Airman excels at job, serving community

  • Published
  • By Sheila Rupp
  • Nucleus
Working hard and being dedicated is a mentality that Airman 1st Class Ryan Stoks learned on the wrestling mats from a young age; that mentality is something that remains true for him today serving in the Air Force.

Serving in the 58th Operations Support Squadron, Airman Stoks finds himself here after being named an All-American National Junior College Athletic Association wrestler. His own wrestling career may have ended, but that doesn't stop his passion for the sport and the lessons he learned on the mat from continuing on.

Airman Stoks grew up in Minnesota, where wrestling is to the residents what football is to Texans. His father's nine brothers wrestled and all three of Airman Stoks' older brothers took to the mat. He went to the Minnesota state wrestling tournament sophomore through senior years of high school and never lost a team match during his high school career. He says what he learned on the mat is that you have to participate individually and as part of a team, which also holds true in the Air Force.

Airman Stoks attended Minnesota West Community and Technical College and was named an All-American wrestler in 2001, his freshman year. The following year, he was ranked third in the nation but didn't have a chance to repeat due to a knee injury.

He has given back to youth by coaching at camps and most recently, coaching the Highland High School wrestling team. Although he may not be wrestling himself, Airman Stoks uses the characteristics he learned as a champion wrestler to be a good Airman and to help wrestlers at Highland succeed.

Last year, Highland's team didn't win a dual meet, but this year they have won nearly all of them. He said he enjoys working with the young athletes and feels that serving as a coach will help him in his own future. Airman Stoks is younger than the other coach and feels that wrestlers come to him for advice or with problems because he can relate to them. He said that wrestling has helped him to learn to be a strong individual and leader, which will help him in his future Air Force career and also helped him learned the importance of strong individuals coming together to work as a team.

His hard work and dedication show in his shop and his supervisors have taken notice.

"There is no obstacle that he will not see a possible solution to; because of this drive he has assumed an earned authority within our shop despite being junior in rank to the majority of the personnel," Master Sgt. Mark Rasnick said. "... Ryan is one of those Airmen who does not believe that his job is done at 4:30 p.m.; he enjoys representing the Air Force."

Airman Stoks said the support of his supervisors and coworkers has been amazing.
"Sergeant Fernandez and Sergeant Rasnick have really, really supported me with this - I couldn't do any of it without them. Tournaments and practices have made my schedule difficult and they're always willing to help out with that," he said.

Airman Stoks says he isn't sure what other endeavors his Air Force career will hold in the future but knows that he loves what he does. On weekday evenings you'll find him working with a group of eager wrestlers on the mats at Highland. He says his goal is to help coach the wrestlers to be one of the top four teams in the state.

Airman Stoks is one of the thousands of Airman that exemplify the core values of the Air Force: integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do.