Former two-time state champion Heath is new leader of Ravenswood High School wrestling

Mark Martin
Special to Jackson Newspapers

In the history of Ravenswood High School wrestling, 19 individual state championships have been claimed.

John Heath garnered two of those 19 during his outstanding career back in the early '90s.

Ravenswood head wrestling coach John Heath was a two-time state champ as a Red Devil in 1990 and 1992.

It was a proud moment in his young life.

Now, Heath wants to help lead other young men to that monumental moment he enjoyed, not once, but twice, on the mats.

Heath is the new head coach of the tradition-rich program of Red Devil wrestling.

Heath replaces Eric Hupp, who stepped down to devote all of his energy to Ravenswood football, where he just wrapped up his fourth year as the Red Devil leader.

"Personally, I always wanted to do this," said Heath, who works full-time at Constellium. "I love the sport. I love kids."

Heath, who will be assisted by former Ripley Viking wrestler Adam Rutter, was a Class AA-A state champion in 1990 in the 103-pound division and came back as a senior to win it all at 112. 

He's been a part of the sport since graduating from high school at all levels. 

After three years as the Ravenswood Middle School head coach, Heath moved up to assist Hupp with the varsity program.

He took last season off before returning to the mats in 2021-22 to guide his alma mater's varsity. 

"I love being back. This totally suits me," said Heath, who has also spent several years working in the Ravenswood Midget League program.

"We're really a wrestling family."

And he wants Ravenswood wrestling to have a family feel.

John Heath is beginning his first season as Ravenswood's head wrestling coach.

Heath is working with 13 varsity wrestlers. Ravenswood Middle School has eight wrestlers out and the youth program has 40. 

The former two-time Class AA-A state champ learned plenty from his team during the first week of the season. 

"Our kids would get up at 6 in the morning and lift weights. Go to school. Then go in the wrestling room after school and drill and work out and then go back to the weight room. They responded."

He wants to build the program and help add to the list of champions. Ravenswood's last was 2007 when the David Dennis won the second of his two titles. 

Heath's first team features three seniors. One of those is 2021 state tournament qualifier Ethan Lane, an outstanding football player.

Lane will be Ravenswood's 275-pounder this season. 

"He is going to be a force to be reckoned with," said Heath. "I can see him going far (in the state tournament) this year."

Ethan Tanner returns to the program for a fourth year and is inching close to 100 career wins. Tanner qualified for the state tournament as a freshman. 

"After his first year, he has been riddled with injuries," Heath said. "If he can stay healthy he will have a great year."

Tanner will compete in the 160-pound class.

Xavier Rodriguez is back and will be representing Ravenswood at 195.

"He is really scrappy. He has a great attitude. Unfortunately, he dislocated his elbow but we're waiting for him to come back," Heath said. "I think he can go far this season."

Jordan Varney is a junior who will compete in the 120-pound class. 

"He is one of those Varneys (a Ravenswood family with a deep athletic history). He tweaked his knee, but I think he is going to be fine."

Wyatt Milhoan is part of the junior class. "He should do pretty well. He's strong and a hard worker. He's the first one to practice and the last to leave." Milhoan's weight ranges from 120-132.

Jason Simmons is a talented sophomore, who will wrestle at 132 or 138. "He's really scrappy. He's really good," Heath said. "Coaches always have surprises. Well, he has been that surprise. He works hard, makes good grades. I'm really happy for him."

The sophomore class also includes 170-pounder Matt Patterson. "He wrestled in middle school. He's real scrappy. He can be really good."

Lodan Hess, another sophomore, is out and will likely handle the 145-pound class.

"He was injured in football season. I can see him going far this year."

A talented group of ninth graders help make up Ravenswood's team.

Gavin Price is the Devil 138-pounder. 

"He is another kids who is real scrappy. He is really strong."

Blake Dauch is at 182. "I've been working a lot with him," said Heath. "He has dropped weight. He started out at 195."

Bryan Phelps, a freshman, checks in at 220. "He's a hard worker who has dropped 20 pounds."

Another freshman is Daniel Patton, who just came out for the team along with Andrew Cogar. 

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Ravenswood opened is season by taking part in the Gary Bender Raider Cup Classic at Roane County High School in Spencer. 

The Red Devils scored 75 team points to place seventh out of 10 teams. Simmons was second at 132 and Tanner took second at 160.

Lane placed third at 275 and Dauch was fourth in the 185-pound division. 

Ravenswood will be hosting the Jackson County Invitational this Saturday, Dec. 18. 

Joining the Red Devils will be Winfield, Chapmanville, Logan, Mingo Central, Man, Ritchie County, Roane County, Liberty Raleigh, Buffalo, St. Marys and the Parkersburg High "Blue" team. 

The JCI begins at 10 a.m. inside the Ravenswood Middle School gymnasium.