Ending On Top

Reagan Light

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Jennifer Tischer
Senior Paul Ryan celebrates after completing his state finals match.

Senior Paul Ryan ended his wrestling career on top of the podium Saturday. After many years of hard work, Ryan was finally crowned the 2A-170 state champ. Ryan completed the season with a perfect record of 43-0.

“I always knew when I stepped into high school, that I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my older brother Trey, and be a state champion,” said Ryan.

Ryan began his wrestling journey all the way back to 1st grade. He started wrestling from the inspiration of his older two brothers, Jacob who graduated in 2007, and Trey who graduated in 2014. Both of his brothers had very successful careers as well, each appearing all four years to the state tournament and placing three of those times each. Ryan is the second family member to become a state champion and even at the same weight as his older brother, Trey.

Ryan wrestled for many different reasons but the main one was because of the aspect of the individual sport. “It is just you on the mat. You can’t blame anything on anyone else, and you have to go out there and compete hard,” said Ryan.

Another reason is because of how tough the sport is. Most people shy away from difficult things in life but not Ryan. “Practices stink, tournaments can last all day, and it is just a really hard sport, but I think it makes people tougher for the real world. Like Dan Gable said, ‘Once you have wrestled, everything else in life is easy.’” said Ryan.

“He is very motivated and individuals like that are just easy to coach because you don’t have to say much to them because they always have a goal in mind and listen to what you have to tell them eager to fix their mistakes and eager to learn new things to help them become a better person and better athlete,” said Coach Vance Light.

Ryan has had a phenomenal wrestling career in Mount Vernon. Throughout high school, Ryan wrestled, 113, 145, 160, and 170. He, unfortunately, didn’t qualify for state his freshman year. “After freshman year when I failed to make the state tournament, I was pretty upset, and I never wanted to feel that way again. So I just tried to keep on keeping on, and I got better each and every year, and finally, I achieved my goal,” said Ryan.

At 145 his sophomore year, Ryan ending up placing sixth at state. His junior year he was in a tough predicament with being in a very hard sectionals and districts, at weight 160, Ryan made the decision to move up a weight, 170. At this weight, Ryan not only qualified for the state tournament but also placed fourth.

Aydan Holub-Schultz
In the quarterfinals Friday, Paul Ryan wrestles Jackson Kinsella of Creston. Ryan won by decision 5-2.

Throughout the state tournament, Ryan won by fall in round one, in a time of 1:22, to Bryce Vande Weerd of Central Lyon-G-LR. Then in the quarterfinals, he won by decision 5-2 to Jackson Kinsella of Creston. In the semifinals, Ryan faced Wyatt Voelker of West Delaware. He succeeded with a 8-5 victory which punched his ticket to the finals where he won 4-2 against Sage Walker of Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont.

“Makes you feel good when you see an individual that has high aspiration for themselves obtain their goal,” said Light.

Ryan not only became a state champ but broke a streak. Mount Vernon’s last undefeated state champ went all the way back to Matt Kroul in 2004, when he went 39-0 and was crowned first at 275. Ryan had the perfect season with a 43-0 record and was ranked number one all season.

After winning his final match Ryan was ecstatic. He jumped into the arms of his coach, Vance Light, and screamed for joy. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited. It was pure joy,” said Ryan.

Nothing but hard work came from Ryan his whole wrestling career and it paid off pretty successfully.