Navy seemingly had a leg up on the competition when it came to recruiting Ryan Wade.
After all, his father played lacrosse at the academy and his older brother was a member of the program at the time.
“We sort of had the inside scoop on Ryan and certainly liked what we saw at an early age. We also knew Ryan did have an interest in the Naval Academy because of father and brother,” head coach Rick Sowell said.
However, when Wade came to Annapolis as a sophomore to visit the academy he made it clear from the get-go that he would be looking closely at other schools.
“Ryan came on a visit with his mother and was insinuating that he wanted to keep his options open,” Sowell recalled.
Sowell was running a day camp at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium that day so assistant Ryan Wellner gave Wade the tour. Last stop was the stadium with particular emphasis on seeing the Navy Lacrosse Hall of Fame on the second deck of the press box.
“Ryan comes down to the field after checking out the Hall of Fame and tells me he wants to commit,” Sowell said. “I was floored because the last thing we were expecting was for Ryan to commit the same day as that visit.”
Perhaps spending time in the Hall of Fame, an impressive facility that thoroughly presents the history and tradition of Navy lacrosse, brought home to Wade his lifelong connection to the program.
John Wade, a native of Port Washington, New York, played midfield for Navy from 1987-1990 under head coach Bryan Mathews. He played alongside such legendary players as midfielder Brian Keith and attackman Mike Herger.
“I was more of a defensive midfielder and between-the-lines kind of guy. My job was to get ground balls and set picks. I knew my role and was a fundamental guy,” John Wade said during a telephone interview on Friday.
As a sophomore, Wade ran on the same midfield line with a senior named Tim Andrews – an Annapolis native and St. Mary’s High graduate.
“TA mentored me and I really looked up to him,” John Wade said.
Wade graduated in May, 1990 and was on temporary assignment duty at the Naval Academy the following fall semester when Andrews held his engagement party. Wade did a favor for his friend by agreeing to serve as bartender for the party, which was held at the family home of his fiancée.
That night, Wade met the younger sister of Anne Brown – soon-to-be wife of Tim Andrews. Wade and Catherine Brown began dating and wound up getting married.
John Wade would become a career naval officer and the family has moved 12 times over the past three decades. Ryan Wade was born in Monterey, California, and mostly lived in San Diego or Norfolk because his father was often based out of those port cities.
“Everyone asks what my hometown is and I don’t know what to say. I always felt like wherever I lived at the time was my hometown,” said Wade, who graduated from Norfolk Academy. “Really, Annapolis has been the one constant in my life.”
Ryan Wade remembers attending an awful lot of Navy football and lacrosse games with the trips to Annapolis doubling as a chance for his mother to visit family. Three of his uncles – the aforementioned Andrews, Jamie Brown and Ray Van Gunten – are all academy graduates.
“Growing up, I spent a lot of time around Naval Academy graduates and saw how they carry themselves with honor and respect,” Wade said. “I developed a lot of respect and admiration for all those that have served.”
John Wade has steadily risen through the ranks as a surface warfare officer and was promoted to admiral in 2016. The 50-year-old currently commands the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group out of Norfolk and is about to be deployed.
In fact, Saturday’s game against Lehigh marks the last time this season that Rear Admiral Wade will be able to see his son play in-person. Ryan Wade needs five points to reach 100 for his career and it would certainly be a thrill for his father to be in the stands at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium for that milestone.
“Ryan is a much better lacrosse player than I ever was,” John Wade said. “What makes me really proud is that Ryan is such a great team player. It’ been a real joy to watch him play.”
Senior midfielder Greyson Torain became the 34th player in the 112-year history of Navy lacrosse to amass 100 points. When Wade joins that list, they will become just the fourth set of classmates to do so. Herger and Keith, who graduated with John Wade in 1990, are part of that exclusive club.
“Ryan is one of those guys who is fun to play with because if you’re open he is going to find you,” Sowell said. “Ryan is always looking to get his teammates the ball and would much rather have an assist than score a goal.”
Sowell noted that Wade reaching the century mark for points would be a tremendous achievement since he will have accomplished it in just three seasons of action. That’s because Wade was not allowed to play in a single regular season game as a freshman while serving an academy-imposed suspension.
“I was very impressed with how Ryan handled that situation. He owned up to things and took his medicine,” Sowell said. “I’m sure it was tough, but he got through it and came out the other side a much better person.”
