The high school wrestling season is still more than a month away, but Danbury High School junior Ryan Jack is already in championship form.
Wrestling out of Empire Wrestling Academy in Somers, N.Y., Jack won the 125-pound championship at the Journeymen Fall Classic tournament, held last weekend at the Union College Memorial Fieldhouse in Schenectady, N.Y., and he beat some high-ranking opponents to do so.
“I knew it was going to be a hard tournament,” said Jack, the reigning New England champion at 120 pounds and a two-time high school All-American. “I had to prepare well and work on the things I needed to work on.”
In the first round, Jack won by injury default over Sean Pierson of Pennsylvania, then the ninth-ranked high school wrestler in the country at 126 pounds, according to the rankings posted on FloWrestling.org. Jack, who was winning at the time Pierson was injured, is not in the top 20.
After winning an 8-5 decision over Jacob Staud of West Virginia, Jack received a bye in the third round. In the fourth round, Jack defeated Lachlan McNeil of Toronto, who last may had placed second in the 55-kilogram Cadet division at the Pan-Am Championships in Guatemala. In the finals, Jack won a 6-2 decision over Zachary Redding of New York.
“He’s a pretty focused kid,” Danbury High wrestling coach Ricky Shook said. “He’s made some huge strides. He’s a lot better now. We’ll see how he does this year. Hopefully, everything will pan out for him.”
Jack spent the summer training in North Carolina with his older brother Kevin, a three-time All-American at North Carolina State. The experience has already paid dividends.
“I learned a lot and I got a lot better,” the younger Jack said. “I think that was what boosted me up to win this tournament. I went down there, wrestled almost every day and just had fun learning. I was learning different things and getting into a college routine hanging around the college wrestlers.”
Jack and the Danbury High team are primed for another big season. They’ll gather in early December to begin preparations. Last year, the mighty Hatters won their 31st FCIAC title in 32 years, their third consecutive Class LL state crown and their second straight State Open championship before placing third at New Englands.
“I can’t wait,” Jack said. “We had some guys leave, but we have some new guys coming in. It’s going to be fun working with them and helping out the team. I can’t wait to win.”