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Hetrick’s Collegiate Accomplishments Come As No Surprise

Maple Grove High School graduate Ryan Hetrick, right, was named a Corps Squad Athlete of the Month for November at the U.S. Military Academy. Submitted photo

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following column appeared in The Post-Journal in January 2016 after Bemus Point resident Ryan Hetrick received his appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. Given the recognition the senior Cadet received recently, it was deemed appropriate to run the original column again.

When Ryan Hetrick, Maple Grove Junior-Senior High School’s senior three-sport star, was a kid, he would invite his buddies, Jackson Rybicki and Nick Cooper, for sleepovers.

“It was always a treat,” said Mark Hetrick, Ryan’s dad. “We would have to explain to their parents it would not be an ordinary sleepover. Our house was transformed into a gym and Nick, Jack, Ryan, and brother Shane would be seen running through our house doing push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups.”

Added Sally Hetrick, Ryan’s mom: “They’d do laps in the pool, do laps around the house, throw a tennis ball over the house and into the pool. Everything was a competition.”

Oh, and by the way, music from the “Rocky” movie would be blaring in the background.

Trying hard now

It’s so hard now

Trying hard now

Getting strong now

Won’t be long now

Getting strong now

Gonna fly now

Flying high now

Gonna fly, fly, fly

The lyrics, totaling all of 30 words, could have actually served as a theme song for Ryan’s athletic journey, one that has earned him 17 letters in cross country, wrestling and track & field during a high school career that began at Southwestern Central School and, for the last two years, has continued on the Dutch Hollow Road.

And last week, Ryan confirmed his future academic and athletic landing spot with the announcement that he would be attending the United States Military Academy at West Point. Arrival date at the USMA Preparatory School is July of this year.

“I always knew I wanted to do something different,” Ryan said as he sat in a conference room at Maple Grove last week. “I wanted to do something unique. … I realized West Point was one of the best colleges in the United States. … I probably wasn’t going to get in with academics alone, and I decided I’m going to go for it.”

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Ryan’s athletic successes have put him among the best in the state in three sports. Until last summer, the Hetricks figured his sport of choice in college would be cross country and track & field.

After all, he’s been a three-time state qualifier in cross country and a two-time top-20 finisher, and helped the Red Dragons to a second-place finish at states last November. In track, he was an age-group All-American in the steeplechase at the USATF Championships in Houston in 2014; and is a four-time Section VI qualifier in the mile and two-mile.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the proverbial finish line: The idea of wrestling in college began to tug at Ryan. A six-year letter winner, he’s also been a three-time state representative, a two-time state place winner (in 2013 and 2014) and, through last Wednesday, sports a 218-36 career record.

So beginning last spring, Ryan began seriously investigating West Point, and after a four-day intensive wrestling camp last summer on campus, it was clear where he wanted to spend his college career.

“There were some really good kids there,” Ryan said, “but I was in shape for running, so that really helped me out. We had probably the same amount of skill level, but I was in pretty good shape. I impressed them on the mat, but I think I impressed them more with my work ethic.”

After an official visit to the Academy in September, Ryan learned that he was a candidate for the preparatory school on campus, but he would need to improve his score on the ACT. So while he was filling out applications and writing essays, Ryan hit the books, too, and retook the exam at the end of October. A couple of weeks later, he received an email from Army wrestling coach Kevin Ward, informing him that he had been accepted to the prep school.

A month later, Ryan made a trip to Tom Reed’s office in Bath where he was interviewed by high-ranking military personnel in an effort to secure the required congressional appointment to West Point. On Dec. 26, Ryan received both his prep school acceptance and the confirmation from Reed.

How’s that for a Christmas present?

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Maple Grove wrestling coach Tim Shrout said he believes Ryan “has a style and work ethic that should adapt quickly to a college setting.”

“Using that first year as a redshirt year should allow him to contribute right away as he moves up to the full academy (in 2017-18),” Shrout added. “He’ll be a lower weight and he should fit right into that weight. When they’re ready for him, he’ll be ready to fit right in.”

Maple Grove cross country coach Doc Rappole calls Ryan a “West Pointer.”

“That’s his personality,” Rappole said. “He’s driven and he’s meticulous. Put it on the plate and he’ll eat it.”

In other words, there is nothing Ryan won’t try and there is nothing he won’t give 100 percent to.

Mark Hetrick, the former Southwestern wrestling coach and current Maple Grove assistant, saw that beginning a decade ago when father and son registered for the July 4 two-mile fun run in Lakewood.

“He told me he could beat me,” Mark recalled, “so I took the challenge. Well, at age 8, Ryan ran under a 13-minute 2-mile to finish second in the race. Most importantly, he beat his father.”

Cue up the “Rocky” theme song.

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