Oct. 16, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. -
Ryan Tice is a former wrestler here at NC State. After his career was over, Tice transitioned into the media, as he is currently a staff writer for The Wolfpacker, mainly covering NC State’s football team as well as all NC State teams. Tice recently took the time to write about his experiences as a member of Wolfpack wrestling, and how the experiences of being a student-athlete have helped him after college.
My name is Ryan Tice, and you probably don’t remember me from my wrestling career at NC State — I’d be more concerned if you remembered me than if you didn’t — but I’ll never forget my four years with the Wolfpack and how it prepared me for what I do every day in the real world.
Unlike many of my college teammates, I never won a state championship in high school; I may have been the only one on the entire squad that never placed in the top six at his high school state championships. I broke my leg playing football as a 120-pound strong safety in the second-to-last game of my senior year, and missed the first eight weeks of my final wrestling campaign. When I returned to the mat, I didn’t have enough time to get in shape and had to wrestle at 125 pounds instead of 119 because I had obviously picked up a few pounds while sitting on the couch and recovering from my fractured limb.
However, the summer after my senior year, I went to the National Championships in Fargo, notched a winning record and just missed All-American honors in Greco-Roman wrestling. That gave me the confidence I needed to try to walk on to the team at NC State, where I would attend college, despite having never talked to the wrestling coach before I stepped foot on campus.
Once I made it to Raleigh, I eventually found out where the wrestling coach’s office was and, one day, I was lucky enough to track Carter Jordan down. He had no clue who I was, just that I was some kid from Maryland, hoping to make the team.
For whatever reason, he gave me that chance despite a less than stellar resume, and I made the team as a walk-on. Fortunately for me, my try out consisted mostly of working out in the weight room, where I was at my best — I was the pound-for-pound strongest wrestler on the team from day one — and that probably helped the coaches look past by subpar grappling skills.
I redshirted my first year on campus and took beatings every day in practice from my older teammates. I showed flashes from time to time, including a second place finish in the 2005 Wolfpack Open, so I wasn’t a completely lost cause, but that season was definitely a learning experience. I received more butt whoopings than I delivered that season — and probably my entire career — but that’s the best way to improve in wrestling and in life. Getting knocked down just allows you to get back up stronger.
Over the next three years (I wasn’t able to wrestle my fifth year due to a hand surgery), I provided depth at 133 and 141 pounds and wrestled in more varsity matches than I could have ever dreamed of. The biggest win of my college career came during the 2007-08 season at Oklahoma. I will never forget that feeling because Oklahoma is one of the meccas of college wrestling. Their home meets are full of fans, cheerleaders and mascots — stuff that I wasn’t used to seeing as I walked out on the wrestling mat. It was the whole nine yards and an atmosphere I’ll never forget.
The match started at 125 pounds, where my road roommate and good friend Taylor Cummings started us off with a win. I followed up with a wild 13-10 decision before another of my classmates and good friends, Joe Caramanica, dominated en route to a 5-0 decision. That gave us a 9-0 lead over a nationally ranked squad, and the packed gymnasium was silent. Although I remember dealing with calf cramps on the sideline at that point, it was amazing to look around and see these diehard wrestling fans stunned by the quick start of this NC State team they expected to stomp. The rest of the match didn’t go our way, but that was probably the high point of my career.
I had other moments I’ll never forget — probably the best match of my career came against a National finalist, Franklin Gomez of Michigan State, and I scrapped my way to a 9-3 decision loss, which may not sound that impressive, but it saved bonus points for the team; I had a memorable bout against North Carolina on the road, where I just ran out of time, but staged a big comeback; and I was a part of the team that recorded the biggest margin of victory ever at the ACC Wrestling Championships— but my wrestling career was about more than just wrestling.
I formed friendships with guys that I’ll never forget, and we had more than our share of fun. Even guys that I shared the mat room with for just a year will always have my respect and a place in my heart. A brotherhood is formed because you have to give it your all and share blood, sweat and tears with your teammates. They’re the ones who get you through grueling workouts, like running the stadium steps at Carter-Finley with your workout partner on your back, when you want to quit. I’m still close with many of my teammates, and hope that never changes, even as we move on in life and some of us leave Raleigh.
