LAKEWOOD RANCH — Larry White remembers the first time he saw Ohio State University wrestling coach Tom Ryan in action.
The Lakewood Ranch sophomore was only 11 years old at the time. He was watching his first-ever NCAA wrestling championship and saw Ryan working with his wrestlers both on and off the mat.
And last week, White saw the 2009 National Coach of the Year’s expertise first-hand when Ryan and OSU senior wrestler Colt Sponseller hosted a wrestling camp June 16-18 at Lakewood.
“I never thought in a million years that he would be in front of me with one of his wrestlers,” White said of the experience.
This is the second year that the Mustangs have hosted the OSU camp with the hopes of offering their wrestlers an opportunity to see what it’s like to compete at the next level.
During the camp, Ryan and Sponseller focused on teaching the basic fundamentals of wrestling, including technique, take downs and positioning, among others, while also stressing the importance of proper nutrition, academic excellence and other life lessons.
“We just want to show them some of the things we do in Ohio,” Sponseller said. “Florida is still working its way up the wrestling ladder, so we’re just (focusing) on wrestling’s basic skills.”
Last year, the camp was strictly for Lakewood wrestlers, but this year, coach Pat Ancil decided to offer the opportunity to high school wrestlers across the state. About 40 wrestlers from 10 different high schools, including Lakewood, Braden River, Southeast, Sarasota, Venice and Miami Palmetto, among others, attended this year’s camp.
“We wanted to offer kids in Florida an opportunity from a financial standpoint and what better opportunity than having the head coach at The Ohio State University bring one of his wrestlers down for three days,” Ancil said. “The kids really take to them. Tom (Ryan) works individually with them and it gives the kids an opportunity to get exposed to the very highest levels of collegiate wrestling and coaching. It’s an opportunity to make them better, and I think this can continue to grow.”
“This is excellent,” Braden River senior Frank Bianco said. “This is some of the best coaching I’ve had. I’ve been to other schools’ camps, and this is one of the best camps I’ve ever been to.
“You can tell the phenomenal shape they’re in and the practice they must go through,” he said. “We’re getting a taste of what they do, but in reality, this is probably nothing.”
Lakewood senior Nick Schilson agreed.
“They really help a lot,” he said. “They critique you, and you get a chance to see how they wrestle, since they’re at the highest level.”
Contact Jen Blanco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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