A Phenomenal Final


Greatness has a way of standing out.

One can see greatness in a wrestler’s body type, in his physique, in his confidence, in his composure in how he rises to the occasion versus quality opponents in a big spot.

There are many ways greatness stands out.

You know it when you see it.

When I saw Zach Ryder for the first time this weekend, he stood out.

It was in his technique, in his body type, in his dominance, in his demeanor, in his composure.

It was in almost everything about him.

With a great weekend of wrestling, Zach Ryder earned his way to the NY State finals.

Zach Ryder is only in 7th grade.

He is a phenom on his way to becoming phenomenal.

Wouldn’t you know it, Ryder’s opponent in the finals would be Stevo Paulin, who knows something about turning his phenom status into becoming phenomenal.

Its a funny thing about this sport, no matter how good you are, no matter how much of a phenom you are touted as, there comes a time where your true greatness needs confirmation.

Even to yourself.

Early in the match, Stevo controlled the match and it seemed Zach Ryder couldn’t or wouldn’t unleash.

Until it happened.

And Zach Ryder unleashed.

After a great defensive save of a takedown from a Poulin onslaught, without hesitation, Zach Ryder reshot and drove Poulin out of bounds for a near takedown.


Photos by Ray Passaro

It was in that instant that his greatness was confirmed.

Stevo Poulin would win his 2nd NYS Championship with a 4-3 decision over Zach Ryder on this night.

There are rare moments in this sport when you know you are experiencing greatness mature right before your eyes.

You just know when you see it happening.

I knew I was witnessing something special.

After the match, Zach Ryder didn’t hang his head.

The great one’s never do.

Somehow, in a weird way, it seemed to me that his loss to Stevo Poulin inspired him by confirming his graduation from phenom to becoming phenomenal.

It takes a worthy opponent to bring out the greatness in you.

Stevo Poulin is phenomenal and on his way to legendary.

Zach Ryder already knew that.

Or, maybe Zach Ryder knew that…  

In 2013, the NYS finals between Yianni vs Vito would wind up to be Vito’s only high school loss and Yianni and Vito would go on to combine to win 8 state championships between them in their careers.

Or that in…

In 2014, the NYS finals between Jacori Teemer and Adam Busiello would be only one of three high school career losses for Adam and when it was all said and done, Jacori and Adam would win 10 state championships between them en route to becoming teammates at Arizona State.

No matter what happens in Zach Ryder’s future he wrestled a phenomenal match in the New York State finals.

But somehow, I can’t help myself from thinking we are going to see history repeat itself once again and see quite a few State Championships from Stevo and Zach Ryder.


For All Works by JohnA Passaro






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