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Rubys will be honored for records as wrestlers

Sunday, September 7, 2003

SIKESTON -- Wrestling isn't traditionally thought of as a family sport, but add four brothers, and quickly it becomes one. Just ask the Ruby family of Sikeston.

From 1978-1990, brothers from oldest to youngest -- Terry, Bill, Dan and John -- started taking the high school wrestling circuit -- and the entire decade of the 1980s -- by storm. They won matches against wrestlers from small schools and wrestlers from the larger schools.

"It was the Ruby decade because they dominated high school wrestling," noted Chris Hodgkiss, Sikeston Public Schools wrestling coach. "Everyone knew the Ruby brothers."

All four brothers received All-Conference, All-District and All-State honors and they all placed at the state level some time during their high school careers.

On Friday, the Ruby brothers will be acknowledged for their accomplishments as they're inducted into the Sikeston Public Schools Hall of Fame.

During the 1980s the family made Sikeston Public Schools wrestling the way it is today, Hodgkiss noted. They laid a foundation for a decade of tradition, he said.

"Johnny was a little guy, but he was very scrappy and very aggressive," said Hodgkiss, who was also Johnny's wrestling teammate.

JoAnn Ruby admitted she and her husband, Bill, are very proud of their sons.

"When my boys were growing up, none of them were very big," said Mrs. Ruby. "They wanted to be football players, but of course most football players are pretty big. So their dad encouraged them to wrestle because with wrestling, it didn't matter what size they were."

Mrs. Ruby said it was often difficult to watch her sons wrestle, but she and her husband attended every match. She said she was afraid either her sons would get her hurt or that they would hurt someone else.

The Rubys purchased a mat and used it at home to wrestle and teach each other, Mrs. Ruby explained.

"We took every vacation in Columbia (where state finals are held). It's the only vacation we took," Mrs. Ruby laughed. "We even went to state after our boys graduated to watch the other wrestlers.

She continued: "You get to be so close with the other teammates because wrestling isn't as big of a sport as other sports. It really became a family sport."

The oldest Ruby brother, Terry graduated from Sikeston High in 1983. His combined record was 83 wins and 23 losses. He had both a fourth place and a sixth place finish at the state level during his senior and junior years, respectively. A 1985 graduate, Billy Ruby's combined wrestling record was 77 wins and 18 losses, and he finished fourth at state.

The third brother, Danny Ruby, won third in the state his senior year in 1988.

During his senior year in 1990, Johnny Ruby won all the major tournaments, including the Tiger Class and finished third in the state. He was 80-22 for his career, including being 32-1 his senior year -- a record he may still hold, and if he doesn't, it's one of the top three, Hodgkiss pointed out.

"It says a lot about them. A family may have one or two brothers who excel in a sport, but to have four who have each made an impact in the sport is pretty impressive," Hodgkiss said.

Today, the Ruby name is being carried on by their grandsons, Mrs. Ruby said.

Marc Stevener, who coached Sikeston High wrestling from 1976-1997 and all of the Ruby brothers, said what made the Ruby brothers stand out from other family athletes was that they all stuck with the sport throughout their high school careers.

"Having four brothers is outstanding. Coaches look for that. Each one was a different individual, but very competitive," recalled Stevenson, who currently coaches wrestling at Hazelwood Central High School. "It seemed like as one was getting out of school, another was coming in."

And while Stevener's had lots of luck finding state champs at Hazelwood Central, he admitted there's still something missing from his coaching job near St. Louis: "I'm still looking for four brothers."