Wantagh Warriors Wrestling

Wantagh, New York

The Warrior's Blog


    Please...Do not rank me.

    Please...Do not seed me.

    Please...Do not scout me.

    Please...Do not train for me.

    Please...Overlook me.

    Please...Underestimate me.

    For one of the most powerful motivating forces to achievement
    Is the feeling of being underestimated.


    The VHW team with seven Wantagh wrestlers went 2-2 vs the toughest PA and NJ Jersey teams that could be in the gym. James Langan went 3-1 and defeated a NHSCA National Champion along the way. Justin Vines went 4-0, Jonathan Loew went 5-0 and defeated two ranked wrestlers, Charles Maier, Josiah and Christian Encarnacion wrestled very hard and never let up as well as Matt Rogers ( Most improved.. Look out Long Island ). I am so impressed by the determination and heart to get better. We are on our way. Heart, desire and grit. Thank you boys. Paul Gillespie, Ray Hanley and myself coached.


    It is not difficult to recognize heroes. Heroes never proclaim themselves. Heroes always enhance others.

    But sometimes we nod our head in acknowledgement, without truly embracing the magnitude of the performance, or highlighting the precious uniqueness, and rarity, of the venture, or its treasured impact.

    As an old-timer, ah…, semi old-timer, I was impressed, motivated, and inspired by the US Freestyle victory at the World Championships in France.

    Not because of what was accomplished, but because of how it was accomplished. We are measured in life by what we do, but more so by the way we do it.

    Kyle Snyder and Jordan Burroughs stand taller than the rest. Not because they won, but because they are winners.

    I am not personal friends with either, but feel like I have known them all my life. I was immersed in wrestling as a college coach for 36 years, driven, like my peers, to build, and mold, and influence young wrestlers to compete, and think and act like… well, Kyle Snyder and Jordan Burroughs.

    The real tale of the tape… No bravado and pompous arrogance. Oodles of confidence, predicated by constant reference to hard work, and diligence, and resolve. Palpable respect for their opponents displayed during every bout and every interview. Dedicated commitment of time, effort and energy to youth and the sport they love. No excuses, ever. Outward concern and control of their personal and social lives.

    There is no greater force in our human universe than influence. Every time I see them compete, I feel good. Wrestling is great, but they make it a better. Their finals’ matches were two of the most entertaining and hard fought contests I have ever witnessed, and I commentated on hundreds of phenomenal matches of our wrestling legends.

    It is sad that at the same time Kyle and Jordan led the US to its first Freestyle World title in 22 years, sports news was dominated by a boxing clown fest, which epitomized greed, hatred and public manipulation.

    Jordan’s comeback to the top of the wrestling world represents the hardest, most demanding focus and commitment in the athletic world. It doesn’t happen often, and is further testimony to his special character. He IS a five time World and Olympic Champion.

    Kyle will be 22 this year... 22! He’s already a three time World and Olympic Champion, and crazy times crazy, will celebrate his historic accomplishment preparing to win his third NCAA Title. Did I say crazy yet?

    As a wrestler who trained and competed on the World and Olympic stage for ten years, these guys are MY heroes. Been there, tried that. I only knocked on the door, that they blasted open.

    I want us all to recognize and appreciate their success, but to admire most, how they carried themselves on the road to victory; and how honestly, humbly, and respectfully they paid homage and tribute to the sport, and their opponents, after claiming what they worked, sacrificed, and fought hard to EARN.

    Competition is the greatest experience in life. If it is done right, somebody wins, somebody loses, but everybody gains! We were fortunate to actually observe this as it unfolded at the top level of wrestling competition. It’s worth embracing for a lifetime.

    Congratulations to all who played a role in this special run, and contributed to a unique and rare and treasured outcome.

    Hats off, also, to the continued growth and success of Women’s Freestyle wrestling and particularly to a dominant three-time World and Olympic Champion Helen Maroulis.

    On behalf of all my grandchildren, thank you for your leadership. There is nothing more contagious than example.

    National Wrestling Hall of Fame inductee Russ Hellickson was a 1976 Olympic silver medalist in men’s freestyle wrestling, 1980 Olympian and two-time World medalist. Hellickson retired as the head coach at Ohio State after many years as one of the top college coaches in the nation. He served as an announcer for both ABC’s and NBC’s coverage of wrestling at numerous Olympic Games, and also announced many other major wrestling competitions.


    High school wrestlers now have one of their own as new head coach of the Buffalo Bills in Sean McDermott. While McDermott has been recognized in the NFL for his football smarts and determination, it was on the mat where he learned that hard work pays off.

    Sean McDermott played football and wrestled his junior and senior year at LaSalle College High School, just north of Philadelphia. McDermott is still considered that school’s most accomplished wrestler having been a two-time All-Catholic and National Prep School Champion at 171 lbs in 1992 & 93′.

    McDermott was an outstanding high school football player as well starting at quarterback, safety, punter, place kicker and he returned most punts and kicks. However, when football season ended McDermott took off the pads and dominated the wrestling mats.

    McDermott went undefeated in 75 consecutive matches – a streak that stretched across two high school seasons and was named the Philadelphia Daily News and Philadelphia Inquirer Wrestler of the Year. McDermott was also selected to the USA High School Wrestling Tournament.

    It’s obvious from some of the quotes Sean McDermott has made over the years that wrestling played a big part in making him who he is today. “Wrestling embodies what it takes to achieve in this world,” McDermott has said. “There’s no one else to blame but you and it comes down to preparation. That’s what it’s all about.”

    “When I wrestled, I would think about my opponent and if I’m training harder than he is. That’s still true today. You pay your dues, you work hard and you try and do the right thing. There are going to be bumps along the road, but you just have to stay focused on your goals and keep challenging yourself, and good things will happen along the way.”

