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
“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
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
After graduating from Wantagh High in 1987, Ryan received a full scholarship to
Immediately after he graduated, he got an assistant coaching job at
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
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
Only nine other teams in the nation have won a Division 1 championship since 1928, with
“We’re attracting many of the top student athletes in the
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
“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
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. “