Tom Ryan: Making Ohio State more than just a football school
The Ohio State University is generally known as a football program. However, as college wrestling’s popularity continues to grow, the program’s wrestling team is gaining more and more respect. Head coach Tom Ryan led Ohio State to its first ever national championship in 2015, and the Buckeyes were the national runner-up a season ago.
Ohio State won the Big Ten Tournament last season, knocking off eventual national champion Penn State in the process. The Buckeyes had the most combined points over the season. Even though Penn State took home the national title, Ryan said the 2017 Ohio State wrestling team may’ve been better than the 2015 national champion team.
“By all measure, the season was arguably the greatest in Ohio State wrestling history,” Ryan said.
Tom Ryan Transforms Ohio State
When Gene Smith was hired as Ohio State’s director of athletics in 2005, Ryan was one of the first coaches Smith hired. The coveted coach credited Smith’s leadership as the pinnacle to Ohio State’s winning ways.
Ryan said the transformation of the program from being a middle-tier team to one of the most prestigious in the nation started with recruitment and the development of the guys they bring in.
The state of Ohio is littered with the best wrestlers in the country. Ryan said as his program has grown, his pitches to recruits have gotten stronger.
“At Ohio State you’re really able to lay out what life will look like not only during your time here, but after,” Ryan said.
Ohio State’s networks and prestige help Ryan sell the university to recruits, giving him a leg up on other schools who can’t offer more than just on-the-mat promises.
“We focus on the academic strength of the university,” Ryan said. “We focus on the opportunities of alumni involvement after you’re done. There’s excellence everywhere.”
Favorite Memories as a Coach
In all the years Ryan has coached in Columbus, his Buckeyes are the only team not named Penn State to win the national championship in the past seven years. Ryan said bringing home the team title in 2015 made it his most special season.
Logan Stieber’s first national title came in 2012 against defending national champion Jordan Oliver. Ryan said Stieber’s first title of four was the most exciting he’s coached.
“His first was probably one of his most emotional matches,” Ryan said. “We knew he was good enough to get four [national championships], but he had to get through a really solid opponent, the reigning national champion.”
In 2016, Olympic champion Kyle Snyder burst onto the college wrestling scene as a freshman. The heavyweight ended his opponent Nick Gwiazdowski’s 88-match winning streak in the national title match.
“It was just epic because it was in Madison Square Garden and we were down late,” Ryan said. “He just kept coming in the Kyle Snyder way. That was a great title match.”
Snyder may be the strongest wrestler in the world, but Ryan said his integrity off the mat is even more noteworthy.
“The wins are clearly impressive, but who he is, how he trains, the way he thinks and the way he treats people is at a level that is extremely high,” Ryan said.
The 2018 Season
For the 2018 season, Ohio State will keep all ten starters and will have six All-Americans on the roster. On top of that, the Buckeyes bring in a historic recruiting class, with multiple top ten wrestlers in their weight class set to join the team.
Although nationally-acclaimed wrestlers like Braken Mead, Ethan Smith, Kaleb Romero and Chase Singletary will be rostered, Ryan said they all could train under wrestlers who have been to the top for their first year before finding their own time on the mat.
Ohio State is stacked for the 2018 on paper. As frontrunners for the national title, Ryan is able to continue what could become a dynasty through the excellent persona Ohio State enjoys.
“You sell the dream, you sell the big picture, you sell that you can win four national titles here. Now you can sell world titles and Olympic titles.”
You can listen to Tim Miller interview Tom Ryan in its entirety below.