Ohio State coach Tom Ryan has a special relationship with all of his wrestlers, but he might be forgiven for admitting he has a closer bond than usual with redshirt freshman Jake Ryan.
The two share more than a last name. They also share blood ties, being father and son.
Jake Ryan joined the team last season after coming to OSU by way of Olentangy Liberty High School, where he was a star wrestler.
Tom Ryan has been the wrestling coach at OSU since 2006, having come from Hofstra University, where he spent 11 years at the helm. Before that, he was an assistant at Indiana and a standout wrestler at Iowa.
It’s no wonder his son picked up the sport.
“He definitely introduced me to it, but he never forced me and never made me do anything,” Jake Ryan said. “It is a big factor as to why I fell in love with the sport. When you’re pushed really hard like that from a father’s aspect, it makes the sport less fun.”
He started wrestling at age 6 while the family was living in New York.
Tom Ryan developed a sharp eye for skill through his years of coaching, and even when his son was in elementary school, he recognized that Jake had talent.
“He was strong and stayed in good position,” the coach said. “You hope that at some point he loves it enough to continue to do it at this level. There is only one way to continue at this level. You have to have some sort of love for it.”
Jake Ryan was Olentangy Liberty’s first two-time state placer, and despite being recruited by universities like Duke, he said he had no doubt he would wear scarlet and gray.
Being in such close proximity to his family was a huge factor in his decision to come to OSU. They are never far away whenever he wants a home-cooked meal or to visit his siblings.
Of the four children in the Ryan family, only Jake has taken up competitive wrestling at the collegiate level. His younger brother, Teague, died at the age of 5 of a congenital heart condition, which is shared by his older brother, Jordan. The family also has a daughter, Mackenzie, who is 15.
The youngest Ryan son showed great promise in the eyes of his father before he died.
“Not only do I have a son on the team, but I have another son who wrestled, as well, that had equally, if not more, talent as a young kid that never got the opportunity to do this,” the coach said. “It puts both (himself and Jake) in a very unique scenario.”
Tom Ryan said he thinks his family’s situation — losing an athletically gifted son, yet still having another one able to wrestle collegiately — transpired in an unlikely manner.
“It makes the scenario almost one in a million,” the coach said.
Even through tragedy, both Jake and Tom Ryan have persevered to earn their way to this point. The coach led the Buckeyes to their first team title last season, and his son has wrestled his way into the top 25 in the nation at the 157-pound class with a 13-2 record this season.
Both of the Ryans said they feel fortunate to have this chance before them.
“We are both extremely grateful,” the coach said.