By By Ryan McCord
In life, everything happens for a reason.
Just ask Pride head wrestling coach Tom Ryan, who has made the most out of being cut from his seventh grade basketball team. Though he was reluctant at first, he was given no choice but to turn to wrestling with the guidance of his older brother.
"I was a high energy kid and I found a way to use that energy on the mat," Ryan said. "I fell in love with wrestling and developed a passion for it from day one."
The Wantagh, N.Y., native credits his summers spent at the University of Iowa's wrestling camps as an essential reason why he was able to sharpen his raw skills and become success in high school. A three time All-Nassau County wrestler made Syracuse University his initial collegiate choice under the influence of his brother once again, who was already wrestling for the Orange.
After winning the regions Intercollegiate Wrestling Association championship in 1989, he decided it was time to head back to the Hawkeye State and wrestle at the University of Iowa. Not only did Ryan become part of a two-time NCAA champion in addition to his own pair of All-American awards, he became a graduate of his dream school in 1992. Academics in general have become a vital part of selling this University to prospective recruits, using personal attention in the classroom as a punch line.
"Academics, with small class sizes, close to Manhattan," Ryan said. "At Iowa I had 1,000 fellow students in one lecture hall."
Ryan has come a long way as a head coach, taking over the Pride program just three years after graduation from Iowa. He struggled in his first few seasons, but has since recovered to build the program to a more than respectable level in the national rankings.
"As I've said in the past, I was not ready to be a head coach when they gave me the job here. I was very fortunate that they backed me," Ryan recalled. "At first, I was selling the fact that I came from a successful program. Now at Hofstra I think we can stand on our own two feet."
When most of us think of winning a wrestling match, the pin seems to be an ideal strategy for defeating the opponent. However, the five-time conference Coach of the Year said this might not always be the case.
"Pinning is a science and a lost art. These days we want to score 15 points and end the match rather than pinning someone," Ryan said. "The key is to get the opponents shoulders flat on the mat for a full second, and it's a lot harder than it looks if you're wrestling with competitive people."
In order to keep up with an opponent and outlast him for 15 points, it becomes imperative to possess an energy level long enough to withstand the sweat, blood and wear and tear. The ninth head coach in Pride wrestling history insists that it's not about sweating and spitting all day to maintain the ideal wrestling weight.
"Overall there's no reason to not be eating a balanced diet and three to five meals a day. If you're missing meals, then you're doing something wrong. You can't work out hard without having nutrients in you," Ryan said. "Being at the level we're at, a good nutrition could be the difference between success and failure."
Ryan is as down to earth as they come, especially for someone in his position in the middle of a grueling season. When he's not at work, he's spending time with his family or reading spiritual literature. Since the tragic death of his son almost two years ago, he points to the heavens and reflects on how he has changed as a person and coach.
"The biggest thing that has changed me as a coach is faith," Ryan said. "This is a dress rehearsal for later in life, and the Bible has really changed the way I view things."
Speaking of faith, Ryan has given the program and University a reason for optimism coming into his 10th season and beyond as the man in charge. The Pride is already nationally recognized as one of the top programs in the East, and Ryan emphasizes only one piece of the puzzle is left to attain in order to be mentioned in the same breathe with the Iowa's and Nebraska's of the country.
"I think we can recruit with any team in the country and the only thing we're missing is our own complex," Ryan said. "We have the finances, a brilliant coaching staff and now we just need the facility to go with it...and that's being worked on."