Wes Stafford spends his free time stabbing people but aspires to heal them one day.
On Tuesday, Stafford was elected president of the UT fencing club for the 2011-12 year. He is also a pre-med student and has hopes of becoming a doctor.
“There are a lot of really personal reasons as to why I want to be a doctor,” Stafford said. “Most importantly though, I want to help people. I have the ability to, so I feel like it’s something I need to do.”
The fencing team participated in a national tournament earlier this month at the University of Chicago. Stafford had an outstanding performance, only losing four out of 30 epee bouts. The men’s epee team came in fifth overall.
“We went up five places from last year and finished a lot stronger,” Stafford said. “A lot of the weapons did much better than they did last year.”
As a pre-med student, academics are important in Wes’ life, but fencing is what keeps him sane through all of the organic chemistry and biology classes.
“This is a strong family,” Stafford said. “It’s something I can depend on. It’s something that a lot of people can depend on. This team has gotten a lot closer since I’ve been here.”
He started fencing when he was 10 and then quit in high school for swim team.
“I came to UT, and a friend said that there was a fencing team here, and I thought, ‘I haven’t stabbed somebody in awhile,’” Stafford said. “So I came back and started fencing again and got really involved in it, and it’s kind of taken off since then.”
Fencing appeals to him because of the combination of strategy and athleticism.
“It’s a very personal thing,” Stafford said. “You’re behind a mask, and all your facial expressions and all your emotions are behind a mask. So it’s very much a contained, personal thing that you develop.”
Although fencing is something Wes loves, being an athlete and a pre-med student can be difficult. Time management is key in balancing the two.
“It’s really tough and overwhelming sometimes to keep up with school and fencing,” he said. “There are a lot of sleepless nights and praying involved.”
But the focus that he has learned to maintain while fencing has helped him in his studies.
“When you get on the strip, there is nothing else except the person in front of you,” he said. “It’s not really even the person. It’s the thing holding a sword that’s trying to stab you. That focus allows you to just concentrate on one thing.”
Wes uses that same detached focus in his studies and everyday life.
“I would go crazy if I couldn’t stab something on a regular basis,” Stafford said.
Cole Christensen, a sophomore on the team, is one of the fencers who respects Wes for his achievements in fencing and academics.
“Wes brings a level of expertise that you don’t see in a lot of clubs around Texas,” Christensen said. “Wes knows what he’s doing, and he’s actually truly reliable as a fencer and as a person. He is really inspirational, especially to people who have never fenced before.”