Cyclones' Ross flourishing both on and off mat

By Kim Richardson
STAR Correspondent

   We've all heard the phrase, "dumb jock,' which infers nothing other than, if he plays sports, that he must be, well, dumb.
   Then there's the occasional "cheating scandal" brought to you in living color on ESPN, which depicts a big-time sports institution such as our own University of Tennessee, as a place where so many dumb jocks gather together to cheat their way through college, or at least cheat until they can "declare early," and head off to the NFL or NBA.
   I suppose some wrestlers might fit the prototype for dumb jock. They're so rough, tough, and downright mean looking. Modern television and various professional wrestling associations certainly do little to dispel such misleading imagery.  
   We see them, otherwise great looking athletic specimens, locked in cages like animals. They, in turn, oblige us by portraying animals or something worse, by doing things more obscene and obnoxious than any self-respecting animal would dare. They throw chairs at each other, and often, each other at each other. 
   They're great athletes; many of them crossovers, such as ex-Tennessee basketball player, Kevin Nash, who has made a very successful career of slamming to the mat any and all who dare enter his domain. Nash actually disproves the dumb jock theory when we realize how well the sport has treated him.
   So what does any of this have to do with John Ross? Well, thankfully, absolutely nothing. He's a fierce competitor. He's a winner on the mat, and off. Oh, and he's certainly not dumb, not by any stretch of the imagination. 
   John Ross is a wrestler for Elizabethton High School. He's now won over a hundred matches.  He's barely lost 20. He's a lean, mean fierce fighting machine. But according to his head coach, Bill Potter, he's won so many of those matches with his head.
   Huh? Head butting is the first thing that comes to mind. But it's really not like that.
   "He uses his head as well as any wrestler I've coached," said Potter. "He's won so many of those matches by out-thinking, then out-willing his opponents." 
   "He's so crafty," Coach Potter continued. "He is quick of body and mind." 
   "John may not be the most gifted athlete," his dad said, "but he works very hard, and he's well-disciplined."
   So is it safe to assume that wrestling really is not a dumb jock sport? Well, maybe the young Ross's stats will clarify things a bit: He does all right in class -- that is if you want to call 4.0 all right. 
   But rest assured that the ACT will have exposed his weakness or weaknesses. He actually did okay there as well, if of course, you'd be willing to label a 32 okay.
   But take the ACT enough times and most anyone can do okay, right? "Once," John Ross declared impishly, modestly, as though silently begging the question, "can you take it more than once?"
   He wants to study the Bible, and religions. He might even become an archeologist. Then he can take the things he digs up and use them for comparatives or contrasts to the Holy Word.
   He wants to study Languages, perhaps becoming a linguist, maybe even a Biblical translator. No cages or animal calls for this jock. 
   And he'll do all that while running. He'll probably run while in college, possibly at Messiah College in Pennsylvania. Yes, Messiah, one of our Nation's finest. 
   Running? Oh yeah, John Ross is also a returning all-state performer on the Cyclone cross-country team. This feat might help land him a scholarship to run in college.
   Truth be told, Ross will have enough scholarship offers to sink a small ship. His grades alone would do the trick, but that ACT score -- Wow!
   John Ross believes he will have wrestled for the last time when this, his senior season ends at EHS. Several who have faced him from across the mat will be glad to see him move on. 
   Where does a 5-8, 125-pound man draw his strength, his courage, his perseverance? "God and family," Ross says without hesitation. 
   "And my coaches and teammates, he continues. "Pat" (Patrick) Jenkins is a great example as well."
   Interesting how in such a sport for "individuals" that so many of these Bill Potter-coached wrestlers all seem to have at least one teammate who gives them that little extra something, a positive example to compare, to appreciate. 
   John has an older brother, Andy, who attends and plays soccer for Milligan College.
   "Andy is such a positive influence in John's life," Tim Ross said. "And Randy Little, the older guys on the team still think very highly of Randy."
   John Ross alludes to Randy Little as well, saying: "Coach Little still comes around and offers help to Coach Potter. He is very much appreciated by all of us."
   "My family, my little sister (nine year old), Jill, she's very precious to all of us," Ross states, referring to his brothers, Andy and Tyler, 16, and of course, his father, Tim, who is the minister at Hopwood Christian Church, on the Milligan College campus."
   And there's the ever-present maternal influence. John's mother, Marsha, teaches Art at T. A. Dugger Jr. High School. Mrs. Ross says that, "I will say that it's a lot easier to buy groceries when the boys are wrestling."
   John attributes diet, conditioning and sleep as major determining factors in preparing for competition.
   "Coach Potter really works us so hard," Ross said, "but he's proven that condition, being better conditioned than our opponents, is often the difference between winning and losing."
   "We do work them hard," Coach Potter said, "but John, Pat and several others attest that we do have an edge in that department."
   John Ross likes to read, a lot. "I like reading the Bible, and lots of things," he said. He also plays the trumpet in the EHS marching band. 
   He's bright, articulate, courageous, Christian, and focused. He dispels the "dumb jock" label in short order.