When he was younger, Noah Ross never really understood the appeal of wrestling.

Always the smallest kid in the practice room, Ross would tangle with wrestlers at least 20 pounds heavier than himself. The mismatches left him discouraged and he gave up the sport -- but only for a while.

Central Crossing High School wrestling coach Jamie Ramirez and the Comets' top competitor, Jaden Mattox, talked Ross into giving the sport another try during his junior year, and the 106-pound senior has not regretted the decision.

"When I tried (wrestling) in the seventh grade, I was like 20 pounds under the lowest weight class, (which was 74 pounds), so I quit," Ross said. "Last year I started again because Jaden Mattox (a senior who competes this season at 160) is one of my good friends and he talked me into it.

"Jaden and coach told me that I would be good. They got me to go out to scrimmages where I wrestled kids my own weight instead of kids who were bigger than me like at practice. Once I wrestled kids my own weight, I knew I had a chance to be good."

Ross was a district alternate last season, finishing fifth in a Division I sectional. He went 20-15 and already has reached that win total this season, going 20-7.

"Noah came out as a sophomore, then after a couple of weeks we didn't see him at practice," Ramirez said. "He was kind of on that fence whether he was in or he was out because it's so tough.

"He was torn between doing soccer in the winter or staying with us. I pulled him out of class and told him that I would like to see him stay with it because he had so much potential. Luckily he decided to come back and this year he is really starting to turn the corner for us."

Ross weighed 100 pounds last season while competing at 106. He said he usually shows up at practice around 115 on Mondays and needs cut to 108 for matches after the two-pound January allowance was added.

"It kind of sucks not being able to eat or drink what you want," he said. "I try to only eat things like eggs and chicken and drink water. I don't eat candy and stuff like that.

"I think if you try not to rush it and not wait until the last day (to cut weight), you'll be better off. If you do that, you can get sick or your performance won't be as good because you'll be so weak."

Ramirez agreed that cutting weight isn't easy, but it also can make a wrestler a better performer.

"Noah was really small when he came out, but he's a great kid -- and honor roll student -- the kind of kid you want around your program," Ramirez said. "He has to cut a little weigh now, which is good because you want him to be bigger and stronger."

Ross has a 3.96 GPA and would like to major in computer science in college. He started all four seasons in soccer and would like to play that sport in college, but he still is open to wrestling.

"I think wrestling on top is my strong suit because I think my legs are so much stronger from soccer than a lot of the kids I wrestle," said Ross, who has not made a college selection. "I like soccer better. I think I'm a lot better at soccer than wrestling. I have been at it so long.

"At the end of last year when I went back to play club soccer, I'm already in better shape than the other kids there. I feel like when we had the conditioning, I wouldn't be as worn out as I was before I wrestled. That's really helped me a lot."

Ross and the Comets still have at least a month of wrestling to go.

In the Division I team dual tournament Jan. 24 at Hilliard Bradley, they defeated Grove City 34-33 in their opener before being eliminated by Teays Valley 50-26.

Central Crossing will compete in a sectional tournament Feb. 24 at Marysville in the individual portion of the postseason.

Ross aims to finish in the top four at sectional to advance to district March 2 and 3 at Hilliard Darby, then reach the state tournament March 8-10 at Ohio State by finishing in the top four at district. To do that, he must stay aggressive.

"I think I'm a lot less timid this year and more willing to try new moves in a match," he said. "Last year I wouldn't do that, but this year I'm a lot more aggressive.

"Coach wants me to be aggressive a lot and he showed me how to use my legs. He also said you have to take risks in order to win a match or get that last takedown."

Francek leads boys at league swim meet

Zach Francek finished fifth in the 100-yard backstroke (1 minute, 0.86 of a second) to lead the boys swimming and diving team in the OCC-Central Division meet Jan. 27 at Upper Arlington.

Francek also was seventh in the 100 butterfly (58.84), and the Comets finished fifth (83 points) behind champion UA (391).

Will Atkins was ninth in the 200 freestyle (2:20.9).

For the girls team, the 200 free relay of Haley Kumfer, Madison Studt, Emma Thompson and Lauren Lynn led the way by finishing third in 1:56.37. The Comets were fifth (71) behind champion UA (478).

Thompson was eighth in the 500 free (5:50.73).

Boys basketball team evens up record

The boys basketball team was 8-8 overall before playing Licking Heights on Jan. 30 and is 2-5 in the OCC-Central.

The Comets evened their record by defeating Teays Valley 49-36 on Jan. 27. Mike Woods led with 16 points and three 3-pointers, and Anthony Lowe added 13 points.

Nic Miller helped Central Crossing win its second league contest, scoring 16 points in a 47-34 victory at Marysville on Jan. 26.

Keason Lowe scored 16 points and Miller added 13 in a 52-46 loss Jan. 23 at Grove City.

shennen@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekHennen

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Central Crossing boys basketball, girls basketball, gymnastics, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:

BOYS BASKETBALL

*Feb. 2 -- At Hilliard Davidson. The Comets lost to the Wildcats 43-40 on Dec. 22.

Feb. 6 -- Home vs. Reynoldsburg

GIRLS BASKETBALL

*Feb. 2 -- Home vs. Davidson. The Comets lost to the Wildcats 61-28 on Dec. 22.

GYMNASTICS

Feb. 7 -- At Dublin Coffman* with Dublin Jerome, Dublin Scioto, Franklin Heights, Grove City and Westland

SWIMMING & DIVING

Feb. 3 -- UA Invitational

WRESTLING

Feb. 3 -- Rieman Invitational at Delaware

*League contest