When news surfaced in September that Ryland Geiger was leaving the University of Minnesota, it was more than just a small blip on the radar for the Gopher faithful.
The 19-year-old Geiger, who was one of the nation's top recruits from the Class of 2008, was expected to make an immediate impact at 197 pounds for a young and talented Gopher team looking to get back to the top of the college wrestling world after coming off its worst NCAA finish (14th) since 1996.
Great expectations had been placed on the broad shoulders of Geiger after a prep career that saw him capture two Oregon (OSAA) state titles and win titles at prestigious high school events such as NHSCA Nationals, Cadet Nationals, and Junior Nationals. He was ranked No. 1 in the country at 189 pounds by InterMat.
Last season, as a redshirt for the Gophers, Geiger compiled a 19-3 record while competing in open tournaments. In the spring, Geiger won both the FILA Junior Nationals and FILA World Team Trials in freestyle to earn a spot on the Junior World Team. Geiger, though, chose not to compete at the Junior World Championships in Ankara, Turkey in August, and instead opted to stay in Minneapolis and focus on his summer term courses at Minnesota.
Toward the end of summer, Geiger made the decision to leave Minnesota and head back home to wrestle at Clackamas Community College in Oregon. He says it was "a little bit of everything "that caused him to leave Minnesota, but "mostly academics."
"Everybody is going to be a little bitter that I left Minnesota, "said Geiger. "I'm bitter. They're bitter. It sucks that I had to leave, but I'm pretty sure we ended things on a good note."
Geiger's journey over the past 10 years could be best described as nomadic. His father, David, is in the military. Geiger grew up in Virginia, moved to Korea in middle school, spent his freshman year in the Philippines, moved back to the U.S. for his sophomore year and attended Blair Academy in New Jersey, and then moved to Oregon for his final two years of high school.
In high school, Geiger was recruited by many of the nation's top college wrestling programs. He chose Minnesota over Lehigh, Arizona State, and Oregon State because of the combination of coaches, workout partners, facilities, and the fact that his best friend from his days at Blair Academy, Mario Mason, was also going to be wrestling for the Gophers.
Then-Minnesota head assistant coach Marty Morgan played a key role in recruiting Geiger to Minnesota. Geiger expected Morgan to not only be one of his coaches, but also serve as a key training partner throughout his college wrestling career. But shortly before the college wrestling season began, Morgan resigned as the head assistant coach of the Gophers to train current UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar.
"I was pretty shocked, "said Geiger of Morgan's resignation. "We all had no idea that he was leaving. It was our understanding that he was going to be the coach. It was kind of terrible because he left and he has all that knowledge. It's good for him. I can't be mad at the guy. He's helping out probably the baddest man alive right now."