That’s because Ryan won the Division I title last Saturday in his 189-pound weight class.
“It meant a lot to me,” said Ryan, a 17-year-old senior from Brentwood. “There are all great wrestlers on the banner.”
Many like Andrew Dawkins and Ben Trotzer, he noted.
“It’s been my goal throughout high school to be the Division I champion,” said Ryan, who felt “overwhelmed by it all” on the podium Saturday.
Ryan has a bigger goal this Saturday when he wrestles in the Meet of Champions at Londonderry High School.
Ryan will be joined by fellow Exeter teammates Nathan Peterson and Connor Scott in that pursuit. Peterson, a junior, qualified to compete in the Meet of Champions after placing third in his 160-pound division, while Scott, a sophomore, qualified by placing fourth at 119.
Ryan’s future goals?
“I want to win the Meet of Champions and I want to win the New Englands,” said Ryan.
Winning the Division I tournament “was kind of step one” for Ryan, who enters the Meet of Champions with a 28-2 record this season. His only losses have come out of state.
Being the No. 1 seed for the Meet of Champions after winning the Division I tournament is “exactly where I want to be at this point of the season,” said Ryan. “I know all my opponents are working hard at this point, so I have to work harder. It’s a tough weight class. I’ll have to wrestle well.”
Ryan had to wrestle well for three overtimes in Saturday’s Division I final against Timberlane’s Shane Tremblay.
“It kind of felt right,” said Ryan, referring to the overtime periods and noting he had had a number of overtime bouts, especially during his sophomore season. “I was ready for it.”
He was also very familiar with Tremblay, having wrestled and practiced with him a number of times during the offseason at what is referred to as Smitty’s wrestling barn.
Working hard in the room, being in the Division I finals last year and finishing second, and knowing that experience, “pushed me through it,” said Ryan.
“His endurance is second to none,” said Exeter coach Greg Dussol. “He’s in good shape and doesn’t make many mistakes. He’s worked really hard this wrestling season.”
Ryan, who stood out athletically as well on the football field, has put his college options aside for the present time. Right now he’s taking it one day at a time. He has been accepted, though, at Vermont, Connecticut, Illinois, Tulane University, and
Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Peterson and Scott have also worked hard for their moments at the Meet of Champions.
Peterson may have gotten off to an 0-8 start this season in his 160-pound division, but “I knew back then that he was better than that,” said Dussol. “He didn’t surprise me in the second half (of the season).”
Peterson was definitely expecting to have a great junior year after having a pretty good sophomore season, but it wasn’t until the Londonderry match that he began trusting “my shot and getting more offensive that I started getting a lot better,” said the 17-year-old from Brentwood.
Even while on the podium for third-place this past Saturday he was thinking “I should at least be second.”
Peterson feels he can do better this Saturday.
“I’m giving it my all and want to have no regrets,” said Peterson, noting he’s still trying to make up for his poor start this season.
During the offseason, Peterson studies Mixed Martial Arts. Fighting in the MMA and UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championships) is a possible future pursuit for Peterson. He’s currently taking Muay-Thai and Brazilian Jujitsu at Guy Chase’s martial arts studio in Greenland.
Scott is a 15-year-old from Kensington, and the brother of former Exeter standout, Chris Scott.
Dussol said Connor impressed him right from the very start of the season.
“He had his ups and downs throughout the season,” said Dussol, “but I knew he had the potential to place in the states. He wrestled probably the best he wrestled all year (at the Division I championships). He has very solid basic skills. He does certain things very well. Now we just have to refine them.”
“I worked hard for this moment,” said Connor Scott.
The most recent name on the Division I wrestling banner that hangs on the wall is that of Andrew Dawkins, who won the Division I championship in his 160-pound weight class in 2005. Before that was Anthony Albine, who won the 135-pound weight class in 1996.
Others on the banner include:
1995 – Ben Trotzer, 119 pounds.
1994 – Gavin Lauder, 189 pounds.
1993 – Ben Trotzer, 103 pounds, Paul Pepler, 140 pounds.
1991 – Brian Gennetti, 103 pounds, Josh Locke, 112 pounds, Joel Richardson, 130 pounds, Jarrod Castonguay, 189 pounds.
To the left of the Divison I banner is the New Hampshire championship banner.
1994 – Ben Trotzer, 119 pounds, Gavin Lauder, 189 pounds.
1993 – Ben Trotzer, 103 pounds.
1992 – Joshua Locke, 119 pounds.
1991 – Joel Richardson, 130 pounds, Jarrod Castonguay, 189 pounds.
1990 – Joel Richardson, 125 pounds, Jarrod Castonguay, 189 pounds.
1988 – Robert Brown, 152 pounds, Ted Castonguay, 189 pounds.
1980 – Robert Schwartz, heavyweight.
Further to the left on the New England Championship banner is one name:
1988 – Ted Castonguay, 189 pounds.
By Ken Stejbach