St. John's Eagles Wrestling '07-'08

Harding taking cue from Malo

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Monday, January, 14 By Dave Dyer
Staff writer

St. John's Prep junior Ryan Harding of North Andover knew he was getting into a good situation when he arrived at the Danvers school as a freshman.

After all, his older brother John had recently graduated from the Prep and, as a youngster coming up in the North Andover youth wrestling program, he knew all about head wrestling coach Manny Costa and the success he's enjoyed at St. John's.

"I would see him (Costa) at youth tournaments because of his sons (who wrestle) and people would tell me about him," said Harding. "They said he'd work you hard but that he's an amazing coach."

That, says Harding, has proven true and helps explain how he went 48-14 last year at 125 pounds and was a Division 1 state runner-up and placed third at All-States.

However, Harding got an added bonus when he began wrestling at the Prep. He was fortunate to wrestle his first two years on the same team as Georgetown's Ryan Malo, who was a 189-pound New England champion last year with a perfect 58-0 record.

Malo, a tenacious worker who is now a freshman wrestling at Boston University, set the tone in the Prep wrestling room, and Harding took note.

"I really looked up to Ryan Malo," said Harding. "He worked really hard and he set his goals really high. He set a good example and I try to follow what he did."

After witnessing Malo's success, Harding has set his goals high this year.

"I want to win New England this year," said Harding. "If I follow what Ryan did, I feel I can do it."

He's off to a promising start, sporting a 29-1 record that includes a third-place finish at 135 pounds in the Lowell Holiday Tournament. His lone loss, to Haverhill's Tom Holt, he avenged in the consolation finals at Lowell.

One of Harding's toughest foes down the line will likely be Chelmsford's Tim Rich, who was an All-State champ at 130 last year and won the Lowell Holiday Tournament at 135. But, like Malo would be, Harding is upbeat about his chances against him.

"I'm really looking forward to wrestling him (Rich) and I think I can beat him," said Harding, who began wrestling in the fifth grade. "I feel like I'm stronger than him."

Even if that does not happen this year, Harding is clearly building his resume to accomplish his eventual goal of wrestling in college while helping St. John's enjoy yet another strong season. The Eagles, who have won 12 of the last 13 Catholic Conference titles and are 350-107-4 in Costa's 18 years as head man, are rolling again.

Moreover, with Harding and several other standouts back for at least another year, the winning trend should continue. One of the top young talents is Harding's younger brother, Doug, a promising freshman who is just coming back from a broken ankle.

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