Stanwood’s Ryder Bumgarner yells in celebration after scoring a touchdown during the Class 3A state quarterfinal game against O’Dea on Nov. 19, 2022 in Seattle. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Stanwood’s Ryder Bumgarner yells in celebration after scoring a touchdown during the Class 3A state quarterfinal game against O’Dea on Nov. 19, 2022 in Seattle. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

The Herald’s 2022-23 Boys High School Athlete of the Year: Ryder Bumgarner

The UW-bound Stanwood star and team leader dominated on the football field and also earned a third-place medal at state wrestling.

The 2022-23 school year was one to remember for a number of Stanwood High School’s athletic programs.

On the boys side, it was the football team in the fall and the wrestling team in the winter that showed out with campaigns that will be etched in annals of program lore.

Playing a major role in the history-making seasons for both teams was standout senior Ryder Bumgarner.

On the football field, Bumgarner stood head and shoulders above the competition. At just 5-foot-9 but possessing a powerful 185-pound frame, Bumgarner made a regular habit of trucking, eluding and blowing by defenders while starring as the focal point of the Spartans’ Wing-T offense from the fullback position.

He was just as important on the defensive side of the ball, where he displayed his ability as a versatile playmaker capable of manning multiple positions.

And his unwavering leadership was another major factor in Stanwood’s massive turnaround and run to the Class 3A state quarterfinals, which marked the first streak of back-to-back state tournament appearances in the program’s history.

On the wrestling mat, Bumgarner was one of a number of standout seniors who helped the team secure a program-best third-place trophy at Mat Classic.

Bumgarner, who qualified for all three state wrestling tournaments during his high school career, took home a third-place medal in the 3A 170-pound weight class from Mat Classic XXXIV in February.

For his spectacular senior season and overall prep career in multiple sports, Bumgarner is The Herald’s 2022-23 Boys High School Athlete of the Year.

After moving from slot receiver to running back between his sophomore and junior football seasons, Bumgarner broke out in a major way as the Spartans switched from a spread to a Wing-T offense, piling up 1,516 yards and 19 TDs for an upstart squad that reached the state tournament for the first time in 25 years.

He followed his breakout junior campaign with an astonishing all-around performance as a senior, setting a single-season school record with 2,486 yards rushing and 25 TDs. In Week 2 against Marysville Pilchuck, Bumgarner set the school’s single-game rushing record with 309 yards on just 20 carries. He eclipsed 100 yards rushing in all but one of the Spartans’ 12 games, including breaking the 200-yard barrier six times.

Stanwood’s Ryder Bumgarner weaves through the defense against Lakes on Nov. 4, 2022, at Stanwood High School in Stanwood. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Stanwood’s Ryder Bumgarner weaves through the defense against Lakes on Nov. 4, 2022, at Stanwood High School in Stanwood. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

“He’s strong, he’s tough, he doesn’t give up,” second-year Stanwood football coach Jeff Scoma said. “… He runs low to the ground and is difficult to tackle. Really that’s the ideal fullback for you in the Wing-T offense.”

Bumgarner was quick to credit his gaudy offensive numbers to the linemen paving his way.

“They’re not the biggest whatsoever, but they’ve got more heart than anybody else and more work ethic than a lot of guys,” Bumgarner said. “Them being able to adapt and make that change to the Wing-T, those aren’t just my numbers, those are the O-line’s numbers too.”

With the heavy workload that comes with being the feature back in the Wing-T, it would be understandable if Bumgarner’s role on defense was more part-time than full-time, but that was never the case for the record-setting star. He was a regular on the defensive unit and was as big of an impact player as any while playing linebacker and safety, totaling 56 tackles, two tackles for loss and two interceptions.

“You could see that he really understood the offenses,” Scoma said. “He knew what we were trying to do. You could move him around. He’s physical enough to tackle on the edge and fast enough and smart enough to make the plays in the secondary.”

