Will Rebels` depth lead to a wrestling state title?
Despite the storied history and many accolades of the West Lincoln wrestling program; this yearâ€™s team has earned an achievement no other in school history has.
As of Jan. 13, the Rebels (27-0) are still ranked No. 1 in the state. They first received their top billing sometime in December according to head coach Butch Ross.
This is the deepest the Rebels have ever carried the title of No. 1 into a wrestling season. Late in December in 2000, when West Lincoln won a state title, they fell at the East Burke Duals. That was the deepest the Rebels have ever lugged the burden of No. 1.
The strange thing is, Ross doesnâ€™t view the top ranking as a burden at all.
â€œI think itâ€™s more of an honor. It says a lot for your program and for your kids. It can put you in the position that everybody wants to beat the No. 1 team,â€ he said.
â€œSo actually it makes your kids want to step up a little,â€ he added.
To the contrary, Ross feels the ranking is not only an honor, but also a reflection of his teamâ€™s work ethic.
â€œItâ€™s good for the boys, the school and community. Theyâ€™ve worked hard and dedicated a lot of time and effort to it. They just have been doing their job,â€ Ross said matter-of-factly.
Perhaps some of the teamâ€™s success stems from the fact that Ross takes a simple and truthful approach to the mat.
â€œI always stress the fact that theyâ€™re winners as long as they wrestle the best they can. If they do that, then theyâ€™ve succeeded.â€
So what are the seeds the team has sown in order to reap such a bountiful harvest?
â€œWe have good senior leadership, hard work and they are good quality people. One of the real big reasons this team wins is the depth we have,â€ Ross said.
The verse, â€˜there is strength in numbers,â€™ is certainly true when it comes to Rossâ€™ group.
â€œA lot of times, the second and third string will push the starters because they know theyâ€™re going to get better and itâ€™s going to make the starters better. Our record is as much to do with the them, as it is the starters, because it is a whole team effort,â€ he said.
A legitimate question is, â€˜Is there any fall off when a non-starter starts or when one is forced into action. In Rossâ€™ eyes, no.
â€œIf you look at the team, the second and third string wrestlers are almost as good as the first team. When somebody is out hurt or sick, they step in and itâ€™s like nobody is missed.â€
The Rebels possess both quantity in wrestlers and qualityâ€”which is evidenced by the fact there are 17 athletes that possess winning records:
John Harkey 36-6, Matt Whittle 25-12, Zac Elmore 13-4, Jeremy Pearson 29-6, Matt Avery 33-3, Zeb Elmore 30-6, Logan Shronce 14-8, James Pearson 8-6, Dustin Hester 33-4, Daniel Scronce 21-10, Ryan Rhodes 7-1, Daniel Soto 28-8, Keane Steele 20-10, Daniel Smith 14-2, Thomas Smith 15-11, Brandon Auten 10-5, Antonio Rojo 37-1.
Does Ross feel his team garnering so much publicity will jinx them in anyway?
â€œNot really, I think if the boys step up and wrestle like they can, we have a good chance of winning it (the state title). I believe you make your own path.â€
While that may be true; itâ€™s obvious Ross has shown the Rebels the right pathâ€”one filled with integrity, character and at the endâ€¦ a state title?
by John Mark Brooks