‘I feel strongly that the right people are in place to continue the program. It is in good hands, believe me, or I wouldn’t leave if I didn’t feel that way.” – Rick Ross
MANCHESTER, NH – After 25 years as head coach of the Granite YMCA Eagles wrestling program, Rick Ross has retired. What started out as a small YMCA program with a dozen kids grew into a powerhouse youth wrestling program with more than 65 participants each year. Ross, 54, is the program’s founder and estimates more than 650 kids ranging in age from kindergarten through eighth grade have wrestled at the downtown Manchester YMCA.
“It is the right time for me to retire from the Y wrestling program. I feel strongly that the right people are in place to continue the program. It is in good hands, believe me, or I wouldn’t leave if I didn’t feel that way,” said Ross. “Plus, we won the state championship this year.” Ross is being replaced by Ben Tessier, who has coached YMCA Eagles for the past five years.
Through the years, the program has remained open to anyone who is interested, regardless of their ability to pay. Today, some of the program’s former wrestlers are now Eagles coaches.
“Wrestling is such a hard sport and once you get into it, you either love it or hate it, there’s no in-between,” said Ross.
Ross clearly loves wrestling. In addition to coaching the YMCA Eagles, he has worked as a wrestling referee for the past 16 years and has spent the last five years as president of the New Hampshire Wrestling Officials Association, something he plans to continue.
Wrestling is an intense sport and, as head coach, Ross injected humor into everything he did. His coaching staff wore bright Hawaiian shirts to wrestling tournaments, looking more like Parrotheads than volunteers. He’d have the wrestlers meet the bus at odd times, like 7:39 a.m. and always had a NASCAR reference in his team emails.
There was a method to his madness.
Youth wrestling tournaments are organized chaos with hundreds of spectators, lots of noise and groups of very excited wrestlers rolling around on four mats. With YMCA Eagles coaches dressed in Hawaiian shirts, the kids always knew where a coach was and never had to enter the wrestle ring alone. With the odd start times, no one ever forget when to meet the bus.
Ross feels strongly that wrestling teaches kids respect, the meaning of responsibility and good sportsmanship. And that wrestling instills discipline and a sense of caring for others, all life skills that stay with the wrestler into adulthood.
“We’re not out to teach the kids to win. We give them the tools they need to win, but we teach them that you don’t win at everything in life, so you need to learn how to lose gracefully,” said Ross. “The skills they learn in wrestling will be some of the most important things on their resume.”
DJ Meagher, a former YMCA Eagle, agrees. Meagher, 25, went on to wrestle at Bow High School and then had a successful career at NCAA Division I Cornell. Meagher joined the program because he didn’t make the basketball team and his older brother wrestled and enjoyed it.
“It was a great experience and helped instill the toughness, discipline, and technical foundation required for success in the sport of wrestling. Rick was a fantastic coach and always did a very good job motivating his athletes and also teaching life lessons at the same time. It was a great program and we had a lot of fun,” said Meagher.
For John Ware, 19, Ross introduced him to the sport as an eighth grader and gave him the foundation for a successful high school wrestling career at West High School.
“Rick was an excellent mentor and role model for wrestlers, especially those new to the sport,” said Ware.
There’s an adage that “once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy.” Ross seems to have an unlimited amount of energy and says he can’t imagine sitting around in retirement. While he determines what his next move is, he can be found refereeing wrestling tournaments throughout the state.
For more information on the YMCA Eagles wrestling program, visit http://www.graniteymca.org or call (603)232-8660
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