As the No. 2 team in the state of Florida, the USF wrestling club has turned its program around in the past three years, placing No. 15 overall at the national tournament this year that took place from March 13-16.
Junior math education major Ryan Hall showed that, like the program itself, he too could make a turnaround, placing sixth in the nation in 133-pound weight class in spite of being one of the lower-seeded wrestlers at Nationals.
During his freshman year at USF, Hall joined the wrestling club hoping to keep alive one of the biggest, if not the biggest, passions in his life.
Hall also entered his freshman year as an athletic training major. He later switched to math education, knowing that the athletic training major would demand too much and take away from his time on the mat.
When he moved from California, where he wrestled in high school, Hall joined a Bulls team that was struggling.
With little funding and no actual coach, the program was small and things weren’t exactly looking up.
“That kind of left me working out with guys who had a good amount of size on me, but I do think it made me better,” Hall said.
The team was run by another student, and while that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, Hall said it didn’t make up for the lack of a coach.
With few wrestlers on the team, not enough to come close to filling every weight class, USF struggled in tournaments throughout the year.
Hall however, in his first year wrestling on the collegiate level made it to Nationals.
The competition proved to be tough for Hall, who went 0-2 in the tournament and was eliminated.
“I kind of learned how to lose,” he said. “I used to be real baby about it, and I have to credit my high school coach when it comes to fixing my attitude with losing. I used to be a baby about it, so I started to learn from it and realized if I don’t want to lose I have to train harder.”
Entering his sophomore year on the team, Hall expected the Bulls to improve — but his expectations weren’t met.
The consistent four to five wrestlers the team had in the year prior turned to a consistent five to six in Hall’s second year — still no coach, not a lot to work with and with Hall bumping up his weight class to 133-pounds from 125 the change didn’t make it any easier.
Enter coach Joe Bedits, or “Coach B” as the wrestlers call him, a former coach for East Lake High School.
This January, the USF wrestling team received a late Christmas present in Coach B. The presence of coach on the mat proved to be gift for the team, Halls said.
“The first practice coming back I noticed an immediate turnaround,” Hall said.
“Coming back with a coach gave us a structure to practice which you need for wrestling. The first tournament back we won as a team — The Florida Classic.”
Though the time spent with each other was short, Bedits said he saw right away what kind of talent Hall was.
“Ryan is more of a lead by example guy and he is definitely vocal,” Bedits said. “It’s kind of a new role for him, but he’s a natural teacher and he’ll make a good coach someday too.”
And while coaching on a new team always poses a learning curve, Hall seemed to power through and rise above it, making the coaching aspect easier.
“Ryan is probably the most advanced wrestler in the room and sometimes it could be difficult coaching someone who is advanced, but he is just so coachable,” Bedits said. “He has made constant adjustments and that definitely helped him.”
One of the adjustments was more mental than physical.
“Believe in yourself,” his coach told him.
These were words recited to Hall over and over throughout Nationals.
“Every match, I kept telling him to believe in himself and sometimes as a coach that’s the biggest challenge — to get them to believe in themselves,” Bedits said. “I told him to just step on the mat and know that you can beat anybody.”
Hall lost his first match at Nationals, and with a bye in his second match pushing him to the consolation bracket, he didn’t get a chance to
redeem the loss immediately.
But the words were said again and again:
“Believe in yourself.”
From there Hall won three straight matches, the third bumping him to his current status as an All-American, becoming the first Bull to do so since 2005.
His first match was won by major decision, the other two by pin.
“It’s a war out there,” Hall said. “It’s two guys wanting to rip each other’s heads off.”
At Nationals, the team rankings are split between Division I and II. Of all Division II teams, USF placed third with the help of Bedits, Hall and the six others USF sent to Nationals.
It’s been quite the journey for USF wrestling over the years, and quite the ride for Hall. With one year left, Hall said he is
always looking ahead.
“Even the Nationals thing and being All-American is all in the past now so I just need to step up and get better,” Hall said. “Obviously I’m still very happy about it, but I have to move forward. Always move forward.”12