Palmyra freshman Ross Arch faced adversity when he started wrestling but refused to let that keep him from success.
When Ross Arch walks into the gym for a match or tournament, wrestlers from opposing teams check to see if he is in their weight class.
The Palmyra freshman boasts a perfect 25-0 record on the season and is currently ranked No. 3 among Class 1 138-pound grapplers.
But Arch has not always been on top.
“I started when I was seven and I was not very good at all,” the freshman recalled. “I think I won maybe five matches my first year and lost at least 40 matches.”
The first few years on the mat, Arch did not have much fun. If not for his parents, Jill and Travis, Arch may not still be involved in the sport.
“I was bad and I didn’t really want to wrestle anymore,” Arch admitted. “I was thinking, ‘What the heck, why am I doing this?’ But my parents talked to me and explained to me if I kept working hard, I would get better and start winning more and start having fun.”
Soon it all started to come together.
“I just got with the right people and basically started wrestling year-round,” he said. “I finally had an above-.500 season when I was 11 after I started going to DC Elite in Iowa and a whole bunch of other camps. I really started to turn it on.”
The next year, Arch took his talent to a new level as he achieved success at the state and even national level.
In 2015, Arch was second at the Missouri USA State championships for 12U. He also earned a third-place finish at the Liberty Nationals and fifth at the Tulsa Nationals.
The following year, the accolades kept coming. Arch was the state champion in the 14U Missouri State Championships as well as being national champion in the winter nationals and earning a pair of second-place finishes at the Hawkeye Nationals and Liberty Nationals.
Last winter, Arch repeated as a state champion at the Missouri USA State Championships as well as second at the Liberty Nationals and fourth at the Tulsa Nationals.
As the wins mount, and Arch is more recognized across the state on the high school level, his focus remains the same.
“I never really think about how I am viewed from many other people,” Arch said. “I just want to get better each time I step out on the mat. A lot of people expect me to win now, but I just have to go out there and wrestle as hard as I can every time out.”
Of his 25 wins this season, Arch owns a pair of decisions over state-ranked foes, Luke West of Hallsville and Dylan Hellebusch of St. Francis Borgia.
West is currently ranked No. 2 at 145 in Class 1, while Hellebusch is ranked No. 4 at 138 in Class 2.
Arch doesn’t shy away from the top competitors.
“I enjoy the tough matches where I can compete with guys at a high level,” the talented freshman said. “But winning or losing to them at this point isn’t as important as knowing where I need to be to compete with top-ranked guys at the state tournament. That is what matters the most.”
Arch is also his own biggest critic. After not allowing a point in three wins at the Quincy Notre Dame Invitational last weekend — including a 14-0 major decision win in the title match — Arch still said he can do a better job.
“I have to be better,” he said after stepping off the mat in the championship match. “I do at least one thing wrong in every match. I just have to work on those mistakes in practice and get better each time out.”
In addition to watching his own videos to get better, Arch also watches video of Kyle Dake — a four-time NCAA Division I champion from Cornell.
“I watch the same video of his over and over every day,” Arch said. “He was a hard worker and a four-time national champion.”
Arch also wants to be a four-time champion. But his sights are at the high school level at the moment.
“I would rate myself pretty low right now because I want to get better each day,” he said. “I want to be a four-time state champion and I want to go to a Division I college program with Missouri, Iowa and Penn State being at the top of the list.”
Arch’s high school coach at Palmyra, Josh Buatte, mentioned the freshman has set the bar pretty high.
“That’s an extremely lofty goal for any wrestler,” the Panthers coach said of Arch. “But I think with someone of his caliber, that is a great goal. If he puts his mind to it, it’s within his grasp. I don’t think there is anyone who can mentally break him from those goals.”
The road to a potential first state championship for Arch and the rest of his Panther teammates will get underway next Friday and Saturday at the Class 1 District 1 Tournament at Whitfield.