The great tradition of West Lincoln High School wrestling added another honor to its trophy case on Sunday.
Coach Butch Ross was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Chapel Hill hosted by the Hall’s North Carolina chapter on Sunday and was given the annual “Lifetime Service to Wrestling Award” for his dedication to the sport since childhood.
Ross wrestled for the Rebels from 1971-1975 and then went on to wrestle at Appalachian State University from 1975-1978. When he finished his college career he came home and began coaching at the junior high school level at what is now West Lincoln Middle School.
He took over the head coaching position at the high school in 1996, but was around the program since he was a boy.
“There’s no other job that I’ve ever really wanted in my life,” Ross said. “My Dad (Gene Ross) took me to watch wrestling at West Lincoln in 1966 when they first started the team there and I got hooked on it. The only job I ever really wanted to do was coach West Lincoln wrestling.”
Ross described his father, 82, as both his biggest fan and critic.
“He comes to all of our matches and he also tells me exactly what he thinks about how we wrestle,” he said. “He’s been around long enough that he knows, and he can tell me if I did the right stuff or I didn’t, and he doesn’t mind telling me. Which is a good thing, you need that.”
Ross’s father roomed with Lincolnton’s Steve Gabriel while he attended Appalachian State University. Gabriel wrestled and coached for the Mountaineers, and was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame with the same award Ross received.
“That’s a big honor, to know that you followed somebody like that, from Lincolnton,” Ross said, “who gave his life to wrestling and that is the one that caused you to get hooked on it.”
Ross was also quick to acknowledge the help he’s received throughout his career from the West Lincoln community. Ross and the Rebel coaching staff run the Top Dawg youth wrestling program, and said many of the young boys he coached come back to him at the high school level as young men.
“There’s a whole community effort here at West Lincoln,” he said. “We have great coaches at the middle school and we have the Top Dawg wrestling club that we all work in and I have great assistant coaches. We start our kids out in the Top Dawg program about five or six years old, and we continually try to improve by going to camps. And we have the wrestlers that are willing to come in here and work hard and their parents encourage and support them.”
Ross said he gets unparalleled help from his daughters and their families, and his brothers and sisters, when the Rebels run the 2A Western Regional tournament and Top Dawg tournaments that draw young wrestlers from around the country.
Although he’s been with the school system long enough to retire, Ross said he’ll continue to coach for the foreseeable future.
“I’ve been blessed; I consider it a blessing that I’ve been able to be here this long,” he said.