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Blood, Sweat and Turkey on Wheat

Wrestling is tough, but Ryan Mackey made it look easy

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Blood, Sweat and Turkey on Wheat

Ryan Mackey is the 2009 Manteca Bulletin All-Area Wrestler of the Year.


POSTED March 15, 2009 5:24 a.m.
Ripon High senior Ryan Mackey, the 2008 and now 2009 Bulletin All-Area Wrestler of the Year, is wise beyond his nearly 18 years.

Mackey is the only area wrestler to qualify for the CIF State Championships in each of the last two seasons, but for those who have never stepped foot on the mat, it’s difficult to understand just how much sacrifice is required to accomplish such a feat.

Having taken the arduous journey from wide-eyed freshman to highly decorated senior, all of the hours spent in the room, the blood spilled, the endless turkey sandwiches on wheat bread and the physical therapy to rejuvenate a frequently dislocated shoulder has left Mackey with a unique perspective that most don’t gain until life beyond high school has had a chance to take its toll.

“I was pretty cocky when I started my freshman year,” Mackey said. “But being on varsity, I got my butt whooped all the time. You start to realize you’re not as good as you think you are. Everyone should experience getting their butt kicked, because it does change you. It makes you tougher as a person.”

“Tough” is a word that Mackey loves, but it’s much more than simple vocabulary, it’s a way of life that has helped to define his character.

It’s not easy to wake up at the crack of dawn and run wind sprints.

It’s not easy to drop 10 pounds in a week.

It’s not easy to be a three-sport athlete and still maintain an academic reputation good enough to be accepted by the University of California at Davis.

It takes passion. It takes drive. It takes perseverance.
It’s tough.

“My Dad and I used to watch the state meets when I was a little boy, and I’d sit there and eat popcorn,” Mackey said. “My dad wrestled in high school. I liked basketball growing up, but then I wanted something tougher.

“Wrestling is the toughest sport there is.”

Mackey was a starting interior lineman on both sides of the ball in the fall and came out of football season well above 171 pounds. But he was determined to drop enough weight to wrestle at what he considers the toughest of all weight classes.

Longtime acquaintance and in-season rival, Charlie McDonald of Escalon, is a perfect example of the type of athlete that wrestles at 171 pounds.

Incredibly fast, easily as quick, and as strong as they come.

“The whole point (of dropping to 171) was my competitiveness,” Mackey said. “I wanted to try and beat out the best kids in the state at 171. I like having my back against the wall, having to fight, playing that underdog role, trying to prove people wrong.”

Mackey pinned McDonald at the Foothill Tournament, before the Cougar claimed wins during the Trans Valley League regular season and the TVL tournament.

Mackey took the TVL losses to heart and made it his goal to best McDonald at sub-sections. After a week of work in the room with Ripon assistant coach Chance White, Mackey took home the big prize, claiming the Division V championship with a thrilling 4-3 overtime win over his rival.

“I’m glad to have him as a competitor in my area because he kept me on my toes the whole time,” Mackey said of McDonald. “It was tough going 2-2 with him this season. I shouldn’t have.”

Mackey speaks in glowing terms when asked about White, whose brother, Glen, is Ripon’s head coach. White knew how much a sub-section win over McDonald meant to Mackey, and, not surprisingly, the coach put in overtime to make sure his pupil got the job done.

“Chance is a stud,” Mackey said. “He’s one of those guys you don’t ever want to mess with. I learned the basics from Glen, but I learned almost everything else from Chance. He dedicated himself to helping me get better. I just have to give him the credit.

“As soon as I would get cocky, Chance would come in and tear me down again.”

Anyone familiar with the Whites and Ripon wrestling realizes just how much the concept of family permeates everything the Indians do.

“When I was a freshman, I’d sit there with my dad and watch Martin (Beeler) and Kyle (Souza) and Nate (Aufdermaur) wrestle at state, and he told me ‘You can be here one of these days,’” Mackey said. “That really stuck with me.”

Two years later, Mackey proved his father right.

“I just worked my butt off throughout the seasons trying to get bigger and stronger and faster,” he said. “Then junior year I made it and it was kind of a relief to know that I had accomplished the goal that I had set my mind to.”

Mackey says it was his father’s words that pushed him toward his goal, but that wasn’t the only factor.

“My mom (Sheri) pushed me too,” he said. “She helped me out, all the strength she gave me – I needed that.

“Everyone believed in me. It was just a matter of believing in myself and overcoming obstacles in order to get there.”
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