Working his way up through the youth gymnastics ranks, Ryan Neigbauer grew accustomed to having success, winning state championships at every level.
There was one problem, however.
Varsity competition in boys gymnastics was not an option at Stevens Point Area Senior High, so he turned his attention to swimming as his sport of choice throughout high school.
And success has followed Neigbauer, a senior, into the pool, where he has advanced to the WIAA Division 1 state meet as part of the Panthers 200-yard medley relay each of the last two seasons. He also helped comprise the 400 freestyle relay that reached state a year ago.
Neigbauer also made a name for himself in the pool by qualifying for the state meet as an individual in the 100 backstroke as a junior.
With such an extensive background in gymnastics during your formative athletic years, how did you eventually transition over to swimming and were you always a natural in the pool or did you have to put in a lot of work to reach this point?
Neigbauer: I got involved in swimming because my sister was on the swim team at the YMCA, and I would have to go and watch and I got really bored. My mom signed me up for swimming, so I had something to do, and I fell in love with it. My whole life I’d been told to slow down, and in the pool I was told to go fast. To get to the level I’m at now, it’s taken a lot of hard work, dedication and great coaching.
Coming off a Wisconsin Valley Conference championship last season SPASH has picked up right where it left off this year, going undefeated in conference dual meets up to this point. In addition, the 400 freestyle and 200 freestyle relay teams have broken school records. What has been the reason behind that kind of success?
Neigbauer: Coach Bob (Allen) has really been pushing us in practice and preaching about how hard we need to work to get where we want to be. He talks about how we’re such a close-knit group and how we need to feed off each others energy, and if someone is not working hard, we need to drive them to work harder. I guess I’m a little bit surprised with what this team has done so far, but we knew it was possible. We just have to work for it and want it.
Who has been your role model growing up Ryan?
Neigbauer: My main role model has been my mom. She’s the head gymnastics coach at the YMCA, and growing up in gymnastics, I was able to see how much she loves her job and how much of an impact she’s had on those kids has inspired me to coach gymnastics for the past 3 1/2 years. She has had a huge effect on my life.
If you had a chance to meet anyone, dead or alive, in the history of the world for a couple hours and get an opportunity to pick their brains and learn about their life, who would you select?
Neigbauer: That would be (U.S. Olympic gymnast) Paul Hamm. When I look back at the 2004 Olympics and seeing him nearly land on the judges table, when he fell on the vault and his dream seemed over and he still went on to win the individual gold medal (in all-around). I would like to ask him about how he was able to do that or refocus to win the gold medal.
Is there something about you, perhaps an interest or hobby, that your friends and family may not know about you that they might find interesting or funny?
Neigbauer: I don’t know if people know I have a huge passion for coaching gymnastics. I love to coach and I’ve already been doing it for 3 1/2 years now, and it’s something I really enjoy. The most satisfying part is seeing a kid’s face light up when they were able to accomplish a skill they’ve been working on, so hard. Down the road, if I could continue to coach, that would be ideal.