During preseason workouts for the 2012-13 high-school wrestling season, Ryan Christensen suffered an injury that would stop most people in their tracks.
Christensen just kept pushing.
Woodinville High School’s standout wrestler at 182 pounds didn’t realize he was damaged goods for the duration of his junior season until it was over. Despite wrestling with a torn meniscus in his right knee all season, Christensen went on to win a state title in Class 4A at 182.
Christensen shrugged off the pain all season and finished his junior season with 41-1 record and capping off his state crown with a gutty 4-1 championship-match triumph over Tanner Davis of Central Valley of Spokane.
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“That he would deal with it speaks a lot to his competitive spirit,” said Todd Christensen, Ryan’s father and first-year head coach of the Woodinville wrestling team. “We had our trainer look at it, and his original recommendation was that it was a ruptured bursa sac and that it wasn’t major.
“We just tried to deal with it. Early on in the season, we didn’t know about it. We had it checked multiple times.”
His competing through the pain was testament to his toughness. He never flinched in the face of discomfort. His singular focus on the pursuit of success blocked the pain.
“I didn’t realize my meniscus was torn until after the season,” said Christensen, who is 25-0 this season and 108-2 in his three-year career in a Falcons singlet. “It popped at times and there was some pain, sometimes some sharp pain.
“I just figured I could deal with until I got some time off.”
Christensen can become the Falcons’ first two-time state champion after becoming the school’s second state champion in 2013.
Christensen, ranked No. 1 in 4A by www.washingtonwrestlingreport.net at 182, got his title gutting through the pain and constant reminders something was wrong the last month of the season.
“They had to take most of that meniscus out on that side during surgery,” said Todd Christensen. “It’s going to be a long-term issue for him with arthritis and possibly knee-replacement surgery. There’s not a lot you can do about it, rather than stop wrestling, and he doesn’t want to do that.”
Christensen, who has signed a letter of intent to wrestle at the University of Wisconsin, sought a second opinion and decided to risk future damage to participate in the sport he loves now.
The 17-year-old Christensen, who is 24 minutes younger than his fraternal brother Paul, likely will redshirt his first college season, but still holds his dream of competing in the 2020 Olympics.
“I hope to finish school in four years and then get my Masters my fifth year,” said Christensen, who hopes to study mechanical engineering in college. “Then, I hope to stay on as a graduate assistant and coach and train for the Olympics.”
Christensen got a got a second opinion from Dr. Michael Morris, and the prognosis was he could continue to compete but long-term he might face arthritis and/or knee replacement surgery.
The competitive soccer path of his brother, Paul, led Ryan to Dr. Morris. Paul plays goalkeeper for the Seattle Sounders Academy and Morris is the team doctor for the Sounders.
“To me, it was worth the risk of something long-term to compete now and in college,” Christensen said of staying with the high-torque sport that could be harsh on his knees. “Wrestling’s my life. Dr. Morris said it wasn’t like I was risking anything now, but only consequences later on.
“I’ve been blessed with a talent. I’d rather wrestle and deal with it later.”
Christensen, home-schooled for much of his youth, badly wanted to become a three-time state champion since arriving at Woodinville his sophomore year. But his sophomore season ended with an 11-7 loss to Chandler Rogers of Mead of Spokane in the 160-pound final — and that was his only loss of the season after opening with 42 wins in a row.
Christensen two weeks ago eclipsed the school record of 98 career wins set by Kyle Komata, who graduated from Woodinville in 2009. Komota captured a Class 4A state title at 125 pounds his senior season.
The Falcons’ star wants to add more to his résumé at Mat Classic XXV on Feb. 21-22 in the Tacoma Dome.
“It takes a lot of discipline and mental toughness to have success in wrestling,” Christensen said. “There’s no place to hide in the middle of the mat.”
Sometimes that requires blocking out the pain.
|Rise of Ryan|
|Woodinville senior Ryan Christensen can’t reach his goal of being a three-time state champion, but he can get title No. 2 to cap off his stellar three-year career with Falcons. He has a chance to become the school’s first two-time state champion.|
|Year||Weight||Record (pins)||State finish|
|2011-12 (sophomore)||160||42-1 (23)||Second|
|2012-13 (junior)||182||41-1 (29)||First|
|2013-14 (senior)||182||25-0 (18)*||TBD|
|*This season’s stats are through Thursday|