Ryan Leonard: An Ambitious & Wonderful Young Man and One Whom We Can All Learn From His Examples:
Ryan Leonard is not your average middle school 13-year-old eighth grader. The bright young man earns A’s and B’s scholastically, in addition to playing three sports – football, wrestling and soccer at his Randolph County school. Ryan Leonard, 13, of Coleridge, is a student at SERMS (Southeastern Randolph Middle School) in Ramseur. Born without arms, 13-year-old Ryan is one of four children born to mother Kyna Leonard and father Scott Leonard. Sister Mia and his brothers Dylan and Pierce complete the close-knit family.
“This is my second year of wrestling,” Ryan said. “I get down into The Position and then I shoot (take down a wrestling opponent by wrapping my legs around his or hers). So far this year, I have four victories and six defeats. Overall, our wrestling season is 14 matches.”
In order to win a match, a wrestler has to pin the opponent, or win on points. A pin is to get your opponent into a position where both of the opponent’s shoulders are pinned to the mat at one time. “I wrap my legs around theirs and trip them,” Ryan explained.
Girls wrestle as well as boys in competition. He said he has never been pinned by a girl. “They are out there to win just like I am,” he explained.
Ryan’s favorite sport is football. He plays defensive end and linebacker. “I enjoy knocking people down,” Ryan admitted. “We do a lot of conditioning, which I also enjoy.”
He likes to watch football and college wrestling on TV. “I pull for UNC in college sports,” Ryan admitted proudly. “I guess you could say I am a Carolina fan.”
Without saying, Ryan has very strong legs. “I have to do everything with my feet,” he explained. “My goals are to win championships.” He is competitive and never varies from his goal of winning.
Despite his limitations, Ryan says he is happy with his life.
Ryan does have an extraordinary sense of who he is, and how he conducts himself. “Ryan doesn’t let anyone bother him,” mother Kyna explained. “At home, we don’t do anything for him we don’t do for his brothers and sister. He doesn’t ask others to do for him. He has a lot of confidence. He doesn’t want or expect anyone to do anything out of the ordinary for him.”
Ryan doesn’t expect any special treatment. He expects to do for himself, which he does regularly. As a word of advice to others, he says: “Don’t ever let anyone make fun of you. They are sometimes jealous of who you are.”
“When it was known Ryan would be born without arms, it was a very emotional time,” father Scott Leonard said. “It is fair to say Mother Kyna had a very emotional time learning Ryan would be born with no arms. It was tough on all of us, but we have come through it . . . God has blessed us with a wonderful son.”
The Asheboro (NC) Courier-Tribune newspaper ran a feature story on Ryan last year. A copy of the story reached Steve Smith (Ryan’s favorite player on the Carolina Panthers football team). Smith was so impressed with Ryan that he sent the young man and his grandmother Betty Bryd an autographed Panther’s helmet and book to Ryan and his grandmother.
Ryan is happy about who he is. Likely, he will just keep on getting better at everything he does.