Don Ryan looking forward to hosting CIS

Don Ryan looking forward to hosting CIS

Don Ryan has been to a lot of wrestling tournaments, both at the university and club level but has never hosted a CIS championship on his home mat – until now.

The long-time UNB Varsity Reds and Black Bears coach is set to welcome some of the best university wrestlers in the country as UNB hosts the 2014 CIS wrestling championships this weekend at the Richard J. Currie Center.

Ryan's team is hoping to give him his first team win in 20 years, and having come one point shy of the title a few years ago, veteran wrestler Shawn Daye-Finley is giving it his all for his coach.

"I owe the world to that guy," Daye-Finley said. "It's out last shot to give our coach a title."

From Ryans standpoint, he's excited to show the progress UNB wrestling has made over the last five years. Daye-Finley and fellow competitor Sam Stewart have both won CIS gold – Stewart twice – but aside from the on-mat success it's the foundation of the facilities which has arguably seen the biggest change.

"Hosting is one of the things on my bucket list. I wanted to bring the CIS out here," Ryan said. "It's very important to show that the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds team is still around, that we're competitive and that we are 'varsity' at certain times of the year. Hopefully we can showcase the university. We have a beautiful campus, a great new facility here and we have a very strong men's team and a very good women's team."

While hosting at home has its perks, and Ryan's been playing it up to his athletes, some wrestlers like Daye-Finley will still go through the motions of staying in a hotel, but regardless of the comfort of staying at home Ryan said there's still added pressure – even though some of his athletes see it as a "fun" tournament.

"More family and friends will be here, maybe some of their classmates and some high school teammates will be coming up," Ryan said. "But again we went through that last year at the juniors and seniors [with the Black Bears] and it was one of our best juniors and seniors ever. So I told the kids 'Absorb this, embrace this because this is what you work for all your life so have fun.' "

Ryan has been coaching at UNB for more than 20 years, so he's been to more than a few nationals at both levels considering he's also the president of Wrestling Canada. He said over the years the biggest change he's seen in the university circle of wrestling has been the rise in competitiveness and parity across the country.

"Back when I wrestled, teams from out east weren't very strong. Then in the mid-90s Brock won 10 championships in a row," Ryan explained. "Now, there are more teams out there, there is more professional coaching and more full-time coaches. So it's not as if there's one team dominating anymore. This weekend there could be four teams within a few points to win it. It's not just one athlete."

Nick Murray for UNB Sports Information