HAMMOCK: Ramos good for wrestling

I never thought I had too much in common with wrestling referees. I haven't worn the striped jersey and I haven't donned wristbands since I played soccer in 1982.

But both of us share at least one thing. We've both drawn the ire at times of Cliff Ramos, who stepped down Tuesday after an ultra-successful run as the head of the Collins Hill wrestling program.

Ramos has been known to give referees fits and he has written his share of e-mails to me (and past sports editors I've worked for here), letting me know what he thought of something we didn't cover or didn't cover well. If he didn't like what he saw in the paper, he wasn't going to hide his feelings.

When I first started at the Daily Post, I just viewed him as the coach who would complain about everything. Then as I got to know him better, I realized that his views were rooted in his love of wrestling. He wanted to do his part to make sure the sport didn't get shortchanged, that it got equal footing with others at the high school level.

Ramos has put 34 years into high school wrestling and into high school athletes, much of it here in Gwinnett at Meadowcreek and Collins Hill, so he's pretty passionate about the sport. Ask him about why colleges in the South don't have wrestling programs and you'll see what I mean.

That loyalty is commendable, which is another reason I like Ramos. He's been honest and he's been fair. He loves high school sports in general and he is a loyal reader of our paper -- he was just as likely to e-mail me over the years about something he liked as he was a complaint.

He also truly loves the kids who wrestle for him, taking in an interest in not only building them into winners but also getting their lives started in the right direction. Those wrestlers will forever remember the coach for what he did for them.

For those who don't know him well, he will still be remembered for his amazing success. He racked up more than 600 wins and 80 losses over the years, including a run of nine team and 31 individual state champions at Collins Hill. His last team is regarded as the state's best ever.

If that ends up being his final act as coach, at least the referees will get a break.

For me, I expect to still hear from him regularly.

For better or for worse.

Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays.