Can N.C. State football commit Rylan Vann end his junior year as a championship wrestler?

Can N.C. State football commit Rylan Vann end his junior year as a championship wrestler?

Future N.C. State offensive lineman Rylan Vann did a lot of holding last Tuesday. But instead of racking up 10-yard penalties, the three-star recruit finished his afternoon with a gold medal.

Vann, a junior at Cary High School who became the Wolfpack’s first 2022 commit in April, won all four of his matches at the NCHSAA 4-A Mideast Wrestling Regional, finished in first place among 16 wrestlers in the 285-pound weight class and advanced to his second consecutive 4-A state championship meet.

He’ll enter Saturday’s meet at Glenn High School with a perfect 14-0 record and a shot at his first individual state championship, which he came within seconds of winning as a sophomore in 2020.

In other words: despite a season thrown seriously off course by the coronavirus pandemic and a jump up in weight class, Vann’s annual pivot from the gridiron to the mat has been as successful as ever.

“It’s going great this season,” he told The Fayetteville Observer last Tuesday.

The younger brother of N.C. State defensive tackle Davin Vann, Rylan has long been a talented football prospect. He was an all-conference honorable mention during his first varsity season for Cary in 2019 and drew Power Five interest through 2020 as an athletic center/guard who also played defensive line.

But on the side, Vann has also been honing his footwork and leverage with the Imps’ dynastic wrestling program, which has won 21 NCHSAA state championships and sends four wrestlers to Saturday’s meet.

He’s steadily improved, too, from a freshman who entered high school a shade under 200 pounds with the nickname “Mini Vann” to a state runner-up as a sophomore to first-time regional champion as a junior wrestling in the 285-pound class (a 65-pound uptick from his 220-pound class last season).

“I had to get used to the heavier guys,” he said.

Vann looked plenty comfortable in his first postseason test as a heavyweight last Tuesday: strategic and light on his feet with the raw strength required for a takedown. He eliminated his first-round opponent by fall, won his quarterfinal and semifinal matches by decision and took down Middle Creek’s Stephen Holland in the last of three periods to secure the top place on the podium at Fuquay-Varina High School.

His summer wrestling hot streak comes just two months after Vann – the No. 24 rising senior in North Carolina and No. 52 interior offensive lineman in his class, per 247Sports composite rankings – completed his 2021 spring football season with Cary (delayed by more than a year due to COVID-19).

Vann began the season as a left guard, swapped to center after a teammate’s injury and didn’t allow a sack in six games. He also had 14 knockdowns and recorded 29 tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery as a defensive tackle. Cary went 3-3 (the first time since 2011 it finished a season at or above .500).

And he sees plenty of overlap between the sports.

“Wrestling helps a lot with your footwork and your hands and your sprints,” Vann said. “It helped me with the bottom half of my body, too: moving my feet so I didn’t have to rely on my hands. That’s one reason I don’t get a lot of holding calls, because I know I can use my feet better than most linemen.

Those traits have proven useful for many a high school linemen – especially when it comes to getting recruited at N.C. State. Davin and Rylan Vann weren’t the only recent recruits whose dual-sport appeal as a heavyweight caught the eyes of head coach Dave Doeren and offensive line coach John Garrison.

As noted by the News & Observer, two of the Wolfpack’s starting linemen last fall – tackle Ikem Ekwonu and guard Joe Schulthorpe – also wrestled in high school. (In the same vein, the top seed in Vann’s championship bracket this weekend, Hough senior Julian Rawlins, is a Davidson football commit.)

As Vann enters this weekend’s championships, family bragging rights are on the line. Davin, who appeared in five games last year as a true freshman for N.C. State, won a wrestling team title with Cary as a sophomore and, more notably, an individual state title in the 285-pound class as a junior in 2019.

Asked about that disparity last week, Vann had a comeback locked and loaded.

“I mean, so far, I do have a better progression than him because he didn’t make it to the state finals his sophomore year,” Vann said with a laugh. “And I should have won last year, so it should be tied. So yes, for now, he just has that one (state title) up on me. But I plan on getting it this year.

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