When you hear the name Butch Ross, you automatically think West Lincoln wrestling.
On Thursday, the longtime leader of one of the state’s top programs was named the North Carolina wrestling coach of the year by the National Federation of High Schools association.
“I think it says a whole lot for the program,” Ross said after being notified of the award by Tra Waters of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association. “It says a lot about all the other coaches, the middle school coaches and the parents.”
Ross began his coaching career as a student-teacher in 1979. He coached at West Lincoln Middle School for 15 years, and became head coach at West Lincoln High in 1996.
Ross has coached several individual state champions, including Antonio Rojo, Matt Whittle, Clay Alguire, Glen Self and Mack George twice.
One of his favorite stories is about helping a former wrestler win a state title. Hayden Sutphin, whose father became ill, had to move to West Wilkes prior to his senior season. Ross said that once Sutphin had made it to the state finals, that he and Coach Brown from West Wilkes wanted Ross to sit in his corner. “Coach Brown told me to coach him,” Ross said, “since I had him for three years.”
West Lincoln also won the Dual Team state championship in 2000 and 2015 under Ross. He also had a second place finish in the Individual Team championship in 2005.
Ross says that he loves being able to interact with the kids, and see them find success. “It doesn’t matter whether they’re a .500 wrestler,” said Ross, “if they all gave 100 percent.”
The coach is drawn to wrestling because the sport gives everyone a chance to excel to a certain point, if they put in the time and the hard work. “Not everybody can be a state champion,” said Ross. “But they can find success. It (wrestling) gives kids discipline.”
Ross loves the fact that he’s been able to coach his grand kids, and having his daughters along to keep score. And his wife Joette takes care of running concessions at home events.
Although well deserved, the humble Ross won’t take all the credit for his award. “It’s a total program award,” Ross said. “I want to give a special thanks to all the wrestlers, assistant coaches, middle school coaches, parents and my family for all the help they’ve given.”
He also thanks West Lincoln for giving him the opportunity, and his mom, dad, brother and sister all of their support. “Dad passed away five years ago,” Ross said, “and never missed.”
Ross guided the Rebels to a 31-11 record this past season, with possibly his youngest team ever. This is his first NFHS state coach of the year award. He was named state 2A coach of the year in 2000 and 2015 by “Mat News.”
Former wrestler and current Lincolnton coach Brent Gates had this to say about his mentor winning the award. “I’m proud to say that I wrestled for Coach Ross, and I’m excited that he was given this award,” Gates said. “I don’t know of anyone more deserving. I continue to learn things from him even though I’ve coached against him the past nine years. I just hope that someday I can have the type of impact that he’s had on so many people.”
Ross will receive his award in Chapel Hill on May 4.