South wrestling starts season with a family feeling

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Tristan Ruhlman (right) wrestles at practice on December 3.

Lizzie Allen, Editor

One word to describe the Bloomington South wrestling team? Family. 

In most instances, that’s just a cliche. But in some cases, it’s literal. 

Brothers Tristan and Delaney Ruhlman, respectively a senior and a sophomore, have been around wrestling since Tristan picked up the sport in the first grade, and they haven’t put it down since. It wasn’t a fairy-tale introduction to wrestling for Tristan, however.

“The school I went to at the time handed out two flyers: one was for basketball and one was wrestling. I already knew I sucked at basketball, so I was like, ‘you know what, we’re gonna try this.’ And I’m here now,” he said. 

‘Here now’ being a fifth place finish at the state championships his junior year and a #2 overall state rank in his weight class going into his senior season. Not a bad ‘here now.’ And this season, Tristan’s goals are even higher. Assuming that Covid doesn’t cut the season short, he wants to still be wrestling well into the state competition in February, ideally until he’s the last man standing and can take home a first place finish.

He expects his younger brother to be right there with him, which is a realistic goal, seeing as Delaney made the trip to state last year, too. This year, he’s ranked #5 in the state for his weight class, and Tristan likes what he’s been seeing from his little brother.

“For only being a sophomore this year, he’s looking pretty good,” said Tristan.

South head coach Mike Runyon has a little bit of experience about both the cliche and literal aspects of wrestling with your family. As a student at South, he wrestled on the team with his own younger brother for two seasons, and can see how it affects Tristan and Delaney to be on the team together. 

“They push each other in that regard as far as trying to out-compete the other one, they seem to work well in the room and help each other along the way. It’s definitely a positive for both of them,” said Runyon. “They’ve improved tremendously, they’re both looking really good right now.”

Tristan agrees that there’s an air of competition between the two of them, and that it helps push him to reach his potential.

“It makes me want to always stay one step ahead, that way he’ll never catch me,” said Tristan. 

But beyond the literal brothers on the team, wrestling is still a family sport. 

“We’re family in the room,” said junior Aiden Reynolds. 

That feeling of family is especially important this season, when the uncertainty surrounding and the precautions associated with Covid are making things a little bit different for everybody. The team is adhering to the rules set by IHSSA, such as wearing masks and social distancing, but they’ve had to implement some more unique precautions, such as keeping track of drill partners and doing away with handshakes before matches. 

“I’m surprised we’ve honestly gotten this far [in the season], but I’m very thankful for it, and we’re ready to adapt to whatever happens,” said senior Boone Fowler.

Runyon has the same adaptation mental state.

“I’m kind of going into this season as an open mind. We’ve always thought of it as a team sport,  and this year, it’s kind of geared towards a more individual type season just because of the restrictions,” he said. 

Still, the wrestlers know that they’ve got to stick together to make it through the season.

“Right now, it’s just about staying together as your team,” Reynolds said. 

And the team stayed together well in their opening meet at the Bloomington North invitational on December 5. The Ruhlmans showed out, with both going 4-0 for the day. Cade Meier and Ryan Younger also both went 4-0 to help the Panthers to a team finish of 3-1, beating Martinsville, Columbus North, and Bloomington North, with their lone defeat coming at the hands of Center Grove. 

Meier and Younger will be big assets to the Panthers going forward, as will Reynolds and Fowler. The overall team is ranked No. 17 in the state, and Fowler put their goals for the season in the clearest terms.

“State championship.” 

But no matter what happens over the next few months, the South wrestling team will stick together and help each other up, because in the end, they’re family.