The five wrestling Ross brothers have tried other sports, but nothing else has satisfied or bonded them as wrestling has. Competing for Onteora High School at the February 23-24 New York State Wrestling Championships in Albany, Nathan, a junior, took sixth place in his weight class of 152 pounds, and Nicholas, a sophomore, placed third in the 138-pound weight class.
Patrick, Nicholas’ twin, has made it to the state competition before, although this year he didn’t qualify. Dylan, 18, is now wrestling for the University of Buffalo, and Austin, 24, who started it all, was captain of the team at the same college.
While wrestlers get support and camaraderie from their teammates, said Nicholas, “I like it because it’s an individual sport. However hard you work is what you get.”
“Your teammates can’t cover you,” agreed Patrick. “It takes determination and hard work that not a lot of kids can do.”
The discipline extends to diet, since each wrestler has to maintain a specific narrow weight range in order to avoid competing in a higher weight class, where a heavier wrestler would have an added advantage. A wrestler in the 126-pound weight class, for instance, can’t weigh more than 129 to stay in his class. During the season, October to February, the boys carefully monitor their food and liquid intake, particularly on days they’re competing, when they have to weigh in.
On a typical day, the boys are up at 5 a.m. to cook their own breakfast and go to the gym before school. Team practice is held after school. When they’re done with their homework, the brothers grapple on the mat laid out on the living room floor. During the off-season, their parents drive them three times a week to practice with Journeymen Wrestling, a club in Albany.
“It takes more time and commitment than other sports,” said Nathan. “I also like the aggressiveness of it. It’s an outlet. When I’m in school, and I get frustrated, then I go to wrestling practice and take it out legally without hurting anyone.”
That aggressiveness doesn’t mean they get into fights. Their mother, Renée, said, “Most kids don’t mess with them. But it’s an intense way of using up energy. You have an ability, and it can’t be mistreated. If you’re angry, you can’t wrestle well.”
“It’s a respectful sport,” said their father, Jake. “There are so many rules, moves that are not allowed. You can’t grab in dangerous ways, to prevent people from getting hurt.”
Moreover, while strength gives the wrestler an edge, it can be overcome by skill and strategy. The concentration required is intense. “When you’re at practice,” said Nathan, “you don’t have to think about anything else.”
Wrestling has dominated the family’s life since Austin was in seventh grade and looking for a winter sport. He made it to the varsity team by 10th grade. Inspired by Austin, his brothers all started earlier, between the ages of seven and 10. Coach Lou Chartrand, who recently retired, and Eric Pezzello, now head coach, have been their guides. “We got a lot of commitment from those guys,” said Jake. “They love my kids like their own.”
Austin has parlayed his wrestling accomplishments into a job. A few months before he graduated from college, a Buffalo company asked the school for the names of sports team captains with excellent academic records. Austin was hired as a software developer for a firm that helps hospitals and other employers recruit licensed caregivers in New York State.
So far the five boys have logged 500 varsity wins and 12 section titles. After Austin got a tattoo of the Greek word that means “five strong,” Dylan and Nathan followed suit. Patrick and Nick plan to get the same tattoo when they’re old enough.
For Renée, a big plus for the family has been the way wrestling “put them through high school. They have to be doing well in school to stay on the team. There’s not a day they don’t want to go to school.”