary on the Highlander football playoff broadcasts for WBEJ. And despite his age, he received rave reviews from local citizens.
   "Steve Wilhoit came up to me, and asked me if I was Wes Holtsclaw," he said. "He asked me if I would do commentary for him. It just kind of happened on the spot, and I just stuck with it."
   Holtsclaw definitely has the talent for this. He announces at all the home basketball games at Cloudland, and is also the press director for the Highlander football team.
   But Holtsclaw also has a passion for Cloudland athletics, and it was a dream of his to broadcast the two biggest games in Highlander football history up to this point.
   "It was an honor for me to represent the school," Holtsclaw said. "It was something I'll never forget. It was my first-ever radio experience doing that. Maybe one day when I go to college, and get my degree in journalism, or maybe when I'm on ESPN someday I can look back on that and say that was my first experience. I'll never forget it, especially being Cloudland Highlander football."
   Holtsclaw's moment in the sun probably wasn't heard by too many Highlander fans. WBEJ has to lower its power at night, and the station is just about impossible to get in Roan Mountain after sunset.
   It was a little disappointing for Holtsclaw because people couldn't take their radios to the game and listen to it.
   "It was disappointing in a way because there were so many people up here that saw that I was doing it and wanted to listen," Holtsclaw said. "I have big following up here in basketball. I've been doing this for two years, and I will credit Scott Morgan for showing me the ropes in basketball two years ago.
   "It was kind of disappointing because I do have a loyal following, and people were trying to pick it up and couldn't. But in a way it was good because people do know me down in Elizabethton. Considering I'm a senior in high school, that's a rare opportunity."
   With WBEJ getting the state championship game off satellite feed, Holtsclaw has now turned his attention to announcing at the Cloudland basketball games. You can tell that announcing is something he really enjoys.
   "During basketball season I try to help out in any way that I can," Holtsclaw said. "During the away games I'm the first person on the bench keeping stats. I'm a huge Highlander fan when it comes to all sports. I love announcing, and I love to see the reaction on people's faces when I get the crowd hyped up.
   "The crowd reaction is worth it. When coaches and players from other schools say 'you're the best announcer we've heard all year,' it's an honor."
   Holtsclaw's talents are not limited to broadcasting and announcing. He is also a freelance sportswriter, and has already hit the bigtime in that field, too.
   Holtsclaw recently covered the Tennessee-Georgia football game. And according to Holtsclaw, he probably made history that day.
   "As far as I know, I'm the first high school student to ever cover a University of Tennessee football game from Neyland Stadium," Holtsclaw said. "It was shocking the whole time."
   Holtsclaw sensed a little bit of jealousy from some of the writers who were covering the game.
   "The atmosphere was weird because there were several other local newspaper editors that seemed jealous, and were kind of being rude and harsh," Holtsclaw said. "But when I was down on the field I got the first quotes from Travis Stephens, Kelly Washington, Casey Clausen, and I was the only guy down there talking to Jason Witten. He's a class act individual. I sat front row in front of Phillip Fulmer at the press conference. It was unbelievable."
   Holtsclaw has already accomplished a lot during his young life, but still has high aspirations for the future.
   "I cannot complain being a senior in high school," Holtsclaw said. "The only thing that could top this would be an 11 p.m. episode of Sportscenter starring Kenny Mayne and Wes Holtsclaw."
   Holtsclaw will be leaving Cloudland soon, and starting to make his dreams become reality.
   "I'm majoring in communications, and I'm going into sports broadcasting and writing," Holtsclaw said. "We'll see where the career leads, but one day I could be on channel 5, I could be on ESPN, who knows I could be in New York or Atlanta. I'm going to follow my dreams, and maybe one day I'll be the next voice of the Vols."
   For right now Holtsclaw is fine with being the voice of the Highlanders. And his main concentration at the moment is Friday afternoon's championship game with Ezell-Harding.
   Holtsclaw expects it to be a great contest.
   "It's going to be a tough game," Holtsclaw said. "It's going to be the Ezell-Harding west coast/do whatever versus the Cloudland famed power-I. It's going to be J.P. Shelly vs. Mark Byrd, Antoine Owens vs. Dakota Benfield. It's going to be amazing.
   "I hope the area and the county heads down there and supports this team. It's really something amazing and shocking. Hopefully, they'll bring back this area's first football state championship."