By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
Jefferson senior Blake Perry had a pretty good idea of what he wanted to do when he grew up at a relatively early age.
“I looked into some other things, but since I was younger, in the back of my mind, I would sit in the back of the classroom, watch the teachers and think I could do that. I could make it fun and relate well with the kids.
“I want kids in the future to say, ‘Mr. Perry was one of my favorites.’ I would love that.”
Perry, the son of Daniel and Denica Perry, will take his next step toward becoming the teacher all the kids love next fall when he attends Baldwin-Wallace University in Berea.
Perry will major in integrated social studies with the idea of becoming a history teacher.
“For me, (history) was the most interesting,” Perry said. “It’s real life. It’s something that’s actually happened as opposed to numbers or facts. It’s stories about people and the things they actually went through.
“That’s always interested me.”
It didn’t hurt that two of Perry’s favorite teachers instruct in his favorite subject.
“Two of my favorites were Mr. (Jason) Root and Dr. (John) Patterson (who retired before the start of the school year and won a seat in the Ohio House last November),” Perry said. “Both of them are history teachers. They’ve been a big influence.
“Both of them are really different teachers they have really different teaching styles,” he said. “Since Mr. Root teaches several grades, I had him for a few years. He’s always been as much of a friend as he has been a teacher. Dr. Patterson, I only had for one year. Because of him, I actually learned how to take college notes as opposed to what I thought. I was only taking about half of what I should have been taking.”
The path to being an educator may also include becoming a coach.
“I’d love to be a wrestling coach,” Perry said. “My dream job would be to come back to Jefferson one day. I can think of four coaches who have inspired me from Jefferson — Coach (Tom) Avsec, Coach (Troy) Smock, Coach (Abe) Bartunik and Coach (Doug) Cleveland — all for different reasons.
“They’re great guys and I’d genuinely love to be that for high school kids in the future, both on the wrestling mat and in the classroom.”
Sitting in a suit at the edge of a mat will have to wait a bit longer, however, as Perry’s wrestling career has not yet come to its conclusion. He will take to the mats for the Yellow Jackets.
“I really started to take (the thought of wrestling in college) seriously my sophomore year,” he said. “That’s when I started to think that’s what I wanted to do.
“But if you had asked me as a junior high student, I never would’ve thought I would be a college wrestler. To be honest, I was awful. I was really bad when I first started.”
At a point many kids would have moved on to other pursuits, Perry went the opposite direction. He developed a habit that benefited him through the remainder of his high school career.
“I just got my butt kicked every single day,” he said. “I wanted to prove people wrong. I put the work in and I just kept outworking people.”
That mentality led Perry to a stellar career in which there were many times he beat many wrestlers who were ahead of him in skills.
“There were kids I wrestled this year who were honestly better wrestlers (than me),” Perry said. “I outworked them. I’ve found that kids break when they’re tired.”
It helped Perry to have a good group of guys to wrestler with at practice.
“I had a great set of drill partners,” he said. “I worked with Rocky (Tripodi), Troy (Stitt), Ricker (Maple) and Jeremy Brady.”
Those guys ranged from 138 to 220 pounds in weight classes. Perry wrestler at 182 pounds.
“Ricker’s about half my size, but he’s one of those guys with a skill level at which he can hang with everybody in the room,” Perry said. “Wrestling Ricker, I definitely learned to keep my feet moving. If I slowed up at all, he’d run circles around me. Ricker is as quick as lightning.
“Then, I learned how to wrestle like the bigger guys with Rocky, Troy and Jeremy. It was good to get such diverse styles.”
Looking ahead, Perry knows he has his work cut out for him. He also chose B-W partly for that reason.
“I’ll go in with confidence, but I know they have several good wrestlers between 174 and 184,” he said. “I’m not guaranteeing that I’ll go in as a starter, but I can guarantee no one will outwork me. I know there’ll be a lot of crazy competition, but I will not be outworked.
“B-W has a very good education program, which was big. I liked the campus and the coaches. Their wrestling program seemed to be built around hard work. To be successful there, you have be a worker. I feel like I’ll fit right in. That’s what did it for me.”
It didn’t hurt that Perry would be close to home and his younger sister Mya, an eighth grader at Jefferson Middle School.
“It’s important to be close to my family because they’re always there for me,” Perry said. “One of the biggest things for me was Mya. I could go far away and my parents would be bummed, but they’d be OK.
“I really wanted to be involved with my sister’s career. I want to be the brother who’s there to watch her track meets and basketball games. I’m really proud of her. I think you’ll be seeing big things from her. I hope you’ll be writing one of these stories about her some day.”
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.