While beautifying the landscapes in Lancaster, Ryan Stencel continued crafting his wrestling legend.
Already a two-time Section VI champion and three-time state qualifier, Stencel slabbed more than 30 pounds on his frame laboring throughout the summer before his senior year. And while working in the sun, he was able to absorb some wrestling wisdom from Lancaster’s all-time wins leader, 2002 graduate Derek Ostrowski.
“We’d always talk about what moves we do in wrestling, and what things he used to do that could help me,” Stencel said. “And once in a while, we’d go at it right there at work.”
Stencel was often reminded of Ostrowski’s record.
“He always talked about it,” Stencel said. “Everybody still talks about it.”
The conversation changed last Saturday when Stencel overtook Ostrowski on Lancaster’s all-time wins list, improving his career record to 194-50 while winning his fourth consecutive Class AA tournament title.
“Now I get to go back after the season and showboat around as the top guy,” Stencel said with a laugh.
Ostrowski would like it if Stencel had even more accolades to show off this summer.
“I knew it was only a matter of time that he’d break my record, with all the work he’s put in over the years,” said Ostrowski, a two-time state semifinalist for Lancaster who went on to become an NJCAA All-American for Niagara County Community College.
“Now I’m hoping he comes home with that state title.”
— Lancaster Wrestling (@LancWrestle) February 8, 2020
As the No. 1 seed in the 182-pound weight class entering the Section VI Division I state qualifier on Saturday at Starpoint, Stencel is striving to win a third sectional title and take another step toward becoming Lancaster’s first state wrestling champion since Joe Zito in 1986.
Stencel is ranked third in the state in his weight class by New York Wrestling News, and third in armdrag.com's pound-for-pound rankings of all Western New York wrestlers.
“It’s not really about the records and the rankings for him,” Lancaster coach Ron Lorenz said. “He wants to validate his career by winning a state title.”
After impressing the Lancaster coaches during youth club workouts, Stencel joined the varsity roster in seventh grade. He started writing his Legends story when he dropped down to 106 pounds and pinned his opponent during the Border Battle dual meet with Clarence.
“He was a tough, scrappy little kid,” Lorenz said. “Even though he was a seventh-grader, he really had that driven attitude. We knew right then that he was somebody we were going to be able count on.”
Stencel won sectional titles at 138 pounds as a freshman and 152 pounds as a sophomore. He placed 10th in his first trip to states and 7th the following year.
As a junior, Stencel lost in the sectional final match at 152 pounds against eventual state finalist Warren McDougald from Niagara Wheatfield. Earning a wild card to states, Stencel reached the semifinals and appeared on his way to a championship rematch with McDougald before officials reversed a takedown in the closing seconds that would’ve given Stencel the match victory. He wound up losing in the overtime period and placed fifth after the consolation round.
“It was mishandled by the officials and the appeals committee,” Lorenz said. “The kids both had their headgear off. They were done wrestling. Ryan’s about to get his hand raised. Mentally, he’s at the highest of highs in this sport. You tell a 16-year-old kid he’s a state finalist, and then you rip it away from him in less than a minute. He was pretty frustrated wrestling in the consolation rounds after that.”
A year later, that frustration has strengthened Stencel’s resolve for redemption at the 58th NYSPHSAA Intersectional Wrestling Championships on Feb. 28-29 in Albany.
“I’m going out there in a blaze of glory,” Stencel said. “I want to dominate every time and leave no question as to whether it was a close match or not.
Stencel’s lone defeat of the season came at the Eastern States Wrestling Classic against the state’s top-ranked 182-pounder, Brock Delsignore from Shenendehowa. But the Legends are optimistic about a potential rematch in the state final.
“That match didn’t warrant him getting into his best positions,” Lorenz said. “Ryan is very good on top and he didn’t get that opportunity. He might be the best in the state on top. They had seen Ryan and knew how dangerous he was on top and they didn’t elect to go down.”
Stencel ends many of his matches on top, with 88 career pinfall victories, four away from Joe Andreessen’s school record.
“He’s just a freak,” Lorenz added. “He’s super good on top because he stays in great position and just controls every position. He’s strong, he’s big, he’s got a great body type.”
Moving up three weight classes and dominating his local competition has further boosted Stencel’s confidence.
“The added weight has helped me a lot,” Stencel said. “The kids that started off at big weights and don’t move much wrestle that way, a little slower. Wrestling at lower weights when I was younger helped me greatly. I am able to scramble, I’m still flexible, and I can still move around faster than most guys at 182.”
Stencel has the ability to perform moves on the mat that can’t be taught — and probably shouldn’t be, Lorenz said.
“There are things he does that when my other kids see it, I make sure to tell them don’t do that,” Lorenz said. “Certain skills, only special kids can do. And Ryan is one of those kids.”
Stencel is the fourth Western New York wrestler this season to become his school’s career wins leader, following Willie McDougald (Niagara Falls), Warren McDougald (Niagara Wheatfield) and Aiden Rabideau (Clarence). He has a chance to join them and become the 43rd wrestler on WNY’s 200 wins list during the state tournament.
State supremacy remains the ultimate goal, but Stencel is proud to hold the top spot in Lancaster’s record book.
“I’ve always been a dream chaser and wanted big things like this to happen,” he said. “It means a lot to know that I’ve accomplished something that people are going to know me for when they talk about Lancaster wrestling.”
The Division I tournament begins at 10 a.m. at Starpoint with finals scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. The Division II tournament moves to Southwestern with wrestling beginning at 10 a.m. and the finals scheduled for 6 p.m.