Ryan Ohler has been dominant so far in his senior wrestling season at Liberty High School, reaching 100 career wins on Jan. 15 against Boonsboro. The path to his current success traces all the way back to elementary school and the person that got him involved in the sport in the first place, current freshman teammate — and younger brother — Dylan Ohler.
“It’s funny, Dylan’s actually the one that got me into wrestling,” Ryan said. “He started wrestling a year before me back in elementary school and I saw that he was doing pretty good with it, and in being competitive with each other, I decided to give it a try.”
Since then, Ryan and Dylan are brothers off the mat but competitors on it, constantly pushing each other to the next level.
Their competitive drive began in elementary school and has continued throughout their wrestling careers until now at Liberty, the first time they’ve wrestled on the same team since middle school.
“It’s been fun and exciting to wrestle alongside Ryan,” Dylan said. “I’ll see him working hard on the other side of the mat and that just pushes me to work harder.”
The two feed off each other on and off the mat as everything is truly a competition, from wrestling to academics, and it even carries into their home life.
“We push each other wherever we’re at,” Ryan said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re wrestling or playing family games. It’s everything. We’re always pushing each other, being competitive with each other.”
That level of intensity is not just something those two feed off of, but it’s something that has rubbed off on the entire Liberty program.
Coming into the season, the Lions expected to field a much younger lineup than years before. But with the leadership of Ryan as a senior captain and Dylan right behind him, this team has been competitive in Carroll County.
“A lot of guys have been saying to me, especially this weekend, that they feel pressure to win,” coach Joe Zaccagnini said. “It’s a good pressure. We’re building those internal rivalries and competitiveness on the team through stat sheets that I post each week. They want to see their name on that list.”
At the Westminster Duals this past weekend, Liberty went 5-4 and was in virtually every match. The Ohler brothers both ran the table, going 9-0 in their individual bouts. As of Monday, Ryan, a 152-pounder, is 24-1 on the season; Dylan, who wrestles at 113, is 23-2.
Ryan and Dylan are each other’s biggest cheerleaders. This season, despite the immense success each one has had so far on the mat, their own bouts haven’t been the most important part of duals. It’s each other’s bouts that matter more. When one is on the mat, the other is at the front of the bench, yelling and shouting words of encouragement, pushing them to a win.
“I mean just naturally, I get more excited for his matches than I do my own,” Ryan said. “I don’t know what it is, but I’m just more excited to watch him wrestle than I am to compete. I love it.”
When it comes to coaching, Zaccagnini said at times there’s not much he has to do, especially during practice, to bring out the competitive side in either. There’s a switch in both of them and when it’s time to wrestle, that switch gets turned on.
According to their coach, when Ryan is wrestling, the person he hears most is Dylan and vice versa.
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“I almost don’t even need to coach in the corner when they’re both wrestling,” Zaccagnini said. “They both just love the sport and they love coaching each other and talking about things. Sometimes, I won’t even say anything. They just know what they’re doing.”
It’s very much a family affair with the Ohlers, as their parents, Rich and April, have been at every match; April has been the team mom for years now.
With Dylan now a freshman, she’ll continue that role and there’s even a possibility that the lineage will continue as Ryan and Dylan’s sister, Aubrey, might wrestle once she gets to Liberty.
As a senior, Ryan has taken a leadership role at Liberty, but he knows he won’t be the last Ohler to lead the team. He’s quickly seen leadership qualities already translating over to Dylan.
“I’m more the role model, but I’m not the only leader,” Ryan said. “He helped lead those younger guys. He’s definitely a leader.”
While the Ohler brothers have just this one season together at Liberty, their internal competitiveness has been what’s stood out the most between the two. Ryan has already seen tremendous success, hitting the 100-win milestone as he gears up for the postseason. With Dylan just in his freshman year, the Ohler legacy will live on as he looks to have the same success across the region and state.
“Wrestling with Ryan this season, my confidence has grown a lot,” Dylan said. “I’m just trying to go out there and dominate, though I’ve had a few tough matches. The future looks good.”