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The fighter: East Ridge senior wrestler Ryan Thompson shooting for state one last time

East Ridge senior Ryan Thompson stands in the wrestling room at East Ridge High School. Thompson has served as a captain of the wrestling team for two seasons since joining the program as a sophomore. (Bulletin photo by Nick Gerhardt)1 / 2
Ryan Thompson, a 113-pounder for the Raptors, has returned to from a season-ending injury last year to go 21-7 so far this season. He now has his sights on the state tournament. “He can wrestle against the toughest competition and know he’s going to give them a fight,” Raptors head coach Wayne Otto said. (Bulletin photo by Patrick Johnson)2 / 2

When the Section 3AAA individual tournament rolls around Feb. 21 it will mark nearly two years since East Ridge senior Ryan Thompson has competed for a chance at the state tournament. Don’t think for a second that Thompson isn’t relishing another shot in his final season of competition.

The route to the state tournament won’t be easy for Thompson, but he’s not the type to shy away from a challenge. Thompson, a 113-pounder for the Raptors, will have the likes of Apple Valley’s Noah Buck, who is ranked fifth in the state and Rosemount’s Jake Baker, who is ranked seventh, among others in his way.

Thompson suffered a dislocated patella the week leading into the section tournament last season. That sent him on a detour that has now led him to become one of the toughest competitors in his weight-class this season.

“I was definitely mad,” Thompson said of missing last year’s section tournament. “I’ve used that as motivation. I think about that every time I go out there.”

Thompson, a team captain, has returned to form this season. He had a 21-7 record through Jan. 26 and placed second in several tournaments while also winning a championship title at the Dragon Invite in Pine City Jan. 11 to help East Ridge win its first tournament title as a team in school history.

“That championship match meant a lot to me because I’ve gotten second at pretty much everything,” Thompson said. “That was my first one so that was a huge weight off my shoulders.”

His latest second-place finish came at the Rochester Century Invite Jan. 26 where he fell 4-0 to Cannon Falls’ Paul Fitterer, who is ranked No. 1 in Class AA and placed third at state last season.

“He can wrestle against anybody and be competitive,” Raptors head coach Wayne Otto said. “He really can. He can wrestle against the toughest competition and know he’s going to give them a fight.”

Thompson has given opponents a fight ever since he stepped in the wrestling room for the first time as a sophomore. Thompson made an impression early on when he matched up with teammate Reid Lyden, a two-time state place-winner.

“The first year I started wrestling I kind of frustrated him to the point where we almost got into a fight,” Thompson said. “I took him down. Being a first-year guy, he didn’t like that.”

Thompson got into the wrestling room on the suggestion of a football coach after he fractured his back on the field and could no longer compete. Since then he’s developed into a leader of the program with hard work and a tenacious desire to learn.

Thompson took to the sport and enjoyed the physical nature of wrestling. The similarities between the sports and his passion for hitting on the field aided him on the mat. Thompson asserts himself as the aggressor in his matches and it’s served him well.

“I like pounding people. It’s a stress reliever,” Thompson said.

Thompson’s approach in practice and in matches has set a tone for others to follow. Thompson hasn’t taken his leadership role for granted either.

“I’ve been doing this for 23 years and the hardest thing in wrestling is good, quality captains,” Otto said. “I’ve had few and far between. For kids to step forward and assert themselves and kind of be the odd-guy out, he’s the outside kid. He’s not like everyone else who just kind of wants to be part of the game.”

Thompson’s not afraid to challenge others in the room to perform at a higher level whether by example or by voicing it. While he watched the section tournament from the sidelines last season he worked with teammates through encouragement and advice.

Thompson’s dedication and determination have smoothed the transition of the team adapting to Otto, who is in his first year of leading the program.

“He holds kids accountable,” Otto said. “He was going to make sure as a captain that everyone else bought in. You can’t really force that, but he can model it.”

The desire to place at sections serves as fuel for Thompson after he missed placing by a match as a sophomore while wrestling two weights classes above his usual weight. As a sophomore Thompson weighed nine pounds lighter than his competitors in the 126-pound weight class.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Thompson said. “I’m going into it like each match is my last one.”

-Nick Gerhardt

Patrick Johnson
Patrick Johnson has been the South Washington County Bulletin’s sports editor since 2008. He reports on and oversees coverage of high school and amateur sports in south Washington County and Woodbury. Prior to joining the Bulletin, Johnson worked for other Twin Cities suburban newspapers. He is a University of Minnesota graduate.
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