Stanwood’s Ryder Bumgarner comes down with a difficult interception against Ferndale on Oct. 21, 2022, at Stanwood High School in Stanwood. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Stanwood’s Ryder Bumgarner comes down with a difficult interception against Ferndale on Oct. 21, 2022, at Stanwood High School in Stanwood. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

With his work on special teams added in, Scoma estimated Bumgarner was on the field for about 95% of the team’s plays last season.

“I just love football ultimately,” Bumgarner said of playing the role of ironman for the Spartans, “and I want to be in every play and put the team on my back and give it my all every single play.”

Bumgarner’s impact on the turnaround of Stanwood’s football program stems from far more than just his eye-popping stats. He put just as much effort into his leadership role with the team.

When weight rooms shut down during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Bumgarner, his dad, Reed, and younger brother, Canyon, converted the family’s garage into a weight room. It became the hub for player-led team workouts.

Bumgarner said enough teammates came to the weight sessions that they split into two groups of 10 to 15 players, with the groups coming on alternating days to train.

If players didn’t show up to their 6 a.m. session, Bumgarner and others would drive to wake and pick them up.

“We definitely did that a lot,” he said.

When Scoma took over the program the following season, it didn’t take him long to identify the team’s leader.

“Really from day one you could see the leadership,” Scoma said. “You could see a different level of intensity in the weight room, a different level of passion on the field and everything. Kids definitely gravitated towards him.”

Stanwood’s Ryan Bumgarner and teammates yell in celebration after winning the Stilly Cup for the first time in 11 years on Sept. 30, 2022 in Arlington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Stanwood’s Ryan Bumgarner and teammates yell in celebration after winning the Stilly Cup for the first time in 11 years on Sept. 30, 2022 in Arlington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

While Bumgarner’s passion for the gridiron was always evident, his relationship with wrestling was a bit more complicated. He wrestled with the Stanwood Scorpions club program at a young age but said he’d often miss practices and show up only for competitions.

The thought of wrestling in high school wasn’t one that piqued Bumgarner’s interest, but he struck a deal with classmate Mason Ferguson that kept him on the mats. Bumgarner continued to wrestle on the caveat that Ferguson came out for the football team.

It ended up being a beneficial deal for both programs. Bumgarner became a key member of a talent-loaded wrestling team and Ferguson a starter for the rising football team.

“It did nothing but help our program and our team with all the success we had,” recently retired Stanwood wrestling coach Ray Mather said of Bumgarner sticking with wrestling. “For not liking it as much as he could have liked it, he did an outstanding job.”

Bumgarner never failed to qualify for a Mat Classic during his wrestling career and capped it with a strong senior campaign. He posted a 26-6 record, which included titles for his weight class at the Wesco 3A North and the Marysville Premier tournaments, a runner-up finish at regionals and a third-place medal at the state tournament.

“I’m glad he stuck it out,” Mather said, “because that kid brought more happiness and humor into my room than I’ve had from any other athletes.”

Arlington’s Dustin Baxter hangs on the back of Stanwood’s Ryder Bumgarner during the 170-pound match on Jan. 24 in Arlington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Arlington’s Dustin Baxter hangs on the back of Stanwood’s Ryder Bumgarner during the 170-pound match on Jan. 24 in Arlington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Bumgarner feels all those grueling hours on the mats paid off for more than just wrestling.

“Wrestling is a very mentally challenging sport, so I would say that really carried over to football,” he said. “You’re always going to be tired, but you gotta push through.”

Adding to his impressive athletic resume, Bumgarner won state powerlifting titles in his weight class as a junior in the squat and bench press.

Bumgarner is continuing his football career at the University of Washington as a preferred walk-on. He had offers from smaller Division II and Division III schools in the region, but ultimately a chance to play for the program he grew up rooting for wasn’t one he was ready to pass up.

“I accepted the fact that I’d have to work really hard,” Bumgarner said. “I feel like I’ve kind of been an underdog my whole life, so I feel like the walk-on way is kind of the Ryder Bumgarner way as well. I’m ready to prove some more people wrong.”

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