Mount Vernon senior Paul Ryan ended his wrestling career on top of the podium.
After many years of hard work, Ryan was crowned the Class 2A 170-pound state champ, completing his final season with a 43-0 record.
“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,” Ryan said.
Ryan began his wrestling journey in first grade, getting inspiration of his older 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 in the state tournament and placing three times each.
Paul is the second family member to become a state champion — 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,” he said. “You can’t blame anything on anyone else, and you have to go out there and compete hard.”
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,” Ryan said. “Like Dan Gable said, ‘Once you have wrestled, everything else in life is easy.’”
“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 at Mount Vernon. Throughout high school, he wrestled at 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.” Ryan said. “So I just tried to keep on keeping on, and I got better each and every year, and finally, I achieved my goal.”
At 145 his sophomore year, Ryan ending up placing sixth at state. His junior year, he was in a tough predicament in a very hard sectional and district tournament. Wrestling at 160, Ryan made the decision to move up a weight to 170. At this weight, Ryan not only qualified for the state tournament, but also placed fourth.
At this year’s state tournament, Ryan pinned Bryce Vande Weerd of Central Lyon-GLR in the first round, in a time of 1 minute 22 seconds. In the quarterfinals, he won by decision, 5-2, over 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 beat Sage Walker of Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont, 4-2.
“Makes you feel good when you see an individual that has high aspiration for themselves obtain their goal,” Light said.
Ryan not only became a state champ, but broke a streak. Mount Vernon’s last undefeated state champ was Matt Kroul in 2004, when he went 39-0 and was crowned first at 275.
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After winning his final match, Ryan was ecstatic. He jumped into the arms of Coach Light and screamed for joy.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited. It was pure joy,” Ryan said.
Nothing but hard work came from Ryan his whole wrestling career — and it paid off pretty successfully.