Kettle Run's Ryan Schwind hopes to walk-on as a long snapper for the Naval Academy football team.

Ryan Schwind can jump rope.

That's why he is the 2017 Fauquier Times Kettle Run Boys Athlete of the Year.

While not a tremendous athletic feat, mastering jump rope as a young child foretold the determination and drive that recently made Schwind the most successful wrestler in Kettle Run history and the most steadfast player on the Cougars' football field this past season.

See, early during his elementary school years, Schwind discovered he couldn't jump rope. Even after a few hours of practice, he couldn't catch on. But he still persisted.

“He stayed outside six hours,” Schwind's mother, Kari, said. “Then, 'Oh my gosh, I got one. I got two.' Then, 'I got 10.'

“He's probably not the most natural athlete,” she said. “He's not the most graceful, or the fastest, or biggest. He just has a good work ethic. … Once he sets his mind to something, he's going to do it.”

His football and wrestling coaches confirmed that with endless praise.

“Everything he gets, he gets through hard work,” Cougars wrestling coach Mike Foy said. “All heart.

“He just had the drive ... and would constantly try to learn,” Foy said. “That's just special.”

So, as a senior, Schwind became the Cougars' first wrestler to win 50 matches in a season. He also graduated as the only Kettle Run wrestler with a pair of top-three state medals.

In football, meanwhile, Schwind rarely left the field. He played offensive tackle and defensive end, while also contributing to most special teams plays, especially when they required a long snapper.

“He's going to be tough to replace,” Cougars football coach Charlie Porterfield said. “He was one of a kind. … His work ethic is rivaled by few."

It even helped him earn an invitation to the United States Naval Academy, which he plans to report to later this week.

So Schwind readily admits he wouldn't have succeeded in sports had he relied on pure athleticism.

“I love wrestling because kids that are not athletic at all, they can work their butts off and ... have good seasons,” the 18-year-old from Warrenton said. “You can out-work anybody.”

He often did as a 6-foot-1, 210-pound wrestler in the 220 weight class.

He also served as a reliable senior leader for both the wrestling and football teams. Porterfield, as a first-year coach, especially appreciated Schwind.

“We asked him to do a lot, but he was able to handle it like an adult would,” Porterfield said. “He's so mature.

“Everything you'd want in a football player, he was,” Porterfield said. “A few of these kids come around every now and again. You don't forget those. He was so trusted and respected by the other players, the coaching staff, the school and the community.”

Schwind had three different head football coaches during his career, beginning with Jeff Lloyd and ending with Porterfield. Lloyd got a glimpse of Schwind's determination during when the freshman joined the Cougars for preseason practices despite only days earlier removing the cast he wore after breaking his leg during a summer football camp at the University of Iowa.

Despite the injury, Schwind insisted on walking into Kettle Run for the baseline concussion test needed to participate in high school football.

“He was like Quasimodo, dragging his foot behind him,” Kari Schwind said. “He's just always been driven like that.”

Iowa inspired

Michael Schwind played football at the University of Iowa, which also has a storied wrestling program.

So it's no surprise those two sports ended up enamoring his youngest son.

"I'm an Iowa fan through and through," Ryan Schwind said. “I don't think I would have been as good a football player without wrestling,” and vice versa.

His Kettle Run football team finished this past season with only a 3-7 record, but he amassed a 50-6 record individually as a senior wrestler. He also earned a third-place medal at the Class 4A state meet for the second consecutive season after winning the Conference 22 championship.

Schwind actually struggled a bit early in the season while trying to adjust to the 220-pound weight class after spending the previous two winters at 195.

“I felt really slow because I was heavier,” he said. “Later in the season I lost about 10 pounds to try and get a little bit quicker [at 210 pounds]. I think I was able to get to my shots better than some of the bigger guys.”

Schwind's effective arm bars and hammer locks also gave him an advantage. The latter was his favorite move.

“Most of my pins probably came from that,” he said. “It's so simple, and if you get it – pin a guy's arm behind his back – he can't really do anything. It's really hard to fight out of.”

Foy agreed.

“I always felt comfortable putting him in top position,” the coach said. “I was confident, even if he's losing, he could pin a guy in the third period.”

Schwind finished his career with a 134-57 record, which would look even better without his 13-28 mark as a ninth-grade wrestler.

“He had a very tough freshman year,” Foy said, “but just kept working and working and working, and ended up getting the rewards.”

Schwind focused on improving his fundamentals.

