When David Gross was a fifth-grader, he lost more wrestling matches than he won.

“That helped me more than winning did. It almost made me quit the sport but it also gave me the motivation to do something about it,” he said.

Six years later, Bucksport High’s 6-foot-2, 285-pound heavyweight is the Varsity Maine Boys’ Wrestler of the Year, drawing raves from opposing coaches for his ability and his comeback from major knee surgery.

“You don’t take 285 pounds and move it the way he does very often,” said Mattanawcook Academy Coach Matt Lindsay. “His level of athleticism is kind of scary, to be honest. He’s doing things that kids half his size have a hard time doing. And to do it coming back from knee surgery, it’s impressive.”

“I think he’s a Division I talent in wrestling for heavyweight. He can really move for a big guy,” said Mt. Ararat Coach Erick Jensen.

Gross, a junior, was 33-1 with 24 pins. One fall came in four seconds, setting a state record for quickest pin. His only loss was a 5-4 setback in the New England championship final against a University of Virginia recruit and Massachusetts champ, Mateusz Kudra.

As a freshman, Gross was Class B champion and won the New England qualifier, but in his first bout at the New Englands he dislocated his kneecap. That started a series of injuries to the knee. He played through them during his sophomore season of football, when he was named the Little Ten Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year. But when wrestling started, “when I tried to push off that leg, there was just nothing there,” he said.

Surgery repaired two torn ligaments but required him to restrict exercise.

“I was up to 345 pounds at the start of football. Laying around for four months after surgery did me dirty,” Gross said.

He was still at 320 pounds – 35 above the maximum to wrestle – after another all-conference football season. By mid-January, his dedication to a strict diet and extra workouts before school got him back on the mat.

“I never woke him up. He was doing it on his own,” said his father, Dave, Bucksport’s wrestling coach.

Next season Gross has a clear goal: Win every match.

“I’m training for that, to go undefeated all the way through New Englands, and I’m saying that humbly and respectfully to all my opponents,” Gross said.

And then he would like to shift his focus to football, the sport his father played at the University of New Hampshire and Maine Maritime Academy.

“He can definitely play at the Division I level in football,” said the elder Gross. “He has natural talent but like I’ve told him, natural talent only takes you so far. To be elite, you have to work harder than anyone you’ve been around, and he just bought into it and he hasn’t stopped.”

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

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Twitter: SteveCCraig


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