The role of the student athlete is routinely a balancing act. With commitments to an athletic team comes the responsibility of passing classes and obtaining good grades. Ryan Harty of the Springfield College wrestling team knows all too well how challenging it can be to keep up both ends of the spectrum when he came to Springfield College to join the physical therapy program.
“I mostly was looking at physical therapy and schools that offer that, so I applied here, URI and Quinnipiac,” Harty said. “I took a tour here and I said ‘this is good, I’ll come here.’ I emailed coach [Jason] Holder and told him I wanted to come to Springfield and asked if he minded if I came to wrestle. He said that’d be awesome and that he’d be thrilled to have me on.”
From there Holder and Harty began to work together to create a perfect relationship between classroom and mat.
“He was really good about setting up a tour and I kind of met up with him and he showed me around,” Harty said. “My relationship with him has been great, especially this year. Missing some things for school, he’s been really good to work with because he understands we are a D-III school so you need to be able to get your schoolwork done too.”
Harty came to Springfield after graduating from Plymouth South High School in Plymouth, Mass. He wrestled all four years and had both of his older brothers on the team.
“My two brothers were on the team, so that was kind of special,” Harty said. “To be able to wrestle with both my brothers all on the same team, that was nice.”
Coming from a family that was heavily involved in the sport, Harty knew he wanted to continue wrestling at whichever college he ended up in.
“He came in and knew what he wanted to do, we fit him perfectly,” Holder said. “I gave him and his dad a tour. Ryan [Harty] seems like he’s always been mature beyond his years. He takes care of business, he’s always very reliable, he’s organized, and he communicates effectively. He’s the type of kid you just love having on the team.”
Because of his demanding course work for the physical therapy program, there are often times where Harty must miss practices and meets. Holder knows as well as anyone else that school comes first, and makes the necessary accommodations.
“This year should be interesting,” Holder said. “Unfortunately he hasn’t been on the mat as much as we want him to be yet because of his workload academically and his schedule is pretty busy so he’ll be back on the mat more with us next semester, and that’ll be exciting to see.”
Harty has dealt with the pressure of two worlds of commitment between an intensive major and a tough, physical sport for years now throughout his college career. Many times over he has made sacrifices.
“It’s mostly saying no to people,” Harty said. “Obviously your coach wants you to be getting extra workouts in, you know, lift, and so sometimes you kind of have to tell your coach you can’t do something for school. People are trying to meet for a group project, you have to say ‘I can’t meet at that time, I have practice’ and if your friends want to go out you just have to say ‘I can’t, I have a lot of schoolwork.”
The wrestlers all have something in common besides the obvious. They’re all students, each with their own workloads and responsibilities outside of wrestling. Coming from different areas and backgrounds, they come together for support so that each and every one of them excels in the classroom.
“We try to help each other out,” Harty said. “I think this year especially; this is the closest we’ve been as a team. In years past it was kind of just groups of people, but I feel like this year in particular we’re more one team as opposed to separate groups of people.”
On October 2, one month before the start of the 2018-19 wrestling season, the Pride partnered with Team IMPACT to sign Matthew Pepe of Palmer, Mass. with a letter of intent. Tragically, two days after the signing, Pepe passed away after a long battle with cerebral palsy. He was only 12 years old.
“It was a tragedy, especially where a couple days before we had the signing day,” Harty said. “We got his name on our warmups this year so I think that it’s a little extra for the team.”
Pepe’s story brought unity and motivation into the locker room as evidenced by various dominant performances by the team, such as the City of Springfield Championship and Doug Parker victories. Harty, along with the rest of his fellow wrestlers, has been honoring him on and off the mat.
“Everyone was surprised,” Harty said. “Like I said, we signed him only signed him a couple days before, and we ended up getting a group of people to go down to the services.”
Whether it’s blood relatives on his team in high school, or close bonds created through tragedy in college, wrestling has brought a sense of brotherhood to Harty throughout his career. This fellowship with his teammates will continue as he wrestles for Springfield College for the remainder of his time as a student all while balancing his academics.
Photos courtesy of Ryan Harty and Springfield Athletics