I was nothing more than a role player during my career, but fulfilling that role and being ready when called upon prepared me for things after my forgettable wrestling career ended. Somebody has to be there in practice to get beat up on, but I’ll never forget the pride I felt when my friend and teammate, Darrion Caldwell, pulled off the greatest victory (I refuse to call it an upset, but others will) in the history of the NCAA Wrestling Championships and won his national crown in 2009, or when my longtime practice partner, Darrius Little, went from walk-on to NCAA All-American and broke the 100 career wins mark this winter.
Only three guys in the history of the storied Wolfpack program have ever surpassed the century mark — that means the program has produced more National Champions than 100-match winners — and I had the pleasure to call two of them my teammates.
Things I learned in my wrestling career help me every day in the “real world,” where I’m a staff writer for The Wolfpacker, an independent website and magazine that covers NC State sports and recruiting; I also produce and host a podcast that covers NC State football and basketball (search for The Wolfpacker Podcast on iTunes).
Because of wrestling, I know how important it is to play your role, even if it is nothing more than showing up on time and working your tail off, even while others aren’t looking and it doesn’t feel like your duties are that important. Every successful organization needs its practice dummies for the All-Americans to beat up on. Thankfully, my parents instilled a strong work ethic and sense of responsibility in me, and wrestling strengthened both of those traits.
I love my job covering NC State and am now an impartial member of the media, but I wouldn’t be where I was today if it wasn’t for NC State wrestling. I learned so much while competing for the Red and White, and try to give back to the program any chance I have. I served as the public address announcer for home matches last year and was insanely nervous about doing something I had never done before in that setting, but it was my opportunity to try to give back to the program that gave me so much. I did the best that I could and would gladly do so again in the future.
I’m especially excited to be attending home matches this upcoming winter with new coach Pat Popolizio, and watching the program continue to grow with such an outstanding leader. When I first heard Coach’s name as a possibility to fill the job, I did my research and talked to people that knew his work and him as a person — everything points to this being a home run hire. I sincerely think NC State couldn’t have found a better man for the job and, as an alum, I want to thank him for coming to Raleigh.
There’s no question that the current roster has some talent on it, and, based on everything that Popolizio was able to accomplish at Binghamton with limited resources, I think the Pack will thrive in this new era. There is also an outstanding ensemble of assistant coaches, including former Olympic medalist Jamill Kelly and Frank Beasley; I have heard nothing but good things about both.
As an alum, I also think athletics director Debbie Yow should be thanked for her efforts of returning the department as a whole to the top. I wish I still had eligibility when she took over because she took every aspect of the wrestling program and made it better. She made the wrestling room look like a college wrestling room, she raised expectations to where they should be and she provides coaches and teams with the resources needed to be the best. I talk to most of the other Olympic sports coaches on campus through my job, and they have all expressed similar sentiments.
Through my job, I’ve gotten to do some awesome things. I’ve interviewed Wolfpack legends like Torry Holt, one of the greatest NFL receivers of all-time and an even better person away from the field, and former No. 1 overall draft pick Mario Williams, now the star of my favorite team, the Buffalo Bills, among countless other former and current athletes — household names and Olympic sports’ competitors alike — who have kindly given me their time, so that I could try to share their stories. I want to thank each and every one of them, as well as their coaches, for doing that, as well.
At this point, I can’t imagine doing anything else and my recent two-year anniversary as a staff writer for The Wolfpacker, in addition to contributing to three of our other publications, has marked a more fulfilling pair of years than I ever would’ve thought. I enjoy covering football and football recruiting the most as a lifelong fan of the gridiron, but I truly enjoy writing about everything from my former sport to tennis, baseball and gymnastics.
I doubt I would’ve landed at such an enjoyable and rewarding workplace without wrestling, and that is just another of the unforgettable opportunities that wrestling at NC State has afforded me.