It was 2013, and a group of mischievous seventh-graders held their phones in their laps, stifling giggles as they texted jokes about their social studies teacher when they thought her eye had wandered. When they got caught, they only laughed harder; detention was just another place to party.
“We hated being there,” recalled Ryan Wiscaver, now 15 and a freshman in high school. “We wanted to do anything to resist it.”
Ryan hadn’t always been a troublemaker. An honor student until the seventh grade, he’d never seen the inside of the principal’s office. But in the last grueling year before moving on to high school, he became bored of playing by the rules. It didn’t help that he didn’t make the football team.
“I was restless and bored, and I didn’t have an outlet outside of school,” he said.
So he turned to those who made school interesting.
“They were the troublemakers of the class, the class clowns,” he said.
With his new crew, Ryan spent his seventh-grade year skipping and disrupting class, and his grades fell from A’s and B’s to C’s.
“But I didn’t really care that much,” Ryan said. “I thought [skipping class] was fun, and that was what I wanted to do.”
In the fall of 2013, Ryan’s eighth-grade year, school administrators were forced to call his mother from work to collect her miscreant son.
“That’s when I met the school officer, and I asked, ‘What can we do to nip this in the bud?’” Betty Wiscaver recalled. “I believed he needed something, but team sports wasn’t his thing.”
“You can send him to work out with me at CrossFit South Wake,” the officer replied.
The officer pulled Ryan aside for a conversation about using constructive means to expel energy. To Ryan’s surprise, he spent more time talking about workouts than chastising Ryan for his behavior, and Ryan was immediately intrigued to learn more about CrossFit.
“I was really excited because at the time, I was looking for a gym,” Ryan said.
Though Ryan never made the football team, he trained like he had. Fitness was his obsession, a means to walk in his father’s footsteps and join the military someday.
“At the time, I was doing pull-ups, chin-ups and push-ups, but I knew that if I wanted to join the military, I needed a better base,” Ryan explained. “Like weightlifting, all of that.”
The officer invited Ryan to observe a Saturday morning class that week. As it turned out, the class was doing Open Workout 14.5: 21-18-15-12-9-6-3 reps for time of thrusters and burpees.
“I was pretty wide-eyed,” Ryan recalled. “I saw my now-training partner suffering through the work, and I was like, ‘Wow, this is a new type of standard.’”
He started On Ramp that week, and for the first time in more than a year, he had a class he didn’t want to skip.
“School didn’t interest me at all, but fitness was all I was interested in,” he said.
So interested, in fact, that he even studied at night, staying up late to watch videos of butterfly pull-ups and the coveted bar muscle-up.
“I was like, ‘I could never do this. I do not understand how they’re getting over that bar,’” he recounted.
So he put a pull-up bar in his garage and he practiced, bloodying his hands for hours as he drilled his swing, kip and turnover. Six months after starting CrossFit, Ryan got his first bar muscle-up.
“Everything made sense; the hard work paid off, and it felt really good to have earned the reward,” he said. “In CrossFit, if you put in the work, you’re going to reap the benefits.”
It wasn’t just in the gym that he saw the benefits of hard work and discipline, however. As Ryan grew more focused on CrossFit, the attitude crossed over to schoolwork and chores at home. His grades climbed, and too busy training to hang out with the wrong crowd after school anymore, he never received detention again.
“He can see the prize now and the steps toward getting there,” Betty said. “He knows if he wants to get to the gym, the chores need to get done, and if he wants to go to the military, he needs to graduate from high school. He’s much more focused, and he hasn’t gotten into any trouble … and he’s much stronger to take out the trash, too!”
“I’m definitely not resenting school as much as I used to,” Ryan added. “I have more of a positive outlook, and I know that sitting in class is really not that bad as compared to suffering through [Open Workout] 15.5.”
In his first Open, Ryan took third place in the Mid-Atlantic and 32nd worldwide in the Teenage Boys 14-15 Division, placing in the top 80 worldwide in four out of five scored events, including a 14th-place finish in 15.2.
Today, Ryan splits his time between homework, training, chores and meal prep. And with the new work ethic came a new goal: to compete at the Regionals and the CrossFit Games before he pursues a career in the military.
“I have a vision now,” Ryan said. “Because of CrossFit, I know how to get to the goal.”