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As good as it gets: Generals' Ryan tops perfect year with state crown

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Stonewall Jackson’s Lucas Ryan, left, goes after Eastside’s Trevor Belcher in the 285-pound Group A state championship match in Salem. Jon Fleming/For The Daily

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Stonewall Jackson senior wrestler Lucas Ryan capped a perfect 44-0 season with his second straight state championship as a heavyweight. Ryan won all of his matches by pin this season, and only went to the second period twice against opponents. Rich Cooley/Daily

By Tommy Keeler Jr. - tkeeler@nvdaily.com

QUICKSBURG -- If you wanted to watch Lucas Ryan perform this season, you needed to make sure you didn't blink.

The Stonewall Jackson senior didn't waste any time in any of his matches. Not only did Ryan win all 44 of his matches by pin, but he only went to the second period twice in any of the matches.

Ryan said most heavyweight matches end in pin, so he wasn't that surprised that he won all his matches by pin. He also said the goal is always to get the match over with fast.

Outside of a match in the district tournament, the only other time Ryan, the Northern Virginia Daily's 2011-12 Wrestler of the Year, went to the second period was in the heavyweight state final against Eastside's Trevor Belcher. Ryan said it was important for him to take his time with the state title on the line, and it took 3:03 for him to get the pin.

"You don't want to mess up state finals, senior year," Ryan said. "I was playing it safe that time. I wasn't doing anything stupid. I felt like I was in control, I just didn't want to rush anything. I just waited till the opportunity came and that's when I took it."

The win gave Ryan his second straight state title, but more importantly for him it achieved something he had wanted his whole wrestling career -- a perfect season.

"I knew it was a possibility that I could do it," Ryan said. "I worked hard at that goal and ended up accomplishing it and ended up winning states. It was a perfect record and a perfect season."

After Ryan won the state title last year, he knew the pressure was on to try to win it again. However, he said he tried not to think too much about it and focus on each match.

Throughout the season not much slowed Ryan down, except an injury to his sternum. He cracked his sternum and had to miss a week-and-a-half.

Ryan said it was tough sitting out, but he came back refreshed and ready for the rest of the season.

One of the things that has made Ryan so tough to beat is his speed. Even though he is 6-foot-4, he is very quick and he uses his speed to his advantage.

"I'm not short and compact like some of the heavyweights that have a lot of power," Ryan said. "I'm longer and I'm quicker than most of the guys I wrestle. I push the pace and they end up getting tired, and then they leave their legs or something open and that's when I would shoot."

Over the last few years, Ryan has also learned how to shoot and uses that to his advantage.

"You don't see too many kids that are that big, that will actually want to shoot on you," Stonewall Jackson coach Jerry Franklin said. "He wants to shoot all the time. And that's how come he surprises a lot of kids when he shoots and they go straight to their back, straight down."

Ryan didn't start wrestling until he was in eighth grade, but has come a long way since his beginnings. He improved a lot over the last few years, but by the end of his junior year everything started to really click for him.

It was at that point that Ryan said he didn't have to think anymore once he stepped onto the mat for his matches. He just relied on his instincts.

"I think about stuff before I wrestle, but then once I get on the mat, my [mind] goes blank," Ryan said. "I don't even think about winning, it's just clear. Once I get on the mat, it's just muscle memory."

Ryan said the only time he was concerned at all about a match was in the state semifinals where he wrestled Washington and Lee's Christian Robbins. The two had met during Ryan's freshman year and Ryan won, 13-7. Ryan made sure it wouldn't go the distance and won with a first-period pin.

"I wrestled him before, so I knew he would probably be my toughest competition," Ryan said. "I looked at that match as basically being the state final match because whoever won that match was going to win states."

Ryan and teammate Ricky Tisinger each won back-to-back state titles, and they led the Generals to a fourth-place finish as a team in the state tournament.

Last year they were the first state champions in school history, and now they're the first two-time champions in school history.

"To be the first is always a great accomplishment, and I think it makes people who come to our school want to do the same thing," Ryan said. "It gives someone a goal to accomplish."

Ryan said he is looking at several Division I schools to wrestle for next year, and should make a decision in the coming months. Ryan said he's proud of what he accomplished at Stonewall Jackson, but he's also excited to work on getting better at the next level.

"It's exciting to know you're going to go against the best people in the nation," Ryan said. "It gives you another goal to go after and try and accomplish."

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