“The best wrestlers," he said, "they do the little things perfectly."

Unfortunately, Amherst's Jeffery Allen (Virginia Tech) did them slightly better, which kept Schwind from ever wrestling in a state or region final. He lost to Allen, a four-time state finalist, during the state semifinals and the 4A West Region semifinals in both 2017 and 2016.

“It's frustrating … but he's a good wrestler,” Schwind said. “I was proud of” two third-place state medals.

“And I love my team and have a lot of good memories with all of them,” he said. “That's what I'll carry with me.”

Navy next

Ryan Schwind graduated from Kettle Run with a football career average of 10 yards per reception.

Unfortunately, he caught only one pass in those four years, and it came during his final high school game, no less.

Playing Eastern View on Nov. 4, Schwind made a 10-yard reception as a pass-eligible right tackle, which gave the Cougars a first down during their only scoring drive of a 35-7 loss.

“Not every lineman gets to do that in his life,” Kettle Run coach Charlie Porterfield said. “I think that's probably something he'll remember. … I felt comfortable doing it because I had so much trust in the kid.

“That kid has dedicated everything the last four years to Kettle Run,” he said. “I'm very grateful and thankful I was able to be a part of his life, even for one year.”

As a right tackle, defensive end and long snapper, Schwind had few other statistical contributions outside of those 10 receiving yards. But by playing primarily as a lineman, he followed in the footsteps of his brother, Jacob, and father, Michael.

Jacob Schwind is now a junior long snapper at Old Dominion University, while his father was an offensive lineman at Iowa. Michael Schwind did not do any long snapping for the Hawkeyes, but he encouraged his sons to learn the niche skill.

“My kids aren't as big as my husband was,” Kari Schwind said. “So he told them if they wanted to be sure they had a spot on the football team, they should learn how to long snap.”

Ryan Schwind listened.

“I always had a dream to play college football,” he said, “and that was sort of a way to get on a team.”

He hopes to join the Navy football team as a walk-on long snapper after turning down a preferred walk-on invitation from Virginia Tech.

“It's not a glamorous position,” Porterfield said. “If people know who you are, that usually means you've messed up.

“You're putting a lot of trust in the kid to do this one special job,” he said. “Ryan has those intangibles. … Navy would have a steal of a deal if he makes the team.”

Schwind plans to report to the academy June 29 for “Plebe Summer,” the boot-camp-style program for incoming freshmen.

Both of his grandfathers served in the Navy, and joining the academy had additional appeal to Schwind, who will have a five-year military service commitment after graduating.

“I believe in serving my country,” he said. “And I wanted to get a world-class education.”

So Schwind chose Navy over Virginia Tech, but he did so only recently after he learned the academy had accepted his admission request following a long review process.

“I always told myself I wouldn't choose a school for football,” he said. “If I couldn't continue playing football due to injury or something at Virginia Tech, I would definitely wish I was at the Naval Academy. So I don't think there's any way I'll regret” the decision.

Regardless of his destination, Mike Foy sees success in Schwind's future.

“If he keeps the attitude he has, and the work ethic, he's somebody that's going to go very far in life,” the Kettle Run wrestling coach said. “He just makes me so proud.”

Side notes

Dinner was often served at 9 p.m. in a Schwind household full of multi-sport athletes.

They made that meal a priority as a family function after everyone's games and practices concluded.

“It's important,” Kari Schwind said. “We find out how their day was – what was good, what was bad.”

“It's nice in all our chaos to have 45 minutes to sit down and just talk,” Ryan Schwind said. “We have some good laughs and good times.”

After dinner, Schwind often worked on homework into the morning so he could achieve his goal of never garnering a “B” grade in any high school class.

“I pushed myself pretty hard academically,” he said. “The Naval Academy, it's so hard to get into.”

Like family meals, music was also a staple in the household.

“It's on 24/7,” Schwind said. “Everything under the sun. … We listen so constantly that we have to change up genres to keep it fresh.”

Schwind, in fact, used to play the piano and still plays the cello. He took up the latter instrument in sixth grade and continued through his senior year, during which he played for the Kettle Run chamber orchestra.

When the all-county orchestra performance conflicted with the Conference 22 wrestling meet this winter, Schwind sided with the sport, but his musical talent hasn't gone unnoticed.

“I think that was one of the things that helped when he interviewed with the Naval Academy,” his mother said. “'Oh you do these sports and play the cello. Wow.'”

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