Ryan Morningstar ready for Olympic trials
February 08, 2018 · From the archives
Editor's note: With opening ceremonies of this year's Winter Olympics having just occurred, we thought it would be cool to reflect on Lisbon native Ryan Morningstar, who competed for a spot on the USA Olympics Wrestling team in 2012.
The three-time state wrestling champion from Lisbon and former Iowa Hawkeye has already faced world champions - he's competed in the biggest events, before the biggest crowds. And this weekend in Iowa City, Morningstar will get the chance to test himself against the best the country can offer when he competes in the Olympic trials at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
"Everything I've done in my career has led up to this part and prepared me for this part," said Morningstar, who will vie for the 163 pound/74 kilogram freestyle title and a chance to represent the U.S. in London this summer.
The competition is double-elimination. The champion is on the Olympic team; true second place is the alternate. The preliminary tournament in Morningstar's weight class starts at 9 a.m. Saturday with the finals Saturday night.
Morningstar, the son of Jacque and Scott Morningstar, has had a storied career, including two undefeated seasons at Lisbon. He wrestled at 165 pounds his junior and senior year at Iowa, finishing third in the NCAA nationals his junior year and seventh his senior year after sustaining an injury in the Big 10 Championships. This past summer, Ryan was named assistant coach at the University of Wisconsin. He qualified for the Olympic trials based upon his fourth-place finish at the New York Athletic Club International in New York City last November.
Most of Morningstar's 15 competitors at the trials are foes he's faced before, whether in the NCAAs, tournaments or in the practice room. The current Team USA members in Morningstar's weight includes top-ranked Jordan Burroughs of the University of Nebraska, who won the NCAA Div. I title and then won the 74K world championship in 2011; the University of Wisconsin's Andrew Howe; and University of Missouri's Nick Marable. Among the field this weekend is Moza Fay, of Anamosa and the University of Northern Iowa, who Morningstar has been battling since they were in first grade.
Ryan called the weeks leading up to the trials "busy" as the 25-year-old has been traveling between Madison and Iowa City, where he has been training with the Hawkeye Wrestling Club. This spring, Ryan's been training seven days a week, no breaks for Easter, with two, sometimes three sessions per day.
Whether or not Ryan has home-field advantage competing in Carver, where he was 10-1 his senior year with the Hawkeyes, he'll have plenty of fans, starting with his family. Ryan's sister Meegan said they were looking forward to the upcoming competition.
"We've always been his biggest supporters," Meegan said. "It'll be exciting to see how this plays out."
But Ryan will have plenty of support not named Morningstar. To illustrate, Jacque created a t-shirt for Ryan's fans to wear at the arena. She figured she'd order about 30 - enough for family and a few extras. After posting the shirts on Twitter and Facebook, more than 150 requests came in.
Jacque appreciates the "awesome support Ryan has had from our communities (Lisbon and Mount Vernon) over the years.
"Even though he comes from a small town, people have noticed what a large following he's had," she said. "Ryan's been very blessed to have such loyal fans."
Jacque said following Ryan's wrestling career has been a journey. "I thought I was done being nervous in Carver," she said, with a laugh. She's not sure if watching Ryan in the trials will be any more difficult than any of his other competitions.
"They've all been important because they've been important to him," she said.
But the Olympics has been a goal for Ryan since he first started wrestling - it means competing with the best in the world.
Ryan remembers camping out in his backyard in 1996. His mother took a little portable television out to his tent so 9-year-old Ryan could watch Tom Brands win Olympic gold.
Morningstar has had an Olympic dream for a long time. As for trying to make it come true - Ryan Morningstar sounds ready.