Wade was allowed to practice with the team and routinely went against standout defenseman Chris Fennell, a three-time All-American. He impressed the coaching staff so much that Sowell promptly put the plebe into a playoff game against Yale.
“Ryan served on the scout team and routinely portrayed the opponent’s top attackman. There were many times when he beat the defense and either scored or set up goals so we knew he could play,” said Sowell, noting the Commandant of Midshipmen lifted Wade’s suspension late in the 2016 season due to exemplary behavior.
Wade was asked how his flag officer father reacted to the suspension and whether he considered transferring because of it.
“I never thought for one second about leaving the Naval Academy. I wasn’t going to quit because of a minor bump in the road,” he said. “My father gave me good advice, basically saying it was a setback and to learn and grow from it. Be excellent from here on out and you won’t be remembered for one mistake.”
Admiral Wade, who never stood a day of restriction and received zero demerits during his four years as a midshipman, was grateful for the mentorship provided by Sowell and Wellner during that difficult period and pretty much stayed out of the whole situation.
“I’m a father, an officer and a former Navy lacrosse player so I bring a unique perspective,” he said. “I’ve tried to keep my distance and allow Ryan to experience life at the academy and the lessons that come with it. I told Ryan to do his best each day to become a better lacrosse player, a better student and a better future officer.”
Wade moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore and showed quickly he could be a game-changer by piling up seven points on four goals and three assists in the second game against Maryland. It marked the first time a Navy player had totaled seven points since attackman Syd Abernethy did so in 1981.
“That was the second start of my career so Maryland didn’t know much about me,” Wade said. “Scoring seven points against an opponent like that is big-time and definitely gave me a lot of confidence going forward.”
Wade and Torain tied for the team scoring lead with 38 points in 2016 with the former flashing his playmaking ability by dishing off 25 assists. Wade and Torain tied for second on the squad with 33 points last season.
“Ryan and I have always competed on the field. It started at prep school and continued here,” Torain said of his close friend and classmate. “We literally talk trash to each other about everything. We’re always driving each other and pushing each other to be better players.”
Wade was a first team All-Patriot League pick as a junior and seems well on the way to duplicating that status this season as he is Navy’s second-leading scorer with 24 points. He boasts the nation’s 11th-longest point streak with either a goal or assist in 31 consecutive contests.
“I think Ryan’s best trait is his vision. He is always dodging with his head up and looking to find the open man,” Torain said. “Ryan has a pass-first mentality and really does a great job of setting other guys up to score.”
That statement is supported by the fact 65 of Wade’s 95 career points are assists. The 6-foot, 190-pound senior has been consistently productive while bouncing back-and-forth between midfield and attack. His ability to dodge from up top or behind the cage gives Sowell plenty of offensive options.
“I think that attack background has helped me as a midfielder as far as knowing how defenses operate and where the slide is coming from,” Wade said. “I think my best attributes are an ability to see the field and sort of diagnose the defense.”
Wade is blessed with a big band of supporters with so many relatives residing here in Annapolis. He gets Sunday dinners at the home of Tim and Anne Andrews or Jamie and Katherine Brown. A bunch of cousins – Chase Brown (Severn, Michigan) and Jack Andrews (St. Mary’s, UMBC) on the men’s side; Claire Andrews (St. Mary’s, LaSalle), Bridget Brown (Severn, William & Mary) and Meredith Brown (Severn, Harvard) on the women’s side – played Division I lacrosse.
“It’s pretty special to have so much family in the area and seeing everyone at my games,” Wade said. “I go downtown and run into five of my cousins.”
Wade has chosen surface warfare as a service assignment and will soon be aboard the USS Gettysburg, a guided-missile cruiser based out of Norfolk. Older brother Connor Wade, who played goalie at Navy and graduated in 2017, is serving aboard the USS Dewey out of San Diego.
Wade accomplished something notable at the Naval Academy that his father didn’t by being named captain of the Navy lacrosse team. That spur-of-the-moment decision to commit to Navy as a high school sophomore has paid dividends.
“I don’t regret it for a second. At times, this place is challenging, but I’ve had the best group of friends you could ask for and we really do look out for each other,” Wade said.
Admiral Wade has been impressed by the care and concern his son has shown for the sophomores and freshmen on the Navy lacrosse team. That trait will serve Ryan Wade well out in the fleet.