Centreville’s Tim Ryan is a beloved husband, father, coach and friend. He’s also a 48-year-old man with only a short time left to live.
DIAGNOSED in October 2006 with liver cancer that’s since spread to his brain and bones, this Sully Station II resident is now in Stage IV and battling as hard as he can. And instead of sinking into self-pity, he’s showing what a class act he is by his own attitude toward it all.
“I don’t believe God’s putting me through this,” said Ryan on Monday. “He’s allowing me to go through this to better me as a person and to make the most of my time here.”
Those who know him say he’s already done that, his whole life, especially with his dedication to children and youth sports. And this Saturday, June 16, from 5-9 p.m. in the Westfield High gym, the local wrestling community is holding a free, wrestling clinic, Judo demonstration, silent auction and tribute to Ryan.
It’s in appreciation for all his hard work and also to raise money to help his wife and four children with his mounting medical bills. “Tim coached the Northern Virginia MatDogs, SYA’s travel wrestling team, and is probably the most loved coach I have ever met,” said Westfield High P.E. teacher and wrestling mom, Sharlean Grinups. “He has touched so many people’s lives, and this is the least we can do to say thanks.”
Saturday’s program will begin with a Judo demonstration at 5 p.m. by fourth-degree black belt Michael Landstreet, who has 35 years’ Judo experience and is the Virginia Judo president. Then Paul Grinups Jr., who won Westfield’s first-ever, state wrestling championship this year, will introduce Ryan, who’ll speak.
At 6 p.m., Westfield Varsity Wrestling Coach Chuck Hoskins will introduce 2007 NCAA wrestling champ Josh Glenn and his American University coach, Mark Cody, who’ll conduct the youth wrestling clinic while parents participate in the silent auction. Items for bid include gift certificates to restaurants, plus sports tickets and memorabilia:
MICHAEL JORDAN'S rookie basketball card; a football autographed by S.F. 49er great Jerry Rice; items signed by three-time World and NCAA wrestling champ Lee Kemp; and several tickets to Nationals and Redskins games.
Other items include: leather purses, Nike backpack, Crocs shoes, girls’ dresses, Murano glass, and silver jewelry. To donate auction items, e-mail the organizer, Jenni Aiello, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The event is free; donations will be taken at the door, with all funds going directly to the Ryan family. Check contributions payable to Tim Ryan may be mailed to: Sharlean Grinups, 15003 Sacred Lane, Centreville, VA 20121.
“This man is an incredible person who has given so much to the community and to youth sports, and we just wanted to do something to help him, too,” said Country Club Manor’s Aiello. “He coached two of my sons, Stephen and Frank. He taught them and the others that you have to work hard to meet your goals. Tim worked with the boys on their wrestling skills, but he also talked about life skills — good character and self-discipline — and that these things would carry with them all through life.”
Likewise, Sharlean Grinups said Ryan was “instrumental” in her son Paul’s high-school career and state championship. “In the ninth grade, he was in a wrestle-off to get the starting spot in his weight class at Westfield, and Tim helped him,” she said. “Tim also coached Paul’s younger brother, Nick, for two years. And Nick went from an average wrestler to a kid with a whole lot of confidence. Tim made wrestling fun, and Nick ended up loving it because of him.” And this spring, Nick won the Virginia Cadet Nationals in his weight class.
“Tim’s always there for everyone else and, at meets, he made sure the boys always had a coach in their corner,” continued Grinups. “And he always knew the right thing to say to motivate them. When he walked into a gym, the kids flocked to him, and he’d sit and talk to them. He really gave them attention and made every kid feel important. He also instilled a lot of community and bonding — the older ones helped the younger ones.”
RYAN COACHED the MatDogs from 2000 to spring 2006, and wrestling mom Kelly Lavin, who founded both SYA wrestling and the MatDogs, recruited him.
“We were looking for a travel coach to make the program fun, prepare the kids for high school and make them want to go to practice,” explained Grinups. “Tim took them to the next level. And he’s such a positive person; even through all his treatments and chemo this year, he came to all the wrestling matches and rooted from the stands.”
All three of Lavin’s sons wrestled on the team and, she said, “It was a start-up program and Tim did an awesome job. Besides his knowledge of wrestling, he has positive, endless energy and a love for the sport and the kids.”
Calling Ryan a “selfless individual,” former MatDogs Commissioner Dave Campbell said, over many years, Ryan’s put so much time and effort into wrestling, to the betterment of the boys. “When you think about the coaches who influenced you growing up, he’s going to be one of those guys for a lot of kids,” said Campbell. “He’s a great guy and coach — and a superb storyteller. He’s got a story about everything — a whole repertoire.”
Westfield Assistant Principal Harry Van Trees was MadDogs co-head coach, last year, with Ryan. "His main focus was the kids, not the winning and losing," said Van Trees. "He cared about the lessons they were learning and what they were getting out of wrestling. He kept things light at practices, and all these things are important when building youth programs."
Van Trees said the wrestling community is aware of Ryan's condition and, in February, the MatDogs all signed a 15-foot banner and gave it to him. "And Tim got to see his son Jeremy win, and he was extremely proud of him," said Van Trees. "His son Gabe wrestled for me, too, and always wanted to do the best for his dad."
"I know Tim's in a great deal of pain, but is keeping his head up and staying strong for his kids," continued Van Trees. Added Lavin: "He's already lived beyond the weeks the doctors gave him at the beginning because he's such a fighter."
RYAN'S WIFE, Liz, called her husband "incredible." Now, she said, "I take one day at a time and don't think about the next minute. I put on a smiling face and try to make his life better."
"They're such a loving family, and we're all just crushed," said Lavin. "Watching them go through this, we're all learning a lot about love. And we're better for having known them. I think Tim's gritting his teeth through the pain he's experiencing and willing himself to be there until he's sure his wife and children will be OK."