No longer the underdog, Rysan Leong comfortable as top seed

Kalaheo's Rysan Leong won a state title as an underdog last season. Now he's trying to repeat as the man to beat. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

He is 10 pounds heavier and no longer an underdog off the radar.

Rysan Leong made quick work in his preliminary match on Wednesday afternoon, opening a 5-0 lead before pinning his foe, Vinny Schmidt of Campbell.

Leong, the top seed in the 170 weight class, has a proverbial bull’s eye on his back in 2019, but in ’18, he wowed Blaisdell Arena. He was an OIA runner-up at 160, then went on a sensational run at the Chevron/HHSAA State Championships. Leong knocked out three seeds en route to his first crown.

Among his competition was the top seed, Makoa Cooper of Pearl City. Leong upset Cooper in the final, 4-3.

“I miss the competition Cooper brought, banging with him and trying to improve every time,” Leong said.

Now, as a top seed in a heavier weight class, Leong has been up to the various challenges.

“I don’t let the pressure bother me. I focus on who I’m wrestling next, what I’m going to do, and get in the zone,” he said. “I don’t focus on how people perceive me. I treat every match like it’s my final match.”

One training method has been to work out against grown men. One of his assistant coaches, “Coach Josh”, is a major challenge every day at practice.

“He’s heavier than me and definitely gives me good licks. After him, I can handle the wrestlers in my weight class,” Leong said.

Another big challenge came from former Michigan State wrestler Jake Salazar.

“He’s stationed (in the military) by our campus,” Leong said. “It’s great when he’s there.”

Leong will face Punahou’s Andrew Canonico later today for a spot in the semifinals.


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