It has been difficult for Pikesville resident Ryan Friedman to follow in the footsteps of his successful older brother, Eric, who won the Maryland Independent Schools State tournament four times from 2009-2012 for St. Paul's. Ryan went for his first title last February and finished as runner-up at 113 pounds.
"I want to be better than he was," said Ryan, who came up through the ranks in the Owings Mills Junior League program. "Obviously, that's the main goal. I certainly felt pressure at states. I kind of felt like I had underachieved because I had been expected to win states."
Now, though, the rising sophomore is beginning to emerge from his brother's shadow after earning All-American status by placing eighth in the freestyle division of the USA Cadet Wrestling championships in Fargo, N.D., on July 19.
One more win would have garnered him the same honors in the Greco division after going 4-2.
Eric, who will wrestle at the University of Pennsylvania this winter, had placed three times in the same tournament.
"It's considered the No. 1 tournament in the nation," St. Paul's coach Jay Braunstein said. "You get kids from across the nation and even Hawaii. If you place there, you get national recognition almost for the rest of your high school career.
"And this tournament sets you up for colleges," he added. "The guys who do well in these tournaments are looked at throughout the rest of their career by colleges."
Braunstein said Ryan's toughness, poise and confidence serves him well in the elite national tournaments.
The 15-year-old Friedman also finished third in the National High School Scholastic College Association Freshmen Nationals held in Virginia Beach in May and he went 13-5 as a member of Team Maryland in the Cadet Duals in Daytona Beach, Fla., in June.
"He is a kid that never gets rattled," the coach said. "He's got so much time on the mat you would think he is a grizzled veteran."
Friedman, who has been wrestling for 10 years, started quickly at USA Cadet Wrestling championships and ended up advancing all the way to the eighth round of the 82-wrestler bracket in the six-day event.
He blanked Oregon's Quinton Hook, 6-0, 6-0, and pinned North Dakota's Adam Blees in 1:59 before cruising past Texas' MA Betancourt, 6-0, 6-0.
After a bye, Friedman shut out yet another grappler, Montana's Jarrett Degan, 6-0, 6-0, then outlasted Illinois' Kyle Akins' 1-0, 0-2, 2-1.
Unfortunately for Friedman, his undefeated streak ended when California's Zahid Valencia, rated the No. 1 high school grappler following the 2012 season, prevailed 1-0, 1-0.
Friedman lost the seventh-eighth place match to Illinois' Michael Collins.
"I wasn't expected to perform as well as I did," Friedman said of his second trip to Fargo. "It certainly gets me attention on the national level, and there were a lot of college coaches that were in the stands."
Friedman said the final loss stung but, eventually, he was able to focus on the bigger picture.
"I was somewhat upset that I placed eighth, " he explained. "Now, looking back on it, the only thing that matters is that I was able to be an All-American."
Friedman's success in Fargo will likely give him a big dose of confidence for the high school season at St. Paul's, which starts in November.
He wants to improve on last year, but it may not be easy.
Friedman went 45-9 as a freshman, winning the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association championship and placing third at National Preps.
"He will write his own ticket to college just like his brother did," Braunstein said. "His brother could have gone anywhere he wanted to go and it will be the same thing for Ryan. He will be that good."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun