Ryan Stenger had an individual state wrestling title in his vision since finishing runner-up a year ago at the State Meet. Missing that coveted state title by one point had been a constant reminder leading up to the 2013 State Meet and Stenger was determined not to be denied the feeling of having his hand raised in victory.
Stenger won the 220-pound state title in the finals recently held in Huntsville with a 2-1 decision over Dalton Campbell of Vestavia High and became the first individual state champion in the history of James Clemens High.
“All emotions rushed through me at once,” said Stenger. “I also thought that after 14-years of wrestling the ride is over and what a great ride it was.”
Moving to Madison four years ago from Colorado, Stenger quickly made his talents known to the wrestling program at Bob Jones High. He finished sixth in the state as a freshman and looked to be the next superstar within the Patriots’ program. But a shoulder injury and reconstruction surgery put him on the sidelines his sophomore year of wrestling. He spent the better part of one year recouping the mobility and strength in his shoulder. He was determined to make his way back to the mat and complete that vision of winning a state title. A vision that began at age four.
“Wrestling has been part of my whole life as it seems every moment had something to do with the sport and I like the sport because it’s simply me versus him,” said Stenger, who stands 5-foot-8. “The sport teaches you more than wrestling as it teaches you how to overcome obstacles in life. You learn the ups and downs of life and wrestling teaches you how to handle adversities.”
“Ryan did everything we asked of him and he pushed the rest of the team to get better than what they were,” said Joel Loudon, head coach of the Jets’ wrestling program, which finished 13th in team standings. “I’ve known Ryan since he came to Madison and was excited to have him move to James Clemens.”
Quick To Victory
Stenger finished the season with a 59-1 record, including 42 pins, with his lone lose coming to a wrestler from Georgia, who was ranked among the top 20 in the United States. At the State Meet, Stenger set the tone for his quest for the state title in his first round match by posting a pin over Jake Gasuich of Gardendale in eight seconds. “I took a nice shot at a takedown, turned him over and pinned him down,” said Stenger. “But that was not my quickest pin. I had a seven second pin earlier this season and a four second pin during my freshman season.”
Stenger worked feverishly on his conditioning prior to the latest season. He said he had to condition himself both mentally and physically because knowing what to do at certain times and position his body properly during a wrestling match is necessary in order to be successful
Stenger indicated any good wrestler has to learn how to become mean, aggressive and not hold back anything on the mat. “I tried to make my opponents wrestle my style,” said Stenger.
As a student, the senior has a 3.25 GPA and will attend the University of North Alabama in the fall. He knows his days as a wrestler are over. He now looks forward to his favorite pastime of fishing. He is president of the school’s 15-member Fishing Club.
“I had great support from my family. My dad and mom have been with me all the way,” said Stenger. “My victory is also representative of good coaches throughout my life.”