There’s a good reason for Ryan Costello’s pink wrestling shoes. Same for the tattoo of a cross between his shoulder blades.
It’s to honor the memory of three teenage girls — Katie Berg, Sabrinia Stahl and Caitlin Scannell — who lost their lives in a tragic car accident last February that turned life at Campbellsport High School upside down.
“I was real close with Katie and Caitlin,” Costello said. “They were in my close group of friends.”
Almost a year later, the school is still reeling, and the Cougars’ wrestling team is no exception. Stahl was the younger sister of senior 120-pounder Nick, who is Costello’s practice partner.
“It tore him up,” said Mark Peterson, Campbellsport’s head coach. “He’s definitely been a good leader for us, helping his teammates fight through this difficult time. It’s still difficult.”
Costello has worn pink shoes and socks in matches this season to honor the girls. Last summer, he and fellow seniors Zach Gassner and Tyler Kohlmann each got a cross tattoo for the same reason.
“I think that’s a great way to honor your friends,” Peterson said. “It’s a way to show people and those parents that you really care about those people, that they had an impact on your life and you want to honor them forever.
“It had a big impact on a lot of the guys,” Peterson added about the accident. “That whole crew was pretty tight.”
Costello is a three-time state qualifier and a favorite to win the 132 title next month at the Kohl Center in Madison. He’s improved there each year. He qualified after going 38-6 his freshman year at 106 pounds, went 42-3 as a sophomore and placed fourth at 112, and then took third last year after going 41-2 at 120.
Currently 25-1 at 132, Costello was just ranked No. 1 in Division II by The Crossface Magazine and No. 2 by wiwrestling.com. His only loss is to Boyceville’s Dominik Olson. Those two won’t meet again, as Olson wrestles at 138 in Division 3.
Besides his own motivations to succeed and possibly win a state championship Costello said he’s devoted at least part of his senior season to the girls.
“I wrestle for them now,” he said.
“He’s definitely doing it for them some,” Peterson added. “There’s a cause for the girls.”
Costello’s dad, Greg, works at Abel Dairy Farm in Eden, and his mom, Tari, is teaches agriculture at Waupun High School. That upbringing helped give Ryan what it takes to be a championship contender.
“Campbellsport wrestling has hung its hat on strong farm kids,” Peterson said. “We still do. There’s just not as many. Any time you get a kid like that, you know they’re going to work their tail off.”
Costello is in Campbellsport’s FFA, and his sophomore brother Alex — ranked ninth at 106 — already has his own business selling chickens, turkeys and eggs.
“He’s pretty well-rounded,” Peterson said. “He’s well respected and well liked by the staff here. He’s a great reflection of his parents.”
When asked to describe his wrestling style, Costello summed it up in one word:
“Funky,” he said. “I try a lot of weird stuff.”
His coach certainly agrees.
“He’s got a very unconventional style,” Peterson said. “It’s not something a lot of coaches teach. He’s naturally good at certain moves and has perfected them. He’s found a style that’s very risky, but he’s got an uncanny ability to scramble out of bad situations. He has a very wicked cradle that he’s destroyed people with.”
No one becomes one of the best wrestlers in the state without a great work ethic, and Costello more than fits the bill. Wrestling is a year-round sport for him. Outside of the high school season, he trains the rest of the year at World Class Wrestling School, located at the TNT Fitness facility just south of Fond du Lac. The school is coached by Lakeland College head coach Mike DeRoehn and was formed by legendary Fond du Lac High School coach Larry Marchionda.
There, he wrestles against other top-notch wrestlers looking to become even better.
“I pick up a lot of technique and strength there,” Costello said. “You build a lot of endurance.”
Closing in on history
With a career record of 146-12 (.924), Costello is just five wins away from the Campbellsport school record. He’s on pace to break it during the Eastern Wisconsin Conference tournament Feb. 2. The record is currently held by Justin Schmidt, who was a three-time state champion for the Cougars, most recently in 2005.
“I didn’t think that record would be broken for a while,” Peterson said. “He’s going to break it with plenty to spare. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Costello may hit another major milestone tonight as Campbellsport takes on Two Rivers in a dual at 7:15 p.m. His next pin will be career No. 100.