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Published: February 03, 2009 11:39 pm

WRESTLING: GI's Harnden is a hardy heavyweight

By Nate Beutel
Niagara Gazette

For a man his size, Ryan Harnden is pretty light on his feet.

That’s not to say the 285-pound Grand Island senior couldn’t use a breather here or there.

“I’m usually dead by the end of the second period,” Harnden said with a chuckle after winning the Pete Rao Memorial Invitational at Lewiston-Porter this past weekend.

“It would be great to be in tip-top shape like the guys at 112, but that’s just not happening.”

GI coach Jeff Johnston agreed that Harnden’s conditioning could probably use some work, but he said Harnden’s athletic ability and strength often makes up for that.

“He’s very athletic,” the coach said. “He’s obviously a big, strong kid, but he also moves pretty well. He’s more agile than most guys his size.”One area where Harnden is at a disadvantage is in experience, as this is just his second year on the mat. He decided to give wrestling a shot last winter as a way to keep in shape for football, but he soon found himself enamored with the sport.

“After a while, I knew I had a chance to do something with this sport,” Harnden said. “I loved the tournaments. It was a lot of fun and I was doing pretty well.”

So, with a year under his belt, Harnden came into this season with some confidence. That confidence, along with his ranking, has continued to shoot up as the season has progressed.

“When he won the Maryvale Tournament, I think the light went on for him,” Johnston said. “He started to believe he could do something special.”

Harnden points to the Officials Tournament at NCCC as a turning point for him, personally.

“That was greatest thing for me,” he said of reaching the finals and earning the overachiever award at the event. “I was seeded low, seventh, so to make it to the finals and compete really well against all the top guys was big.”

That said, Harnden did lose to Niagara Frontier League rival Jim Donner of Niagara-Wheatfield in the finals, making him hungry for a rematch.

“My goal is to beat Donner,” Harnden said.

To do so, Johnston believes Harnden must be more aggressive on his feet and make a concerted effort to score points early and often in the match.

“Donner is the cream of the crop, so you judge yourself against him and that’s what Ryan is hoping to do when they wrestle again next week,” Johnston said.

N-W and GI will meet Tuesday for the NFL title in the final dual meet of the year.