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Time is winding down in Ross Gitomer’s wrestling career. With just three regular-season duals remaining before the postseason, the fifth-year senior is nearing the completion of a stellar career. He boasts 87 career wins, which ranks 12th in school history. He has successfully rebounded from a knee injury which sidelined him for the second half of the 2008-09 season and now is aiming for his second ACC title and NCAA berth at 125 pounds. Today he talks with about his senior season as well as his graduate school pursuits toward becoming an elementary school teacher.

Question: It’s your senior season – how do you feel about where you stand?
I have had some losses here and there that I am not happy about, but the most important thing to me is ACCs and Nationals right now and getting an ACC title for the team and then at Nationals, having everybody to the best they can. That would be what the team is striving for and what I hope to see and for myself, just opening up and attacking.

Question: You’ve had a lot of close defeats too.
The matches I’ve lost have been to the top teams in the country. I need to put myself in better opportunities to score points and that’s what I’ve been working on, that’s what the coaches have been preaching to me and to the whole team — attacking points, wrestle your match, stop worrying about what the other guy is doing and really wrestle Virginia wrestling. I’ve had some good wins, but every match is a learning experience to get better. If you’re a senior or not, each match you try to learn from it.

Question: How have you benefited from your workouts with Matt Snyder?
Matt is an awesome kid. He works his butt off and I work real hard too. It was real hard for me at first. I really have never been in that situation before, where I had to compete for my position. That’s what it’s all about. He’s learned from it and I’ve learned from it. We’re both going to get better. When I’m done, I’m super excited to see what he’s going to do. Even this year he’s gotten better and better. We actually just worked out and he’s just gotten so much better and stronger – everything he needed to work on he’s gotten better.

Question: What are the battles like on the mat?
He is literally the exact opposite type of wrestler I am. His strong point is his defense. He is not an explosive kid; he’s a counter-wrestler. When he gets on top of you, he is a clinger. He leeches onto people. I have helped him a lot – I explode through shots and I like finishing quick. He’s the type of wrestler that likes to be in a position where he’s countering. Both of us have gotten better. I need to work on finishing quicker and he needs to work on short, stocky, explosive kids.

Question: Was it nice to have a break last weekend with everything cancelled?
It was nice to have a break. It was cool to just relax for a weekend. On the other hand, I really would have liked to wrestle James Nicholson (of Old Dominion). I have lost to him in my career three times. He’s one of the top kids in the country and it would have been nice to wrestle against him, but we can’t really change it. We have to move on to the next match this weekend and wrestle well.

Question: Talk about your involvement with teaching.
Last year I finished my undergrad degree in government and I wanted to get into a graduate school. Initially, I wanted to go into math education – high school math. In order to do that at UVa you had to have a major in mathematics and I didn’t have that so I went into elementary education. And I also focused on an algebra endorsement, so I need three more math classes. What that will do is let me teach all the way up to Algebra I, so that will be eighth grade or freshman year. I will have a Masters in elementary education and that’s exciting. I have been in the elementary school two or three times a week working with students, running lesson plans, talking to different teachers to see what they do and using some of the strategies I have learned in my classes.

Question: How does that work with your government major?
I actually was going to initially major in math and it got too crazy in the higher level math with Calc III and Algebra. It was just difficult for me and I wasn’t enjoying it. Government – my sister works for the government, my family is really involved in politics and things like that. I really enjoyed it and found some cool professors I liked. I thought it would be a good major. Then teaching – I wanted to coach or teach. Growing up I helped kids with wrestling and in math, so I enjoy it.

Question: Do you have a grade in mind that you’d like to teach?
Fourth, fifth, or sixth grade. Probably upper elementary is where I’d like to be. Right now I am in a third grade math classroom at Venable Elementary School and I also go to Cale Elementary School. That has been really exciting. Elementary education is really cool to me because a lot of people think it’s really easy or basic but the strategies to really have a kid learn and bring the most out of an elementary school kid is really difficult. The best classrooms are the ones where teachers are able to implement the stuff they have worked on instead of just constantly addressing behavior issues. That’s the biggest problem, even in middle and high schools, is just being able to teach the stuff you need to teach without having to worry about a kid talking in class, messing up, behavior stuff.

Question: Do you get much of an opportunity to be up in front of the class?
I will next semester. I will do my student teaching next semester. I have run lesson plans with some other kids in my class. We go in pairs and we just go to Venable and run a cool math lesson. There are different teaching models that we learned and we try to use them.

Question: What’s a cool math lesson?
Manipulatives – we use building blocks, we use everyday items and create word problems that allow the kids to see the relationship between actually doing an addition problem and doing a word problem. They are able to use those manipulatives to create an answer and they will start to see the relationship between math and real life. That’s the biggest thing, not giving these kids worksheets. Little kids are going to be miserable. Let them have some fun while they are doing it. Let them use computers. It’s really cool. I was really naive coming in. I didn’t know much about any of it and now I know a lot.

Food: Chili
Spot on Grounds: Law Library
Wrestling Memory: Winning ACCs my sophomore year
Class: Social Inequality and Public Policy
TV Show: Curb Your Enthusiasm
Website: New York Times
Music: Pearl Jam
Movie: Road To Perdition
Team: Pittsburgh Steelers
Celebrity: Larry David

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