Jon Swift didn’t always love wrestling.
But he certainly loved it on Wednesday night.
Swift is a senior 152-pound wrestler at Archbishop Ryan High School who was around the program long before he enrolled in the school.
His father, John, helped start the program at the school in 2013, and ever since, the younger Swift was around at practice.
He admits he took his lumps, and even remembers a time when he wasn’t one of the best wrestlers on the squad.
“I was not good, I was pretty bad,” Swift said. “I didn’t like it, either. I liked it before high school, and when I was wrestling with them, I would get beat up a lot because they were good wrestlers, stronger and better, and I was the coach’s kid, so I’m sure it was fun for them. But when I started wrestling here, I wasn’t good.
“It didn’t click for me when I was a freshman or even as a sophomore. It was at the end of my sophomore year when I started realizing I could be good. I don’t think it was physical, it was more of a mental thing. I realize I can do this. I put in the work, I just have to use everything I know. That’s when I started to get a lot better.”
Swift did earn it. And now he’s having the time of his life.
Swift won his milestone 100th match in a major decision on Wednesday as the Raiders defeated host Conwell-Egan 61-12 to clinch first place in the Catholic League and end their season unbeaten. Ryan will host a quarterfinal next Wednesday featuring two teams to be determined. The Raiders will meet the winner for the right to go to the Catholic League championship.
If they’re successful, it would be the third straight year the Raiders would compete in the championship. Two years ago, they lost to Archbishop Wood. Last year, they fell to Father Judge.
Swift’s goals are team based. He insisted winning with his teammates is far bigger than the individual achievement, but he did admit it was cool to reach the 100-win plateau. In the crowd, there were signs and even towels that celebrated the accomplishment.
“It feels great because we did it together,” Swift said. “I was nervous about this. When I was a freshman, I told everyone I was going to do this, and nobody believed it because I was bad. I wasn’t really being serious.
“It means everything to me. There are guys who were here from the teams before I was even in the school. We built something special here, not a family, and it means a lot to me that they all came here tonight.”
It wasn’t just his team who was in his corner.
“It was hard because when I was at home, my parents would talk about it and I was thinking about it a lot,” Swift said. “And there were times when my dad would say, ‘Be careful, if you don’t make weight, you won’t get your 100th win,’ but they’re very supportive. My dad at home and at practice, and my mom, always. This wasn’t just me. It was my family and my team. Everyone helped me get this.”
Swift is a team player in everything he does.
In the fall, he was a two-way starter on the Raiders football team. He played defensive back and on offense, both running back and receiver.
In the spring, he is projected to be a starter in the outfield on the baseball team.
Swift could have specialized in one sport, but he’s happy he took advantage of the multiple sports at Ryan.
“Ryan has been everything to me, if I wasn’t here, I wouldn’t be doing a lot of the stuff I’m doing, I don’t think I’d be wrestling, and I’m not sure what I’d be doing,” Swift said. “I love Ryan. The teachers. All my friends. Great coaches. I get along with two of the coaches, love my football and baseball coach.”
Swift was kidding. He has an incredible bond with his dad, and it wasn’t just the wrestler who was elated about the milestone.
“It’s pretty emotional,” the coach said. “He’s worked very hard for this. We all work very hard, and I love seeing every one of these guys do great. As a coach, you love to see your wrestler win, succeed and see the hard work pay off, but it was very emotional seeing him do this because he earned this. He worked very hard for this.”
He’s just as successful in the classroom.
Next year, Swift is hoping to go to the Naval Academy or West Point. If not, he’ll try to go to college with an ROTC program. He’s unsure what he’ll study, but he’s ranked among the top 30 in his senior class, so he’ll have plenty of options.
Those decisions will come soon, but first will be the Catholic League playoffs.
He was a part of the start of the program, now he wants to be there when the Raiders hang their first banner.
“It would mean everything because we have such a great team this year,” Swift said. “We have good seniors, but we have so many great younger wrestlers, too. We’re a solid team, top to bottom.
“When I was a freshman, we didn’t have a winning record. We weren’t very good. But we were working so hard then, and that’s paying off now. We’re a good team now. The Catholic League is good, but we’re as good as anyone. We’ve never had the best team, we’ve always been better because we work. But this year, I think if we work hard, we can win it. We just have to do it.”
Another reason to love the sport.