Ryan Conat’s wrestling career has been outstanding.
As a student athlete at New London High School, Conat compiled 122 wins during his four year career.
That’s second all-time in school history. He tore his way through regionals and was always at the top of the competition at sectionals.
The only asterisk that accompanies Conat’s high school wrestling accolades has become a form of motivation – Conat never made it to state as a high school wrestler.
Current New London High School Wrestling Coach Bryon Prey was an assistant coach when Conat was in high school.
“The season he is currently having couldn’t be happening to a nice kid,” said Prey. “I haven’t been around many kids that worked harder than Ryan in high school. His drive was amazing. He was always the first kid in practice and the last one out. He was always looking to better himself. He was like a sponge – we showed him a new move, and he would work his tail off to perfect it.
“I know 100 wins in high school meant a lot to him. The fact that he never qualified for state was the one disappointment he had. I remember driving home from sectionals on the bus and I was sitting next to him. We were talking a little about the future because Ryan always wanted to wrestle in college,” said Prey. “I told him that I hoped he didn’t let the day change his desire to wrestle at the next level. His response was ‘No way. Now I guess I will just have to make it to nationals.’ That’s just the kind of kid he was – high motor, high expectations.”
Now a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Conat says his high school heroics and heartbreak moments have taught him a tremendous amount about his sport.
“Not making it to state in high school really motivated me early on in my college career. It pushed me to work harder,” said Conat. “But over time, I’ve also come to realize that what happens at the high school level doesn’t matter. What I’m doing now to make myself better is what’s really going to make me the wrestler that I am.”
What kind of wrestler is he now? Conat is currently 20-0 and ranked No. 5 in the nation among Division III wrestlers in the 174-pound weight class.
“My high school coach (Brian Stamper) wrestled for UWSP. He was a huge influence in me attending UWSP,” said Conat. “The way he coached back then is very similar to how I’m coached now. We work hard, we battle other guys on our feet, and it was an easy transition because he pushed us so hard in high school. I was ready for the college step.”
His college career features much of the same success he experienced in high school.
“I wasn’t a starter on the Pointers wrestling team as a freshman,” said Conat. “I did start as a sophomore, and was pretty competitive. I had a good year last year as a junior as well. I beat a lot of good guys, but lost a handful of close matches against some great wrestlers. This year, I have worked harder and I’m better – I’ve won all those close matches this year.
“It’s a big honor to be ranked fifth in the nation, but I don’t look into it too much,” said Conat. “It’s a cool accolade, but I try not to let it influence me. I don’t want to be satisfied with a high ranking, I want to place high at nationals.
Conat’s season is at the halfway point, with about 15-20 more matches remaining. Nationals take place March 15-16 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Currently, the Pointers team is ranked 13th in the nation in Division III.
“Ultimately, I want to be named an All-American,” said Conat. “The way the season is going, and knowing how hard I’m working, I don’t see any reason why I couldn’t be in the national finals. That’s my new big goal, and I’m working hard enough to deserve it. I appreciate all of the support from friends and family back home, and I’ll continue working by butt off to finish the season strong.”