Wes Rollo thought he was going to the president’s home at Northwestern State University to attend a program for incoming freshmen leaders. It turned out, he and his parents, Sonya and Jeff Rollo of Natchitoches, were surprised to find members of the Dylan Kyle Poche family and the NSU Foundation prepared to award him a two-year scholarship for participation on the NSU Fishing Team.
Wes, who will graduate from Natchitoches Central High School this month, will be awarded $10,000 for his freshman and sophomore year at NSU. The Poche family presented another $10,000 to the NSU Fishing Team to underwrite travel expenses, supplies and team jerseys. Proceeds were generated through the fourth annual Dylan Kyle Poche Memorial Fishing Tournament that took place on Toledo Bend Lake March 23 with 213 boats participating.
“This is special in a lot of ways,” said Director of Development Jill Bankston. “I’ve known Wes since he was about three years old. He is full of grit and determination. The Poche family could not have chosen a better recipient and this is also a special day for the NSU Fishing Team.”
Dylan Poche was a member of NSU’s Fishing Team when he lost his life in January 2016. Later that year, his parents, Burt and Shelley Poche and Misty Ott, established the fishing tournament and scholarship to honor his memory and support the NSU Fishing Team.
“I’m thankful and honored to give Wes this scholarship,” Burt Poche said. “Dylan would be proud.”
Sonya Rollo thanked the Poche family for blessing others through their pain.
“We are thankful for the legacy of Dylan and that he lives on through this scholarship,” she said. “We knew Dylan. Fishing is a kinship and we are thankful that you chose us.”
NSU President Dr. Chris Maggio remarked on Wes Rollo’s courage as he battled cancer as a youngster and said the Poche family’s support of the NSU Fishing Team will put it on a trajectory to win a national championship.
Sonya Rollo said that fishing is more than a sport to Wes. Wes was diagnosed with AVN leukemia in September 2013, the start of his seventh grade year. He had been a baseball player and pitcher, but the disease ended his athletic career. His 31-month treatment was effective, but brutal on his body and fishing became his outlet.
“Fishing is big in his life in so many ways. While he was in bed, he watched fishing videos and learned about mating patterns and how to fish in different conditions,” she said. “He was secluded and it was a lonely time, but he used that to his advantage. When he was alone, he studied and fished.”
For Wes, fishing was both emotional and physical therapy. Having to balance himself in a boat helped the bones and joints that had been affected by treatment and he improved with physical activity. When Wes was able to return to school at the end of his ninth grade year, he joined the NCHS fishing team and last year was able to go to the Bassmaster Nationals.
Members of the NSU Fishing team and Juddy Hamous, team sponsor, attended the scholarship announcement to welcome Wes to the team. Hamous, a long-time friend of the Poche family, said the club is an opportunity for a student to get involved on a competitive level with a healthy and enjoyable lifetime sport. The waterways in and around Natchitoches make it a popular sportsman’s destination.
Earlier this year, the Louisiana High School Athletic Association approved bass fishing as a winter sport on a one-year trial basis, an indication of growing interest in the sport. The NSU Fishing Team is open to all full-time students who maintain a 2.0 or better grade point average.
For information supporting the NSU Fishing Team or student scholarships at Northwestern State, contact the NSU Foundation office at (318) 357-4414.
Pictured above: Members of the NSU Fishing Team welcomed incoming freshman Wes Rollo of Natchitoches during an announcement naming Rollo a two-year recipient of the Dylan Kyle Poche Fishing Scholarship. From left are Rollo, Kyle McAllen, Tyler Pate, Maguire Parker, Gage Ulrich, Jackson Mcgee, Dawson Cranford and team sponsor Juddy Hamous.