Perhaps no AU athlete exemplifies the term “Big Man on Campus” quite like senior wrestler Ryan Flores.
The heavyweight has been ranked No. 1 in the nation since December and is carrying a perfect 10-0 record on the season.
Flores’ most recent accomplishment came Jan. 20 when he pinned North Carolina State’s Josh Davis in a remarkable 24 seconds for the fastest pin of his AU career.
“I think physically, I have been in a good place,” Flores said. “Mentally, I have been in a good place. I’ve been trying to stay healthy and stay strong. I think that’s going to be a separating thing for myself this year.”
In his two years at AU, Flores has posted an impressive 35-6 record while earning All-American status. Last season, as the No. 3 wrestler in the country, he became AU’s second NCAA Finalist after narrowly losing to Lehigh University’s Zach Rey in the championship bout.
The 2010-2011 season saw Flores win the EIWA championship. In the Midlands Championship that year, Flores beat the then-No. 2 and No. 4 ranked wrestlers en route to a third place finish.
“Once you meet Ryan and see what he’s all about, it doesn’t take a lot to see this guy wants to be a national champion,” AU Head Coach Teague Moore said. “He wants to be the best of the best.”
As a junior, Flores had a streak of 11 straight victories, including eight triumphs over opponents ranked in the top five. In total, he finished the year with 11 victories over top five opponents.
Flores transferred to AU after two seasons at Columbia University, where he posted a 45-12 record over two seasons with the Lions.
In high school, Flores was a four-year letterman at Buchanan High School in Clovis, Calif. In college, Flores garnered many awards, including two state titles and two All-American honors.
But for all of Flores’ excellence on the mat, his excellence in the classroom is equally as impressive. A psychology major, Flores registered the third highest GPA among Division I wrestlers and was named a NWCA Academic All-American in 2011.
“If I can lead on the wrestling mat, there is no reason I can’t lead in academics as well,” Flores said. “That’s really important to me.”
Flores’ success has been part of an Eagle wrestling team ranked No. 11 in the country and featuring three other wrestlers ranked in the top 20 of their respective weight classes.
“I am really a lead-by-example type person,” Flores said. “I make sure first and foremost I’m doing the right things for me, and then it also puts me in a position where I can tell other people when they are doing something wrong.”
Flores’s dedication in his workouts has translated into victories on the mat.
“When we go through our workouts, we rarely have to tell guys in our room to crank it up,” Moore said. “They are pushing at max pace when we get to those workouts, and Ryan is a great example.”
Despite what Flores has accomplished, he still has his eye on the ultimate prize: his first national championship. Should he win the title, he would join Josh Glenn as the only other Eagle to take home the award.
“In the end, it doesn’t matter what happened in the season,” Flores said. “It’s all about getting to the finals and winning a national championship.”