Wrestler Flores Dominates Competition

While Columbia wrestling (2-10, 0-1 Ivy) has struggled on the mat thus far this season, sophomore heavyweight Ryan Flores has had much better luck. Winning is something that comes easily to the California native.
At Floyd B. Buchanan High School in Fresno, Flores served as the team captain for three seasons and led his team to the state championship in his junior year. Among numerous distinctions, Flores is a three-time All-American, two-time state champion, and concluded his high school career with 135 total pins.
The Californian knew from an early age that he wanted to wrestle at Columbia. When he was 8, Flores’ father, who was an active member of the wrestling community, took him to lunch with Columbia’s head coach. He told Flores that if he kept his grades up, maybe he could wrestle for the Lions one day. Since that day, Flores knew that he wanted to come to Columbia, and his hard work has paid off.
Flores’ transition from high school to college didn’t just mean a move to the East Coast. The then-215 pounder was slightly too heavy for the next lowest weight class, and so had to move to the next class up, at 285 pounds.
“It was a real learning experience, getting used to my body now that I was bigger,” Flores said. “It was rough, but it was a great experience and I feel that I’m much better because of it.”
He started his collegiate career on the right foot by sweeping the Wilkes Open with a 4-0 record and winning the heavyweight title in his freshman year. Flores’ aggressive technique fared him well for the entirety of the season, and he even finished as the runner-up in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association championship. His performance in that competition earned him, along with two of his teammates, spots to wrestle at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis. Flores finished his freshman year with an admirable 14-6 overall record and was named to the Amateur Wrestling News All-Rookie Second Team. Additionally, the Lions named him the team’s most valuable wrestler for the 2007-2008 season.
Now a sophomore, Flores plays an even larger role on the team, as someone counted on to pick up his teammates when they need him.
“He’s a superb competitor who doesn’t get nervous and certainly doesn’t lack in his confidence and abilities,” head coach Brendan Buckley said. “He definitely leads the team in the way he competes. We have very high aspirations for him and really think that the sky is the limit for him.”
As the team struggles, Flores’ is continually called on to help salvage wins. He assisted in the Lions’ narrow win over Stanford at the Stanford Duals in January, crushing Matt Winterbourne 12-2 and giving Columbia the victory, 22-18.
Later that month, Flores, alongside teammate Derek Sickles, won a title at the New York State Wrestling Championships. The heavyweight pinned four opponents, including Army’s Mike Sprigg in the finals, to arn the championship title and help Columbia place third in the tournament.
When it comes down it, Flores’ recipe for success is a mix of traditional hard work and personal adjustment.
“I always train hard and have partners to push me,” Flores said. “Also, I’ve finally adjusted to being in college, being a heavyweight, and living in New York after moving from California. After balancing these things, winning comes easy to me.”
Most recently, Flores has demonstrated his tremendous competitive spirit in the Lions’ match against Cornell this past Sunday. The Big Red, ranked third in the country, sent No. 12-ranked Zach Hammond to battle No. 14-ranked Flores. With the score even at zero with 14 seconds remaining in the second period, Flores overpowered Hammond and flattened him on the mat, marking his 12th fall of the season.
“It doesn’t matter who I’m wrestling,” Flores said. “Number 12, number 1, ranks mean nothing to me. I just go out there, turn my brain off, and let my body do the work.”
After defeating Hammond, Flores’ record now stands at an impressive 22-3 overall on the season.
“I’ve been doing this for 13 years now, and after a certain point I’ve realized that I work hard and do this every day,” he said. “This is what defines me, and I’m not going to let someone beat me.”
Flores will take to the mat at home on Saturday, Feb. 14th at 6 p.m. for the team’s homecoming match against Penn.

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