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Bryant went from delivering shots to calling ’em

March 3, 2018

WASHINGTON, Pa. (AP) — Bryant has won many rounds in an interesting life

He never shied away from the big stage. In fact, the bright lights seem to bring out the best in Ricardo Bryant.

Whether it be as a wrestler, amateur and professional boxer, and today as a high school wrestling referee, Bryant - known to his friends as “Ticky” - doesn’t fear intense, sometimes hostile, environments.

As a section champion wrestler at Washington High School, Bryant forged his reputation as a junior and senior advancing to the WPIAL semifinals in 1974 and finals in 1975. He qualified for the 1975 PIAA Championships at Penn State’s Rec Hall.

He was part of a solid Little Prexies’ wrestling program under former coach Stan Mousetis, and is a member of a handful of Hall of Fames.

Advancing to the WPIAL semifinals was a huge boost for him as a junior in 1974.

What followed was a bumpy, difficult and, in some ways, disappointing regular season as a senior.

“I didn’t have a good record my senior year going into the postseason,” Bryant said. “I was in and out of the lineup. Tommy Diamond (who won a PIAA title in 1977) dropped down a weight class and I was out of the lineup sometimes.”

Bryant rose up in the Section 3 tournament at Trinity High School, helping Wash High nearly win the team championship, which it lost to Canon-McMillan by a half-point.

Bryant stunned the crowd with a dominating effort and eventual second-period pin over defending section champion Bill DePaoli of Chartiers-Houston at 112 pounds. He followed that with a command performance in the finals, defeating McGuffey’s Jeff Breese, 15-1.

He said nothing really changed in the postseason. He just took advantage of his opportunity.

“No, nothing really was different,” Bryant explained. “We lost one dual meet all season, to Norwin, and I always worked hard. Mr. Mousetis always had us prepared and ready to wrestle.”

Bryant, and three of his teammates, advanced to the WPIAL finals. He lost to defending PIAA champion Mike DeAugustino in the title match at Pitt’s Fitzgerald Field House but earned his trip to the state tournament.

“The pin (over DePaoli) was huge and I just wrestled better,” Bryant said. “It was a thrill to reach the WPIAL finals. DeAugustino was just really good.”

He moved on to the University of Kentucky to wrestle for the Wildcats. After one season of competition, he turned to boxing, a sport his older brothers - Carlos and Francisco - tried to persuade him into pursuing in his younger days.

“It was just on a whim,” Bryant said of starting a boxing career. “My brothers tried to get me involved in the sport before and it never came about. I felt at that time it was something to do. I did it on my own. I took it from there and probably could have been better because I never could do it 100 percent. I had to be working a job as well.”

Bryant won a Silver Gloves championship and was a Golden Gloves runner-up as an amateur. He was a member of a boxing team from Western Pennsylvania that was part of the Silver Gloves program that boxed in a national tournament in San Francisco.

He compiled a 15-12 professional record and made his professional debut in October 1984, knocking out Roosevelt Moss at the Expo Mart in Monroeville.

Just three weeks later, Bryant received a phone call to fight on the undercard of the heavyweight title bout between Larry Holmes and Renaldo Snipes at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh.

Bryant fought on television’s popular “Friday Night Fights,” and defeated Mike Sacchetti by TKO in one of those televised events.

Bryant fought four boxers who went on to become world champions and himself fought for the International Boxing Council middleweight title in June 1990 against James Toney in Dearborn, Mich. Toney won by technical knockout. It was the final fight of Bryant’s career.

Mike Wiles, a boxing historian and guru from Washington, said Bryant had a “respectable” professional career and thought his best fight was a seventh-round TKO in June 1984 at the Sands Casino Hotel in Atlantic City against Robert Hines, who went on to be a world champion. In addition to Toney and Hines, the other men Bryant fought who eventually won world titles were Simon Brown and Maurice Blocker.

“Ricardo had a few raw deals in his career,” Wiles said. “I enjoyed watching him fight.”

Wiles considered Bryant “more of a boxer than a puncher” and said it was hard for him to compare him to “other boxers in the area.”

Today, Bryant is a recognized high school wrestling referee, having worked two PIAA Championships and two PIAA Team Tournament Championships - the last was a couple of weeks ago with his mentor and friend, Larry Maggi, in Hershey’s Giant Arena.

The accomplishments are plenty. And his diverse body of work impressive. The impression he has made among his peers is indeed profound.

“My referee buddies say I’m Teflon,” Bryant chuckled. “They say everything bounces off me. I don’t get emotional. I never did. In refereeing, I try to protect the kids as much as possible and as best I can. It’s hard to do and still do the job you are expected to do in terms of officiating a bout.”

Bryant became interested in officiating at the behest of his father-in-law, the late Patsy Mazza - who officiated football, volleyball and basketball.

“I wasn’t sure about it,” Bryant said. “He got me interested. He asked me if I loved wrestling. And I told him, ‘I do.’ That love remains today.

“I didn’t get involved in referring until my late 30s. But things took off pretty well and I knew a lot of the guys, Frank Vulcano, Jr., among others, and they always encouraged and helped me. It took me three or four years to get established. But I’ve been fortunate to grow in it and be given great opportunities.”

Maggi said Bryant earned his referee stripes and his way to becoming a respected official. He is also a valued friend.

“I knew of Ticky most of his life,” Maggi said. “He wasn’t too bad a boxer. I got to know him better when he became a wrestling official. He just came along so great. Ticky is personable. He is amicable and amenable to learning. He is fun to be around, a jovial guy.

“He has come a long way as a referee. We have been partners and work well together. He is a joy to work with and so easy to work with. I feel very comfortable when he and I work together. He’s a great person.”

Bryant resides in Washington with his wife of 27 years, Sylvia. He has five children, Natalie, Nicholas, Ashley, Christian and Ricardo.

Kurt Kesneck, athletic director at Chartiers-Houston and a fellow wrestling referee, said Bryant is unique in his approach and demeanor. And while he “listened and learned, and asked all the right questions” in the early stages of his officiating career, he’s now one who imparts wisdom.

“First, Ticky is just a great guy,” Kesneck said. “I knew about him with the boxing, the (Silver) and Gold Gloves and his wrestling career. But I got to know him through officiating. You can joke round with him. He’s such a good guy.

“What makes him special is that I have never heard him say a negative word or talk bad about anybody. I have never heard him utter a bad thing about a team, a coach, a wrestler or a fan. And it can get tough out there. Ticky is always positive. If one of us has a tough match, he tries to settle us down and always says something to reinforce the positive. He always seems to have a positive outlook.”

Bryant, 60, credits his success to Maggi, Kesneck, Tom Chappel and Greg Uram, among others.

“Really, our whole chapter,” he added. “I love being a wrestling referee. I love my mates. It’s hard. People yell at you and get mad at you. But they are just fighting for what they think is right, for their kid. We all have good times and tough times and tough matches. It’s all part of it.

“Everyday I wake up, I am proud. I have no enemies. I have a good life with a lot of good friends and family members. I try to do things right. What else can you ask for?”

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Online:

http://bit.ly/2CJfkZn

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Information from: Observer-Reporter, http://www.observer-reporter.com

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