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Local teen competing in Taekwondo nationals

Jul. 04, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- There won't be much time for fireworks for 14-year-old Jacob Gross on July 4.

On that day, and the day after, Gross will be in Chicago, competing in the U.S. Taekwondo Junior Nationals.

It's an art and a sport in which he is completely home schooled.

His father, Huntington anesthesiologist Don Gross, has done all of Jacob's training in the family's home gym.

And this is one instance in which the teacher is completely qualified.

Don Gross competed at the international level in Taekwondo from 1985 through 1993. He owned five Taekwondo studios in North Dakota before going back to school to become a doctor.

For the teacher, it was not an interest in what was once an esoteric sport that started him down the path to becoming a black belt.

"I was actually attacked one time when I was a teenager in New York City," Don Gross said. "I didn't know anything about defending myself."

Gross is rather frank about having forced Jacob, a multi-sport athlete, and 12-year-old Bojena, a competitive swimmer, into learning about martial arts.

"It would be a waste for me to let my kids grow up and not share the knowledge of self-defense with them," he said. "But, yeah, I kind of pushed Jacob into it, and I'm just now realizing that my daughter is a little upset with me because I've been spending so much time on him over the past two months."

Jacob Gross will be competing in board-breaking and forms patterns on Thursday, and will be sparring with opponents on Friday.

His father said it's been a tough period of training leading up to the event, and he hasn't gone soft just because his pupil happens to be his son.

"I've been very, very tough on him," Don Gross said. "I was a junior national coach 20 years ago, and when I train Jacob, I don't think of him as anybody that's special.

"I've sparred with him very hard, and he's got bruises and I've got bruises."

Other than how to put one's foot through a stack of boards, Taekwondo offers lessons in discipline, self control, perseverance, courtesy and respect.

"You know, it really helped me when I went back to college," Don Gross said. "As an older student, it was a challenge, but I applied those principles that I had learned toward becoming a doctor."

His wife, Sharon, is also a black belt, and has trained Jacob at times when his father hasn't been able.

Don Gross said he's proud of his son, and doesn't care how well he does at the junior nationals, as long as he gives it his best.

"Pushing him, that's a tough thing for any parent to do with their child," he said.

"I think he's going to do very well, but I'm just happy that he's done it. It's just an adventure."