Ryan Kanaskie ReservoirThe Gators coach had never won a state championship as a wrestler or coach before this month, but he did have an idea about what it would take to capture one, having learned from his father, Ron Kanaskie, the second-winningest high school coach in Pennsylvania, who was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2004.
"I think Ryan is a chip off the old block," Reservoir athletic director Ken Klock said. "For them to do what they did ... well, it's been a banner year."
Kanaskie, who is 98-28 since taking over the Reservoir program in 2005-06, directed his team to a 21-2 record and regional and state championships in the dual-meet tournament and the individual state meet this season, winning the 4A-3A team title at the tournament in College Park on March 6, a rare double accomplishment among public school teams.
Klock pointed to Kanaskie's demeanor and personality as key elements in the team's success. "He's not a tough guy," Klock said of his coach, whose day job is golf pro at Walden Golf Club in Crofton. "He did it more with loving care. Rare in wrestling, but he has a great rapport with his kids."
Kanaskie, 29, said his philosophy goes back to what his father taught him when he was wrestling for him at Danville High.
"First you make the sport fun for the kids," Kanaskie said. "Then you make sure they want to come to practice every day. Every coach wants to teach the X's and O's, but I talk about the mental side, about not being afraid to put it on the line every day and not [being] afraid to lose. They bought into what I was saying."
Kanaskie's brave band put it all on the line in the first meet of the season against traditional power Glenelg and lost. Then it spent the rest of the season concentrating on being better.
When Reservoir won the state dual-meet championship, 145-pound wrestler Mark Colabucci, soon to be a state champion, said, "It came from out of the blue." But by the time Reservoir won the state tournament team title, the Gators had beaten the cream of 4A-3A state wrestling. In the process, they became the second team in any sport (volleyball was the first) in Reservoir's eight-year history to win a state title.
"As I look back on it, I didn't realize how motivated they were until it was over," Kanaskie said. "But there were little things every day that showed just how driven they were."