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Despite size, Ryan Wagner playing physical game for Wolves

Ryan Wagner has 63 first cousins on his mother’s side. And since his mom, Pattie, is the 13th of 16 children in her family, that means most of those cousins are older than Wagner. To survive in any family game, Wagner had to be tough and competitive and figure out how to battle bigger competition.

Now as an undersized but physical forward with the Wolves, Wagner is applying some those lessons nightly.

“I was always kind of the younger one when we were playing games,” said the 5-8, 185-pound Wagner, who also has three siblings. “I was always brought up being the small one and kind of having to work through that. It’s honestly been like my whole life and at this point in my life I’m used to it, and I love it.”

Wagner, who grew up in Park Ridge, said he remembers the name of each of those 63 cousins. But as intense as family games are, that experience can only go far. Wagner said he’s learned a lot from older Wolves players and singled out T.J. Tynan, who has similar size (5-9, 165).

Ryan Wagner is in his first full pro season. | Courtesy of the Wolves

“You see him on the ice and he’s giving it his all. He’s working every single time he’s on the ice,” Wagner said of Tynan. “It’s nice having those type of guys to look up to and also play with.”

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After spending four seasons at Wisconsin, Wagner signed a professional tryout contract with the Wolves last spring and skated in seven games. In May, he signed for the 2018-19 season and entered Wednesday’s game at Iowa with two points while making an impact with his physicality.

“He plays hard every shift and you know what you get. He¹s heavy on his stick and when you play against him, you know when he’s on the ice. He makes you pay the price and he sticks to the game plan, which is what I really like. He sticks to the plan, he sticks to the process,” Wolves coach Rocky Thompson said. “His teammates know that and they can play with that. That’s valuable. He’s really smart and he¹s a tough guy and he¹s good at both ends of the rink.”

Briefly

On Wednesday, the revived XFL announced its eight cities and Chicago will not have a team when the league returns in 2020. Seven NFL markets (Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Washington D.C.) and St. Louis are getting franchises.

In 2001, the Chicago Enforcers folded with the rest of the original XFL after a single season.