By any measure, this year’s Father Ryan wrestling team ranks as one of the best in recent Nashville history.
Many old-time observers compare it to the 1974 team, which rolled to the state championship. Then, senior Pat Simpson led the team.
Now, as the team’s long-time coach, Simpson is in command again.
The Irish have a lot of components — great senior leadership and a core of grapplers who have been dominant in their weight classes — not to mention the confidence of having won a state championship —duals or individuals — three of the last four years. In all, Ryan has 11 state titles.
Ryan’s first match in the 2012 Division II state duals is 3:30 p.m. Friday against Brentwood Academy at the Franklin Expo Center. Rival Montgomery Bell Academy wrestles CBHS at 5:30 p.m.
Going down the Ryan weight classes is a bit like going down murderers’ row.
• 106: Mike Eckhart: Ranked second in the state and has already beaten Nos. 3 and 4 this season. Record: 36-8. A sophomore.
• 113: Chris Wesnofske: Has won both the recent Grand Championships at the Franklin Ag Center and the Ryan Invitational. Simpson calls him “a real surprise at how well he has come on this season.” Record: 40-6. A freshman.
• 120: Hal Fisher: “Another freshman who has really come on lately and has been one of the keys for a great season,” Simpson said. Record: 33-19.
• 126 Ryan Simpson: The junior won the Ryan tournament and has placed in each tournament he’s competed in this season. Is the coach’s nephew. “He’s sacrificed his weight so as to allow teammates to wrestle at their normal weight. He’s had a solid year,” said his coach. Record: 32-16.
• 132: Mike Akers: The senior was state champ at 103 in 2010 and won the recent Grand Championships at the Ag Center and has “had a good year,” Simpson said. Record: 36-8.
• 138: Patrick Cosgrove: Has come on like gangbusters lately and “the most improved wrestler we have,” according to Simpson. Record: 28-22.
• 145: Mark Marchetti: Was named the co-MVP of the recent Ryan Invitational after winning his division and defeated his CBHS foe earlier. A senior and four-year standout, rates as one of the best shots for Ryan at a state individual title. Record: 51-3.
• 152: Cole Moseley: Won both the Grand Championships and Ryan Invitational, and also is a legitimate title contender. Record: 37-8.
• 160: Mike Hooker: Is undefeated for the season. The McCallie transfer recently set the state record for career wins with his 230th in the Atlanta Champions tournament. Is a heavy favorite to repeat his state title. His father Mike was a teammate of Simpson on the Irish 1974 title team. Record: 61-0.
• 170: Stephen Nolan: Like Marchetti, he was the co-MVP of the Ryan tourney. Called “the most improved wrestler on our team,” by Simpson. Record: 15-8.
• 182: T.J. Holmes: Hopes to defend his title this week. Is undefeated against Tennessee wrestlers as his only losses were to out-of-state competition. Record: 55-2.
• 195: Ricky Fisher: Older brother of Hal (120 wrestler). Both are ranked No. 1 in their respective weight classes. “Ricky’s been extremely consistent this year,” Simpson said. Record: 56-3.
• 220: Garrett Lacattuca: “He’s probably our most improved wrestler, and if he hangs in there tough, he has a chance for a title,” Simpson said. Record: 33-25.
• 285 (Heavyweight): Brandon Crissy: A starter the last three years and “also one of our most improved wrestlers,” Simpson said. Record: 26-20.
It adds up to a formidable team.
“It’s been our goal [winning state] the whole season,” T.J. Holmes, who is headed to UT-Chattanooga, said. “It looks like it’s going to come down to between us and Christian Brothers. Just that experience of having won it before will help us.”
“My dad wrestled on the ’74 team and we talk all the time about trying to win state again,’’ said the undefeated Hooker who is headed to Naval Prep Academy. “Winning again would be great, especially for all the seniors. [Going undefeated] would be a major accomplishment to wind up my senior year.”