Success breeds success, we’re told. More accurately, success fuels a hunger to achieve greater things.

Ryan Needle won 240 wrestling matches at Newfane High School, a record that still stands. He won state championships at 96, 130 and 140 pounds. As a senior, he went 48-0, earning MVP honors at every tournament except the state championships and recognition as a Cadet and Junior National All-American.

Needle has won falls on mats all over the country — as a youth, as far as Tokyo with professional grappler Dick “The Destroyer” Beyer. But with more than half of his NCAA eligibility sweated away, Needle is feeling pressure to compete at the national level while he still can.

“You always have high goals. Once you accomplish one you want to accomplish another,” said Needle, now a junior at the University at Buffalo. “I haven’t accomplished my goals yet in college. Hopefully I will before I graduate next year.”

Needle received a full scholarship to wrestle at Ohio State after graduating from Newfane. After redshirting as a freshman and going 9-7 in 2004-05, Needle decided he couldn’t accomplish his national championship goals as a Buckeye, and transferred.

“There were a lot of reasons, but mostly, they over-recruited around my weight,” Needle said. “We were three-deep at my weight (149 pounds) and all three of us were top recruites. I didn’t want to have to wrestle off every couple of weeks for the spot.”

Upon arriving at UB, Needle had to sit out all of last season due to a prior injury that wasn’t healing. Having undergone complete reconstruction of his four-time dislocated right shoulder, Needle is at full strength for the first time since the beginning of his college career, he said.

But Needle’s first season in blue and white hasn’t been without setbacks. Predicted in the preseason to finish second in the Mid-American Conference at 141 pounds, Needle had to bump up the more competitive 149-pound class after three meets.

“I felt like I was cutting too much weight and wasn’t getting any advantage,” said Needle, who walks around at 155 pounds. “I’m more comfortable at this weight. I feel better, I feel stronger.”

Needle is 5-5 so far this season at 149, after going 5-2 at 141. The latest MAC rankings, released Dec. 9, have Needle third at 149, behind Eastern Michigan’s Jermain Thompson and Kent State’s Jason McGee.

The 149 division provides a tougher road to nationals, Needle admits, but so did having to drop so much weight for each meet. And tougher competition will likely bring out the best in Needle.

“Here’s a guy who thinks bigger than anyone else in the (wrestling) room,” UB head coach Jim Beichner said. “He’s going to be hard to beat.”

Contact Jonah Bronstein at 693-1000, Ext. 111.


• YEAR: Junior

• WEIGHT CLASS: 149 lbs.

• MAJOR: Sociology

• HIGH SCHOOL: Newfane

• NOTABLE: Earned 240 victories in high school, a Section VI record. The national record is 243.

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