For all of his life, many folks have been mispronouncing his last name with an “Ahh” sound instead of the correct long-O sound.
Perhaps Ozark High School senior John Oss is trying to drive that point home this season on the wrestling mats, as his record could serve as a nickname. Entering tonight — and play along here — that would be John “Forty-Seven-and-” Oss.
Along with teammate and best friend Cody Lindsay, Oss is trying to close his high school career with an undefeated season, culminating in a 170-pound Class 4 state championship. Not only is he 47-0 but he also has a whopping 42 pins.
But unlike Lindsay (35-0 at 195 pounds), Oss’ unblemished season has been unexpected after a fifth-place finish in the 160-pound weight class last season, although he did finish 47-9.
“High school wrestling is more important than national (offseason) tournaments, really,” Oss said. “I’m just excited for it, if anything. That’s what I’ve been focused on all year, just working toward that, and getting the job done this weekend.”
Lindsay and Oss are the local headliners at state wrestling, a three-day tournament which begins today for Classes 1 through 4 at Columbia’s Mizzou Arena. The single-elimination brackets require wrestlers to win one match today and two matches Friday to qualify for the finals, scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
Ozark coach Jesse Zeugin said Oss has stepped up his mental game this year to join elite company, as one of 20 wrestlers entering the weekend unbeaten.
“Basically, he had all the tools,” Zeugin said. “But when he got into a tough match before this season, maybe he second-guessed himself that he could win, when in reality, now he knows he can win.
“Now there isn’t a time that he steps on the mat that he doesn’t think he can win.”
Oss credited Zeugin, who as coach at Rogersville last year helped Joe Zimmer to an undefeated senior season and scholarship to the University of Nebraska, for creating a winning mindset for all Ozark wrestlers.
Oss moved to Ozark from Salt Lake City as a fourth-grader and got involved in the Ozark youth wrestling program. There, he met Lindsay, his workout opponent in countless hours over the past decade, all at the Ozark “Barn.”
“We kind of planned it since we were younger,” Lindsay said. “We always planned on winning championships and being undefeated.
“But (last year) he didn’t believe in himself, and didn’t have that motivation. And that’ll break you down before anything else. He’s changed the way he wrestles and how he prepares and believes in himself.”
Oss jumped from 125 pounds as a freshman to the 152 class as a sophomore. He then jumped a class in each of the past two seasons. Lindsay started at 160 pounds as a freshman and won state as a 171-pound sophomore.
Now, both are four-year state qualifiers and ranked No. 1 in their classes by MissouriWrestling.com.
Oss will continue his wrestling career next season at Ouachita Baptist in Arkadelphia, Ark. He signed in November.
Lindsay, however, will be wrestling competitively for the final time this weekend, having signed last week to play football at NCAA Division II Missouri Western. He has 33 pins this year.
“I thought about it some, but it really hasn’t set in yet,” said Lindsay, who is trying to become his school’s first two-time state championship. “I’ll definitely get the emotion when I finish my last match, hopefully in the finals if all goes well.
“It’s going to be an emotional weekend for me and my family. Growing up and wrestling all these years, and all of a sudden, I’m going to give it all up for football.”
The biggest hurdles for Oss and Lindsay this weekend could be familiar opponents.
Oss topped second-ranked Malik Colding of Park Hill 5-2 in the Winnetonka tournament last month. Lindsay has beaten second-ranked Matt McClimens of Eureka twice this year, although those were Lindsay’s only two wins that were not pins.
Plus, Colding topped Oss and McClimens topped Lindsay last year at state.
“Anything can happen any day, so you just have to treat everybody the same and wrestle hard,” Oss said. “You have to stay focused in every match, because everyone there is tough.”
High school state wrestling
When: Today through Saturday
Where: Mizzou Arena, Columbia
Schedule: Today – Class 1 and 2 first round, 10 a.m.; Class 3 and 4 first round, 5 p.m.; Friday – Class 1-2 quarterfinals, 9:30 a.m.; Class 3-4 quarterfinals, 1:30 p.m.; all semifinals 6 p.m.; Saturday – Finals, 4:30 p.m.
Admission: $8 per session
Online: Streaming live on FOXSportsMidwest.com