SIMMS — On Friday, Simms High School honored their four-time state champion from 2005-2008, Ryan Leonard.
With Leonard’s longtime coaches, friends and family, Ryan was awarded a banner and plaque by the Pasma family and presented by close friend and former University of Great Falls teammate as well as current Simms wrestling head coach, Bob Hazenberg, to cap off what was a much-needed and well-deserved celebration of a legendary career.
“I’ve always said that wrestling is an individual sport but it takes a family and community to make my success where it is today,” Ryan said.
For Ryan, wrestling is truly a family affair with his father Ron and uncle Cliff being state placers and state championship winners in the 1980’s at Simms.
“You think of Simms wrestling, you think of the Leonards,” Hazenberg said. “You think of Ron Leonard, Ryan Leonard, Cliff Leonard, they’re just awesome people, they’re willing to do anything for you guys.”
Ryan saw the family lineage and realized that wrestling was in his blood. He would exceed the legacy his family established.
“There [was] always something in the back of the mind to be better and go down the road my father did,” Ryan recalled. “ When I entered high school, I definitely had the aspiration to be a four-time state champion but one year at a time it just became fulfillment.”
Leonard amassed a 149-1 record with 91 consecutive wins. The accomplishment was just a testament to Ryan’s dedication to the sport.
“He did a lot of hard work and it led up to this. I’m just breathless, speechless about the whole thing,” Ryan’s father, Ron, fondly responded when asked about the Friday night’s recognition.
“To have the record he had, he had to perform every single match, he couldn’t take a match off,” Hazenberg added..
However, with all the success, one would think Ryan wouldn’t recall the one loss he had in his high school career. He remembered it in great detail.
“I remember it was at the CMR Holiday tournament. I remember getting off the mat and hearing people whisper ‘hey Ryan Leonard just lost’ and yeah it was definitely in my brain but it was a building block and I came back stronger than ever. I think I pinned my way out of every opponent after that so it was really good for me and a building block.”
He would later pin that same opponent in the first round in a later tournament that season. The wrestler was Lorren Mack from Havre.
Ryan is one of only 35 wrestlers to ever win four state titles in Montana.