It doesn’t take a diehard fan of collegiate wrestling to see how much improvement the Ohio State wrestling team has undergone in the past decade. Much of the change can be attributed to its coach, Tom Ryan.
Throughout his first 10 years with the program, Ryan has produced a pair of runner-up finishes in the NCAA tournament, the first conference title for the Buckeyes in 64 years and a team national championship, the first in the history of an OSU wrestling program that first hit the mats in 1921.
Along with the team accomplishments, six Buckeyes have earned 10 national championships with Ryan at the helm. Two of the individual crowns were won this season by sophomore Kyle Snyder and freshman Myles Martin, Nathan Tomasello won as a redshirt freshman in 2015, Logan Stieber won four times, J Jaggers won twice and Mike Pucillo won in 2008.
The backing and following of the OSU wrestling team has reached new levels under the guidance of the former Iowa wrestler.
“I remember when I first got the job here, I had a blow-up mattress and I would just sleep in the office,” Ryan said. “(OSU) hooked me up with a hotel room downtown, but I rarely left here.”
With his family still back in New York preparing to make the move to Columbus, Ryan said he could immerse himself in his work, dedicating every moment to wrestling.
This time was used to assemble his coaching staff, as well as structure the program for the foreseeable future.
Through tireless work and effort, Ryan was able to produce back-to-back second-place finishes at the NCAA championships in his second and third seasons. Fast forward six years, and the Buckeyes were hoisting a national-championship trophy for the first time in the team’s existence.
The turnaround has brought national attention to the Buckeyes as a powerhouse in the wrestling world, giving OSU great leverage in terms of recruiting. Since 2012, each of Ryan’s recruiting classes have been ranked in the top 10, according to D1 College Wrestling, with the 2014 class peaking at No. 5.
“The younger kids now that are growing up, the seed that’s planted in their brain watching the TV is Ohio State,” Ryan said. “When I first got here, they were not saying that necessarily.”
A change in culture and networking across the state with people who have a passion for the sport have helped the program to grow at OSU. The support of donors and contributors to the program and the university have also been instrumental, Ryan said.
Tangible evidence of the rise in prominence is the proposed training center for the team, which is set to begin construction sometime this year.
Although things would seem to be going in an entirely new direction, Ryan claimed there was nothing revolutionary or new implemented by the three-time national coach of the year when he arrived in Ohio’s capital city.
“We haven’t reinvented any wheels here,” Ryan said. “You study what schools in various sports have done really well, and you try to put that in place where you are.”
Following a decade of being at the helm for the Scarlet and Gray, Ryan has solidified the wrestling program as one of OSU’s most-followed sports outside of football and basketball. Ryan said fans should continue to watch and cheer on the wrestling team as it continues to build.
“I think the best days are ahead of us,” he said with a smile.
Correction 4/5: An earlier version of the story said Kyle Snyder, Myles Martin and Logan Stieber made up the three wrestlers to win six national championships, when in fact Nathan Tomasello, J Jaggers and Mike Pucillo also won, making the total 10.