When he was 8 or 9 years old, John Fox and his family biked across the entire U.S., taking 4 ½ months to complete the trek. Fox said the family wasn’t in a hurry, as they focused on enjoying the journey. Still, riding a bike 3,000-plus miles across the country is an impressive accomplishment, especially for how young Fox was at the time.
The Gilroy High senior was captivated by the odyssey, and it was one of the experiences that showed him the geographic diversity of the U.S. and gave him an itch for exploration.
In the fall, Fox is set for the next chapter of his life as he begins attending classes and wrestling at York University in Nebraska. Fox always figured he would wrestle at York University since one of his brothers, Willie, wrestled for the NAIA program and earned All America honors. Fox comes from an accomplished wrestling family, as William won a CIF State title and another brother, Paul, won a state championship in 2014.
“Other colleges made offers, but I figured even if they were better, York was the place for me because you can’t really put a price on family,” said Fox, who had a ceremonial signing event at school on April 9. “No matter what the other colleges were going to offer, I wasn’t going to go with them. I already knew deep down York was going to be the place.”
Fox can best be described as authentic and eccentric, offering candid responses with a down to Earth attitude. Fox offered several reasons for liking York, which is 50 miles away from the nearest “big” city of Lincoln, which is Nebraska’s second largest city in population.
“I’ve always liked that setting,” he said. “There aren’t many buildings out in the country, so that sounded appealing. The people are nice. Out of all my teammates, I’m the only one who is going to go to college out in the country. Everyone else is going to Fresno State, San Diego State, or some place with a lot of people. That’s cool, too, it’s just different preferences for me.”
Fox had a superb high school career, winning three Central Coast Section championships and finishing sixth in the 145-pound division in the CIF State Championships in late February. He did it the good old-fashioned way—with hard work. Fox was the ultimate grinder, and one look after any of his competitive matches told that story. After winning this year’s CCS title via pinfall, Fox was dripping in sweat, a testament to his ability to grind away until he gets beyond an exhausted state.
“Wrestling is very, very tough,” he said. “But that is why I love it, because you have to endure a lot. It’s taught me a lot of life lessons.”
Fox’s ability to grind and persevere no doubt caught the eye of college coaches. In a conversation Fox had with York College Greg coach Smith, Fox said Smith complimented him on his demeanor and overall attitude.
“He liked my grittiness and how I don’t give in or give up,” Fox said. “He has seen me on videos and streams on Flotrackwrestling.com and video highlights.”
For Fox, finishing with a winning record at state along with watching some of his teammates wrestle well in Bakersfield was a memorable highlight.
“We had a lot of guys who didn’t place last year who got redemption this year,” he said. “Me, Nate (Villarreal) and Daniel (Vizcarra), we had something to prove and we did that. I’m really happy to do that with them and just hanging out with them and building a lot of great memories.”
Fox actually hasn’t visited York College yet, as the timing didn’t work out for him and his family to take an official visit. However, Fox has some keen insight into the college and wrestling program since Willie graduated from there and will probably work with the program in some capacity starting next season.
“I started thinking about wrestling in college a while ago,” he said. “I always figured I would just because I did it when I was a little kid and then through middle school and high school. It’s a great feeling and I’m pretty thankful to be in this position.”
Fox should feel right at home in York. He’s seen a good chunk of the country on his cross-country bike ride, memories he looks back upon with fondness.
“That cross country bike ride was something I’ll never forget,” he said. “We took our time and there was a lot of pretty sights to see. There was no rush, but my dad really liked going for distance so usually we did ride on the long side. Sometimes we went 10 miles, but on other days we could go 60, 80 or even 100 miles. It just depended on how everyone was feeling.”
At the ceremonial event signing, Fox, who usually keeps his emotions in check, couldn’t help but get a little emotional after Gilroy High coach Daniel Cormier made comments illustrating Fox’s career.
“I did feel a little sad when D.C. was summing me up on who I was and the impact I made,” Fox said. “Saying thanks and goodbye to my teammates and coaches was very bittersweet. But that is life—you have to make changes to grow.”
Fox appreciated Cormier’s coaching acumen and the dedication he showed to the team this past season.
“He made us work and grind a lot of hours, and he didn’t like us resting, that’s for sure,” Fox said. “But it definitely paid off. He guaranteed if I showed up everyday for practice, I’ll wrestle like a champ and place at state. And that’s exactly what happened. I’m happy with how everything came together.”
Fox recently took third-place honors in a Rotary Club Essay Contest, detailing an experience in which he witnessed bullying at Gilroy High.
“I didn’t help the kid, and I felt bad,” he said. “They (Gilroy administration) caught on and they started questioning people. The guys (who were the bullies) were friends of mine, and (in that moment) I told them to stop, but that I wasn’t going to fight them or anything. I felt bad not doing more. So the next day some of us got called into the office and they (perpetrators) were about to get away with it until I was asked what happened. So I told them what happened. There was hard feelings at first (with my friends), but they knew why I did it.”
Fox differs from his peers in a big way: He rides his bike to school and doesn’t own a smart phone. The former is by choice while the latter is something imposed by his parents, Bill and Gloria.
“They’re going to buy me one pretty soon when I leave for college,” he said. “Some time in the next few months. It’s been OK all these years to not have a phone. I get around and just have to find different ways (to make do in life). My dad is pretty old school, and he wanted me to focus on getting good grades and staying on top of things.”
For the most part, that’s exactly what Fox did. Fox said he has a cumulative 3.4 GPA, and he took his academics and athletics seriously without the distraction of texts and social media. Since Fox was working last summer, he didn’t make it to the early portion of the team’s preseason practices. However, once Cormier and Fox had a discussion, Fox started showing up which helped hone his skills and improve his cardio.
“D.C. really liked my work ethic and attitude and how I supported the guys on the team and building a rapport with them,” Fox said. “It was a great experience wrestling for Gilroy High School.”