CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids Kennedy wrestling coach Brent Paulson considers Ryan Sheldon the hardest working wrestler he has ever coached.
That is a serious compliment considering the group includes four state champions that earned five titles for the Cougars, two wrestlers who advanced to become NCAA Division I All-Americans and even his brother, Zach, who was a state finalist. It also spans 14 seasons, including eight as head coach.
All the effort and dedication has helped the three-time state qualifier, who placed eighth last season, jump to a 15-1 start in his senior campaign.
Sheldon owns a strong passion for the sport. He eats, rests and trains properly, living a disciplined lifestyle conducive to success on the mat.
“You’ve got to do everything right to get to where you want to be,” Sheldon said. “You’ve got to put everything into it with everything you do.”
Sheldon is ranked third by The Predicament. The Cougars 171-pounder captured the Fort Madison Invitational crown right before the holiday break, notching his 101st career win in the finals. He also earned a third-place finish at the Keith Young Invitational in early Dec.
“It’s great to see him not only have success, but dominate on the mat,” Paulson said. “He’s had some impressive wins.”
The victories and progress are no surprise to Sheldon. This is the goal.
“Just do my best and get better every day in practice,” Sheldon said. “I feel like I’ve been doing that. The results have been showing the hard work I’ve put in.”
Many wrestlers have pummeled their way through the Cougars practice room, but few have had the same tenacious work ethic. Paulson said he drove to the high school before the season started only to spot Sheldon running around the school track, sacrificing free time and NFL games on television.
“It’s not just because what he does for three months of the season. It’s because of what he does for the 10-11 months throughout the year,” said Paulson, noting the only time Sheldon has missed a wrestling workout was due to thumb surgery. “He comes in with the mentality that he’s going to outwork every single person.”
Sheldon credited his father, Mike, and mother, Jean, for instilling a desire to be the best. His father provided an inspirational quote that influences his philosophy.
“Always give yourself the opportunity to be great,” Sheldon said of the quote. “I take that to heart. I work hard so I have that opportunity.”
Sheldon’s drive is a basic need to improve, training harder and pushing further each day. He is also motivated by a competitive spirit, creating a need to win at anything from checkers to wrestling.
“When I start my workout I think of myself and pushing my limits,” Sheldon said. ”You get better or worse every day. You never stay the same.”
Sheldon didn’t want more of the same after his sophomore season, which ending with another winless state meet performance. He was focused on becoming more offensive and scoring more on his feet. It resulted in a medal from the 2010 state tournament. Paulson said Sheldon fixed on a goal once it is set.
“He’s goal driven,” said Paulson, saying that Sheldon reached a goal this summer by qualifying for the Junior Nationals in Fargo, N.D. “He has a set of goals he wants to accomplish and he works as hard as possible to achieve those.”
Sheldon is looking to join a select group of four-time state qualifiers at Kennedy, which includes Zach Paulson, Joey Slaton and Kyle Blood. Simply reaching the state meet or making the awards stand isn’t enough in his final season.
“I have to strive for the top of the podium and be the best, but I have to work hard to get there,” said Sheldon, who plans to wrestle in college. “That’s what I’m focusing on, getting better every day.”
Paulson, who was a state champion for Kennedy in 1992, knows what it takes to earn a state crown. He said Sheldon has what it takes and more.
“He’s already doing what all those top guys are doing,” Paulson said. “I have no doubt he’ll be in the mix.”
brent paulson, Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Cougars, drive, effort, Fort Madison Invitational, gallery, Jean Sheldon, Joey Slaton, Kyle Blood, Mike Sheldon, motivation, Ryan Sheldon, work ethic, Wrestling, Zach Paulson