Ryan Malo brings a decorated resume with him to Virginia this year. A three-time All-American and two-time NCAA runner-up at Division III Williams College, Malo came to Virginia this season to complete his wrestling eligibility while pursuing his master's degree in education. He had a spectacular career at Williams, posting a 124-16 record. The competition is racheted up a notch at Virginia, but Malo relishes the challenge and has already seen success, including winning the 197-pound title at the Cornell Body Bar Invitational on Nov. 19. He is the focus of the latest installment of On the Mat.
Talk about moving on to UVa after a great career at Williams.
Malo: It definitely is starting over. I'm one of the older guys on the team. I've only been here ten weeks now - I can barely keep track - but I knew that [I would be one of the older wrestlers] going into it. It's just another great experience for me to meet a whole new group of guys, have fun with them, win with them, wrestle with them and learn from the coaches. I have no problem being the new guy and learning.
Why did you pick UVa?
Malo: I was going through the process of paperwork with the NCAA for about nine months and for a while I really didn't know where I was going to end up, but I've actually known Coach Clemsen, probably since high school. I knew him and he wrestled with my club coach at Edinboro University so that connection has always been there. I've also known our heavyweight, Derek Papagianopoulos, since eighth or ninth grade so that was also a good connection.
Tell us about your relationship with your teammate Derek Papagianopoulos.
Malo: He's a great kid. I've known him for so long and everyday of the summer, we work out with our coaches at Doughboy Wrestling Club. When we're wrestling, each of us knows what the other is doing so it's kind of hard to get anything by him but he completely sold me on this program. He said nothing but good things about Coach Garland and Coach Clemsen and the guys on the team and everything he said has been true. I couldn't be happier to be here.
Why did you decide to transfer?
Malo: Well my background is actually kind of interesting. Right after high school - I graduated in 2007 - I went to Boston University, which was a Division I program but from day one, I knew it wasn't a good fit for a variety of different reasons and I really wasn't happy. It just made me reevaluate what I wanted to do with my life and my college career so I left there and went back home and attended community college and coached youth wrestling at Doughboy. I was given the lucky opportunity to restart my college experience so then I went to Williams and I was there for three years. I got a great education and met some really awesome friends there but when I graduated in the spring I had an extra year of eligibility that I couldn't use at Williams because according to NCAA rules I had to go to a school that offered a masters program and Williams doesn't do that and in the back of my head, I always wanted to prove to myself that I could wrestle at a Division I level because wrestling wasn't the reason that I left BU - it was more of a social and lifestyle choice for me. I knew I could compete here at a Division I school and that's what I'm hoping to close my career with now.
What are the differences between wrestling in Division I and Division III?
Malo: I field that question from everyone. I think it's all about perspective and your approach. I always see these arguments online. I think the quality of wrestlers is there in Division III but the quantity isn't. The one real difference that I've noticed is that Division I is more of a lifestyle. If you really love the sport whether you're in Division I, Division III or at the club level, you're going to do fine at a Division I program because it's all about being excited to get up and go to practice whether it's at six in the morning or three in the afternoon. If you love what you're doing then you'll be fine at any level.
You only lost 16 matches at Williams but have a couple early this year. Is losing a motivating factor for you?
Malo: Losses are definitely a motivating factor. In terms of the contrast between Division III for the last three years and now, I was always happy but I was never satisfied with winning [there]. I went to a lot of Division I tournaments over the summer - I went to Russia - and every time I went home, I'd get my butt kicked by my coaches. It was never much of a win-loss thing, it was about just being the best wrestler I can be and I don't think I'm there yet, which is a good thing. I'm just trying to get a little better in practice every day.
Where did you go in Russia? What are your future plans?
Malo: I went, two summers ago, on an All-American tour and we went over to Siberia for two weeks. We wrestled in matches, we practiced and we traveled. I went with a bunch of Division I guys so I always knew what the level was and I knew I could compete at it so this is just a really excellent opportunity for me to do it. That was my first time overseas.
Right now I am working toward my master's in education. I graduated from Williams with a degree in political science and leadership studies, so I'm really taking it one day at a time and trying to soak up everything whether it's in the classroom at the Curry School or over here working with Coach Clemsen and Coach Leen and Coach Garland. This has been a great year for me to grow and really mature. It was nice getting my family's blessing to come down, 500 miles away from home, to chase a dream. In terms of the future, I don't really look at this as my last year wrestling. Wrestling is always going to be something that's a part of me. I'm looking into a career in teaching. I'm in the process of interviewing for Teach for America and I have my final interview this week and that would be a two-year commitment at a city school. Further along the line, I'd like to be involved in college coaching and athletic administration.
What is something most people don't know about you?
Malo: I usually kind of wear my heart on my sleeve. I'm usually pretty easily read, but one thing that I find special about me is that I've been friends with the same group of seven guys since I was seven-years-old. We are just as close now as we were then and we've kind of spread out around the northeast in different jobs and different schools but every one of us is really supportive of the others and we definitely have a bond that a lot of people don't have. They're a second family of seven best friends.
Food: Anything Italian
Spot on Grounds: The wrestling room
Wrestling moment: "I think it's cliché to focus on wins. I don't think that that is what wrestling is really about so I don't want to say that. I think the time period after I left BU and started coaching youth at home for six days a week was my favorite."
Class: Intro to Higher Education
Music: Country but I listen to everything
Artist: Eric Church
Professional sports team: Boston Bruins
Movie: "Bull Durham" and "Rocky"
TV Show: Breaking Bad