Feb. 1, 2006
It's not always easy to get 30 guys to agree on something.
But when it came time to decide who should captain the 2005-06 wrestling team, the Stanford guys all knew that one person would always put them first and would do everything he could to make their season the best.
And so Ryan Hagen became one of the Cardinal's captains.
"I was a captain in high school, and it was good to be in that leadership role and it's good to be captain again," adds Hagen. "I think what makes me stand apart from Tanner and Ray [the Cardinal's other co-captains] is my experience and my intensity. Ray is a first-year starter and Tanner's still young. I've been here a long time . I'm a lot older, the team knows that. I'm a pretty open person and I made my self available, especially to the freshmen - I didn't have to be, but I've put myself out there to make sure that everybody feels comfortable with me."
His relationship with everyone on the team is positive. From the rookies (including first-year head coach Kerry McCoy) to the veterans, each person talks about the strength Hagen brings to the team, the leadership that he provides.
"Ryan's a great captain," notes McCoy. "He's a strong leader and he's someone that the whole team has faith in."
Early in the year, Hagen faced a major setback when an injury cut his day short at the Eastern Michigan Open and sidelined him for the next few weeks. The injury kept him off the mat and could have distanced him from the team, but as a captain Hagen knew that his responsibility to his teammates had to be his first priority. He continued to train and was able to step back into the lineup at 184 pounds.
"When I was injured at the beginning of the year, I had to come to practice every day and be as intense as I always am," Hagen remembers. "At first it was tough, still going in there and motivating the guys when I was injured, but I had to get past that and look out for the team because we lost a couple of guys that we really needed and we have two freshmen who are starters. You have to show them that you're still in it. They saw me giving everything I had even when I was hurt. I think that helped, especially with the younger guys."
His intensity in the room and his return to the lineup - even before his training matched those of his opponents was vital to the mental toughness of the team. And last Friday, Hagen proved that his sacrifices and his return were worth it. Hagen picked up his first dual win of the season as the Cardinal downed Bakersfield 27-14.
Hagen has his own goals, but just as important to him are his expectations for the team.
"I want us to be Pac-10 champs," Hagen states. "It's definitely a goal we can achieve. We were close a couple of years ago and I know we can get there this year. I want us to have a couple of All-Americans and finish in the top-20, top-15."
And with a 1-0 start in the Pac-10 and the home turf for the conference tournament, Hagen's goals for this team are in sight and in reach.