    In 1992 McDermott’s football coach Joe Colistra said, “Sean is always saying how hard wrestling is and how easy football is.”

    McDermott once explained how he excelled in both sports, “It was an oddity to go both ways at La Salle, but wrestling is a big help. It helped me be rugged and aggressive, so I can stick it out for all four quarters. The things I get from wrestling carry over into football”

    Sean McDermott had a number of college wrestling scholarships, but chose to attend the College of William and Mary as a football walk-on. McDermott made the most of that opportunity becoming team captain and then an assistant coach for one year before joining the Philadelphia Eagles scouting department. Yet, every bio written about McDermott cites his high school wrestling success as an example of his mental toughness.

    In Friday’s Buffalo News Terry Pegula gave writer Tim Graham this quote,”You can see from his wrestling background, being a two-time national prep champ, determination, work ethic and just an absolute will that was very impressive that he’s carried through his life.”

    The Buffalo Bills have gone 17 seasons without making the playoffs. The man now calling the shots knows what it means to be mentally focused and physically prepared to reach a goal. Let’s see if those lessons learned on the mat will carry over to success in the NFL for Sean McDermott.


    Successful coach reflects on Wantagh roots

    Tom Ryan, of Ohio State, looks for second straight NCAA wrestling title


    By Andrew Hackmack

    A high school wrestling career that essentially happened by accident for Tom Ryan has turned into a remarkably successful coaching career: He will be seeking his second straight national collegiate championship next weekend.

    Basketball was Ryan’s first love when he was a student at Wantagh Middle School in the 1980s, but he was cut from his seventh-grade team. So, at the urging of his brother, Frank, Ryan gave wrestling a try. He went on to wrestle for five seasons on the varsity squad, capturing three county championships and falling just short of a state title.

    “It was life-changing,” he said of joining the wrestling team, noting the inspirational coaches and great teammates he had during his six years representing Wantagh.

    He won the county championship at 119 pounds his sophomore year, and finished fourth in the state in his weight class. The next year, at 132 pounds, he was again the county champion, with a third-place state finish. A torn ligament in his ankle during his senior year (138 pounds), in which he was one of three Wantagh county champions, spoiled his quest for a state title, but it didn’t dissuade him from continuing with the sport. “It kept me hungry to pursue success at the next level,” he said.

    After graduating from Wantagh High in 1987, Ryan received a full scholarship to Syracuse University, where he wrestled for two years, in addition to rooming with his brother. He then transferred to the University of Iowa, and walked on to the team there, competing for three years.

    Immediately after he graduated, he got an assistant coaching job at Indiana University, and spent two years there before moving back to Long Island to take the head coach position at Hofstra University. “It was a blessing,” he said of coaching less than 10 miles from where he grew up. “It was an incredible opportunity.”

    He was only 24, and knew Hofstra was taking a chance on him. Ryan led to the team to an eighth-place East Coast Wrestling Association finish his first year, then seventh place

    before the program took off. Pride wrestling then had three years of second-place finishes and six years at the top of the conference. In 2006, after 11 years at Hofstra, Ryan took his current position at Ohio State. “I was extremely happy at Hofstra,” he said. “I loved Hofstra. But this was a chance to compete at another level.”

    The Buckeyes have improved steadily ever since, stepping up from ninth place in the Big Ten conference his first year, to winning the NCAA title last year, the first in the 95-year history of OSU’s wrestling program.

    March 17-19, the NCAA wrestling championships will take place at Madison Square Garden, and Ryan will be there with his team. Coming back to his home state is just part of the excitement as his wrestlers look to defend their title. “We’re in a position to win again,” he said. “Our objective is to win a championship.”

    Only nine other teams in the nation have won a Division 1 championship since 1928, with Oklahoma State and Iowa State having dominated the sport, and, more recently Penn State. Ryan said that cracking that elite list was tough, but was accomplished through good financial support for Ohio State’s program, and talented wrestlers. For example, he coaches Kyle Snyder, who, at 19, became the youngest world champion in USA Wrestling history and is a favorite to make the Olympic team.

    “We’re attracting many of the top student athletes in the United States,” Ryan said. “Motivated people want to be around motivated people.”

    In memory of his son

    One of the toughest challenges Ryan has faced has not been as a coach, but as a father. In 2004, when he was coaching at Hofstra, his 6-year-old son, Teague, died of sudden cardiac arrest.

    “I would say he’s the most influential figure in my life,” Ryan said of Teague. “He caused me to think long and hard about why I’m on Earth, how I got here and where I’m going.”

    Losing a son, he said, set him on a journey to discover his faith, and gave him perspective about his own religious beliefs, which were greatly strengthened. He also was grateful that Hofstra named its practice facility for his son, who would have turned 17 last month.

    Two years later, Ryan and his wife, Lynette, made the difficult decision to uproot their family so he could take the job at Ohio State. Their oldest son, Jordan, will graduate from OSU in May, and their other son, Jake, is a red-shirt freshman on the wrestling team.

    “It’s been surreal,” Ryan said of coaching his son, a starter at 157 pounds, and watching him develop the same passion for wrestling.

    His daughter, MacKenzie, is a freshman in high school. Ryan said he still has some family members on Long Island, but most have moved away, including his mother, who now lives in Pennsylvania.

    He said he is grateful not only to have found wrestling at an age when he could turn it into a career, but also for his overall upbringing. He credits a combination of amazing parents, great friends and being around other people who also had big dreams. “Wantagh provided me with a great framework of good people,” he said of the place he spent the first 18 years of his life. “Wantagh is an amazing place to grow up.”

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