Hard work pays off for Spring-Ford’s Hayes

OXFORD — Ryan Hayes took some time to get around to wrestling.

There was the family tradition of playing baseball, but Hayes soon grew tired of it.

Then, there was a brief fling with basketball, until his height deficiencies intervened.

Finally, Hayes was introduced to wrestling, by none other than long-time Ursinus College head coach and Plymouth Whitemarsh graduate Bill Racich.

“He pulled me out of the hallways and into the practice room,’ Hayes recalled. “He told me I should be wrestling.’

Hayes gave it a go, bringing with him a near-fanatic work ethic.

That combination has already been responsible for one state wrestling medal for Hayes (last year, seventh, at 113 pounds).

But Friday, when Hayes sets foot on the mats at Oxford Area High School for the start of the PIAA Class AAA Southeast Regional Wrestling Tournament (5:30 p.m.), it will be as the No. 1-ranked 120-pounder in District One, and the favorite to not only advance to next weekend’s PIAA Championships in Hershey, but to do so as a regional champion.

“I’m pretty excited,’ said Hayes on the eve of his final regional stop. “I know I have to stay on my toes in every match, but looking at the brackets I’m pretty confident I can reach the finals.’

If so, it will give Hayes a crack at the postseason trifecta of winning a league title, a district title and a regional crown.

As for his relatively rapid rise to success, Rams head coach Tim Seislove cites three factors.

“He’s very athletic, he’s confident and he’s a worker,’ Seislove said. “He’s had two good weekends before this one, and he’s set himself up well for this week.’

The hard work is a trait Hayes wears as a badge of honor.

“I have a lot of ambition to be the best,’ he said. “Every day in the practice room, I don’t take it easy, ever.

“And I’ve been in a lot of practice rooms. I go to Malvern, I’ve been to Norristown to work with Coach (Mark) Harner. I work as hard as I can, whenever I get the chance.’

All that huffing and puffing, however, never seemed as though it would shake the near-jinx level of futility Hayes faced when he wrestled Owen J. Roberts’ three-time state medalist Derek Gulotta.

Gulotta had defeated Hayes in eight successive meetings, most times pretty convincingly.

But that finally changed, ironically, this past Valentine’s Day when Hayes topped Gulotta, 5-2, in the Pioneer Athletic Conference Tournament finals.

“It bothered me,’ Hayes said about the long personal losing streak. “He had beaten me eight times before, and I don’t take losing lightly. I’m pretty competitive.

“It was definitely mental for me. Maybe I was a little afraid. But I came into my senior year a little more confident. And in my mind I felt I should be the confident one.’

Getting over that hurdle, and seeing the likes of Gulotta, Garnet Valley’s Matt Marino and Truman’s Dylan Nuttall on the opposite side of the 120-pound bracket this weekend has Hayes feeling upbeat going into his final appearance on District One soil.

“We have 10 (Spring-Ford wrestlers) going to regionals, which is a real compliment to our program,’ Hayes said. “We wrestle a real tough schedule, between the PAC-10 and the tournaments we’ve been in, and that should be a (positive) factor for us this weekend.

“The whole team is excited to see how well we can do.’

But many of the discerning eyes this weekend will be on a young man who took some time getting around to the sport.

“I see that as an advantage,’ Hayes said. “I’m not burned out or beat up. I want to be here.’

With the top five wrestlers in each weight class advancing to the state tournament, the picks for the final five qualifiers are near-impossible to figure out.

But it’s a hoot to do, and if we’re wrong we can always say we’re just doing it to generate interest:

106 – Parker; Campbell; Kaliner; Zapf; Martoccio.

113 – Steffenino; Strommer; Rush; Resnick; D.Campbell.

120 – Hayes; Nuttall; Marino; Hankin; Gulotta.

126 – Cummings; Trampe; Miller; Medrow; Puliti.

132 – Cronin; Stillings; Wilson; Cooley; Devlin.

138 – D’Orsaneo; Thomas; Lillis; Miller; Mongiello.

145 – Stephens; Petrucelli; Barth; Beauchamp; Pennypacker.

152 – Schwartz; Meyer; Iredale; Dellicompagni; Labus.

160 – Krauss; DeLaurentis; Elliott; Shalinsky; Kowal.

170 – Gentile; Meyers; Horne; Boyer; Okoorian.

182 – Harvey; Hatzipavlides; Wilson; Kisselback; Taylor.

195 – Kenis; Ferrizzi; McGuire; Zimmie; Reinhold.

220 – Wood; McGinley; Outlaw; Yeboah-Gyasi; Thorpe.

285 – Graeber; Killoran; Kracz; Hill; McDonald.

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