National Guard specialist, Lakeland wrestler Renon enjoys early success
Athletics - posted on 12/21/2009
Ryan Renon considers waking up for a 6 a.m. run with other members of the Lakeland wrestling team to be sleeping in.
Just a few months ago, Renon would rise at 4 a.m. to begin Army National Guard advanced training at Ft. Sill, a military base located in southern Oklahoma.
Renon's typical day included straightening his bed and locker for inspection, five-mile runs in the wee hours of the morning, intense muscle failure training and afternoon classes, all of which lasted until 10 p.m., only to start again the next morning.
It's no wonder Renon, a sophomore in the classroom and a freshman in athletic eligibility, is one of the toughest wrestlers on the team.
Just over a month into his first season of college wrestling, the 157-pounder from DePere, Wis., is 14-4, with undefeated showings at the Lakeland Duals (Nov. 7) and MSOE Invite (Dec. 5). Renon also finished second at the Knox Invite (Nov. 14), where he lost in the title match to UW-Platteville's Jesse Milks, a two-time All-American.
"Ryan is as tough as anyone I've ever coached, both mentally and physically," Lakeland coach Pete Rogers said. "I knew he had desire, but winning his first four matches as a freshman, which is impressive, solidified him as the real deal."
Renon, who currently holds a specialist rank (Spc.) in the National Guard, completed his basic training between his junior and senior years at Wrightstown High School. He said wrestling is more physically taxing than both basic and advanced training, but less mentally taxing than training.
"Wrestling pushes you more physically," Renon said. "I actually gained the bad kind of weight at basic training. Mentally it's tougher, though, because of the long days and the fact that you're away from everything for so long."
Instead of competing against other platoons in contests such as the "Warrior Challenge," Renon is now competing against Lakeland teammates and a variety of opponents.
Senior captain Jake Frias, a 165-pounder who is Renon's practice partner, is also enjoying early success with a team-high 13 wins this season. He said his achievements wouldn't be possible without solid competition on a daily basis.
"Ryan's made me a lot tougher, and I've made him a lot tougher," Frias said. "He has a totally different style than (national qualifier) Jonas (Flok), my partner last year, but they both have made me a better wrestler."
Renon echoed his teammate's sentiments.
"I didn't think I'd start out this well, but I think Jake has made me better every day," Renon said. "I thought I'd get beat up in my first few matches, but I'm doing pretty well, and Jake is a big reason for that."
During his Wrightstown High School career, Renon was a four-time Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) state qualifier, highlighted by a runner-up finish as a senior. His team also won back-to-back state titles in 2004-05 and 2005-06.
Renon said Rogers stayed in contact with him after he attended Rogers' Intensive Wrestling Camps, and was the "coach that showed the most interest."
Renon's teammates see the same potential that Rogers still sees today.
"Ryan's got what it takes to be an All-American," Frias said. "He also has great character. I worry about student-athletes who put the athlete before the student, but it's clear he's not one of those kids. He is a fantastic representative of the wrestling team on campus."
Renon, an exercise science major, admits he joined the National Guard mainly to help pay for college, but he was proud to become a member of the oldest component of the United States Armed Forces.
It's clear that Renon, who could be called to National Guard duty at any time, carries the same pride with him in the classroom and on the wrestling mat.
"I'm enjoying it now that I can actually wrestle," Renon said. "I was bored when I couldn't practice, so it certainly makes the year go by a lot faster. It feels like a family."
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