Jackson Ross made a huge decision four years ago.
He decided to attend Novi Detroit Catholic Central High School to challenge himself academically and athletically while he stepped out of his comfort zone.
It turned out be a wise decision.
Ross was a football and wrestling star for Catholic Central and aside from sports, the Jewish guy from Brighton became a student leader at the predominantly Catholic school.
Ross did just fine academically, too. He was a Michigan High School Athletic Association Scholar- Athlete of the Year finalist as a senior and he graduated this past spring with a 3.8 grade-point average.
That impressive resume led to Ross being named the 2017 Jewish News Male High School Athlete of the Year by the Michigan Jewish Sports Foundation.
He was honored last month at the Michigan Jewish Sports Hall of Fame induction dinner at the Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield.
Ross made another momentous decision in August.
On the day before he was supposed to report to the Hope College pre-season football camp, he decided he wanted to attend Michigan State University and try to join the Spartans’ wrestling team as a walk-on. Hope doesn’t have a wrestling program.
It wasn’t a snap decision. It was something Ross thought about and mulled all summer.
“I love football and Hope is an amazing place, but I want to see what I can accomplish in wrestling,” Ross said. “I don’t think I could have forgiven myself if I didn’t give college wrestling a try.”
Ross decided during the summer that he’d had enough of football after being a three-year starter at tight end and defensive end at Catholic Central, earning All-State honors, and playing in the Division 1 state championship game at Ford Field as a senior.
“I’ve lost my will to play football,” he said. “Plus, I know my potential in football. I don’t know my potential in wrestling. I need to find out how good I can be in wrestling.”
Ross called Hope football coach Peter Stuursma the day before Hope began its pre-season camp to tell Stuursma about his decision to go to MSU — where Ross had been accepted as a student — and the two met in East Lansing, of all places.
It was an emotional conversation.
“He told me whatever I decided to do, he’d be proud of me and my family would be proud of me. He didn’t try to pressure me into staying at Hope,” Ross said.
Ross knows he has an uphill battle to make the MSU wrestling team as a walk-on.
“I’ve only wrestled for 12 months in my life,” he said. “It’s a relatively new sport for me.”
Ross wrestled at Catholic Central for four years. The high school wrestling season is about three months long. His prep wrestling resume is impressive.
He was a member of two MHSAA Division 1 state champion teams, and he finished sixth as a junior and third as a senior in the 215-pound weight division in the MHSAA Division 1 individual state tournament.
Ross is in the heavyweight division at MSU. The division is for wrestlers who weigh at least 198 pounds.
At the 6-foot-2, 245 pounds, the 18-year-old Ross is the lightest of the Spartans’ heavyweights.
“And they’re good,” he said. “They’re definitely Big Ten heavyweights.”
Ross will find out in November if he’s made the MSU team, which has a 32-wrestler roster limit.
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