Dissecting a 4-Time Toughman Champion

In this post, I am going to Dissect a 4-Time Advanced Training Toughman Champion, Ryan Smith. 

It comes at the right time, as many high school and college football players are putting away their pads and heading into the off-season.

Most will waste the opportunity.

Some will capitalize on it.

But very, very few will live like Ryan Smith.

Who is Ryan Smith?

  • He is a 4-Time Toughman Champion (2013 - 2016)
This post is written in interview format, so we can get inside the head of Ryan Smith. The questions I asked him are in bold, his answers start with "RS" (Ryan Smith), and any extra notes or comments I made are listed as "Coach Mahoney Notes".


What separates you from the pack?

RS: " ... The challenges life has tossed my way in the past few years ...These things never broke me and have allowed me to become better.

I am a strong believer that difficult times are not excuses. As a person, the best way to react to tough times is to become better from them and I think I have done my best to do that. Too many times when things are bad, people let it rip them apart. It is important to be strong during these times and to come out a better person from them."

RS: "Also just pure insanity, when I don't train it drives me crazy. Days off (which I've taken more of than ever over the past year) kill me mentally."

Coach Mahoney Note: This is the only thing that bothered me about Ryan Smith. He would train on rest days and throw paint all over the Mona Lisa.

You've won 4 Toughman  ... have you walked into an event thinking you were not going to win? Who made you the most nervous?

Coach Mahoney Note: Here is the Reader's Digest Version of Smith's very long answer, which is too long to post in this article.

Coach Mahoney Note: During his very long answer, he did give respect to Joe Sarno and Arthur Kuyan, but he didn't actually say he thought they would beat him.

RS also said: "I think what really made me successful in the Toughman was I was more excited to compete than anyone."

Coach Mahoney Note: I personally believe this is what set Smith apart from the pack. He was like the Conor McGregor of the Toughman. He would get inside people's heads so much, that they either didn't want to compete or they just focused on beating him. His mind games made people lose focus and put their anger ahead of technique on game day.

If you could put anything you wanted on a billboard on the Staten Island Expressway, what would it say?

RS: "Leave it better than you found it"

Coach Mahoney Note: Torres always said Ryan Smith was some sort of Boy Scout.

If you give could give one piece of advice to a high school senior to help him be as successful as you were ... what would it be?

RS: In the words of the great Greg Manos, "Just Show Up".

Coach Mahoney Note: This is an excellent point. We never had a bad training session. The hardest part was always getting guys to "show up" because other things took priority, like sleep or D'Jais.

Coach Manos (L) and Coach Mahoney (behind Gatorade bottle) back in the good ole days

RS: "Equally as important, I'd tell them to enjoy training. As much as we would say we hated getting up early to train, we all enjoyed it. It built bonds between us and created life long friendships that we all value."

What is your definition of success?

RS: "To me success is probably different than what it is to a lot of people. In Staten Island success is typically measured by wealth, which is stupid. 

Success is earning something on your own,

Success is sitting down after a day of work and knowing you gave it your all.

Success is chasing dreams until one day they become a reality.

Success is taking that jab from life standing tall and sending one right back at it.

Success is taking the difficult path, because it is the best path for you and finishing the walk regardless of the difficulties along the road.

Success is being able to talk with old friends like nothing's changed."

People have always said that you were my favorite. Do you agree or disagree, and why?

RS: "I would agree to an extent. 

I think that often times there have been chances for people to take away this title from me, but in the end I always came out successful. 

These people would have a chance but then miss a lift or lose a challenge (that was set up for them to win)."

Coach Mahoney Note: I would often praise Smith's perfect attendance to get under the skin of anyone who missed a training session. Instead of owning their personal weakness, they simply thought I was favoring Smith. 

At the same time, I did give them a fighting chance to win Challenges (as Smith mentions above), but very few were able to capitalize.

What member of Advanced Training (aside from you) had the most success that shocked you and why? 

RS: "I'm going to go with James Uske.

James Uske: Challenge Champ 2015

Uske joined AT because of his buddy Torres. These two are complete opposites so it's strange that they're friends. 

Uske is passive aggressive while Torres is in your face aggressive. 

Frank Torres: Toughman Champ 2009

Torres is loud while Uske is quiet. 

Torres is tall while Uske isn't. 

Although they are very different, they both share the trait of being a great friend in common. 

The reason Uske's success is shocking is because he is not loud like many others in the program. 

He is smaller in height and was not a college athlete. Many people who are not college athletes last a year in AT (Advanced Training) and then do not return. 

This was not the case for Uske. 

Uske won a Challenge year in AT and is also competitive, which shows that he belongs. 

What Uske lacked in height and weight he made up for in heart and toughness. He always competed and never made excuses. He is someone who will be very successful later on in life and I'm excited for him."

Coach Mahoney Note: In 2015, Uske set a single season Challenge point record with 49. Not bad for a 5'6" 155lb investment banker training with a bunch of lunatic college athletes.

Is it true that you were paid to be someone's designated driver to D'Jais? If so, tell me about it.

This is partly true. 

I was paid to be a designated driver to Bar A on Tuesdays for beat the clock. 

I did this for about a month and a half for my cousins friend until the friend pulled the plug on it. (Not sure why he would pay someone to drive him down the shore and back in the same night, in his own car, but I happily took the offer.) 

Every Tuesday I would meet him by his house, which was around the corner from mine, after he got off from work at about 10:30. After that I would drive his car to bar a so he could drink. As him and his friends drank I would kill time for about 2 hours then it would be time to leave. 

Coach Mahoney Note: I also asked Smith why he hated D'Jais. He wrote an 889 word dissertation that made references to things like an old man screaming into a microphone, juiced out guys in t-shirts they wore in grammar school, and a constant feeling of claustrophobia at something called "The West Bar".

A Fitting End

I think it is very fitting that I end this article with a quote that wrote in 2014 and later quoted again in 2015 and 2016.

I love this quote because a) it's true and b) I am still waiting for some brave athlete to take Ryan Smith's throne.

"It is going to take someone with a great deal of talent and a great deal of drive to beat him in future (Toughman) events.

This is going to enrage a lot of people out there ... but face the facts.

When was the last time Ryan Smith missed a training session?

When was going to a party more important than getting better?

When was sleep more important to him than winning the Toughman?" - Coach Mahoney, 2014

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