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Ryan Torgerson, World Champion Rower and CHHS Graduate, Dies at Age 38

The former Cleveland Heights High School football player won three world championship medals as a member of the U.S. National Rowing Team

Ryan Patrick Torgerson, 38, a former football player and Ironman award recipient, won three world championship medals as a member of the U.S. National Rowing Team.

USRowing, recognized as the governing body for the sport of rowing in the United States by the United States Olympic Committee, reported that Torgerson died unexpectedly and suddenly on May 30 at his home in Wauconda, IL, outside of Chicago.

Peter Cipollone, a member of the national rowing team, remembers Torgerson, known to many as “Torgy,” for his nearly white blond crewcut and high voice for a guy who was around 6'4" and 220 pounds.

“But most of all, it was how he was this rare combination of good humor and tenacity,” Cipollone said in an emailed message. “I don't think I have ever seen someone who was so intense on the water yet so relaxed and funny on land.  It was refreshing and made it a pleasure to be his teammate.”

Torgerson often told Cipollone and the other rowers about playing football at Cleveland Heights High, where he graduated in 1990.

“No matter how hard practice was, Torgy always had a way of taking our minds off of it,” Cipollone said. “He always had a funny story or a joke that completely erased whatever stress we had from trying out for the Olympic team.”

Torgerson began his rowing career as a heavyweight rower in an eight-man boat at the University of Wisconsin. He was a member of the rowing team from 1991-94.

He attended Marine Corps Platoon Leader classes while in college and served with the Marines after graduating in 1994.

The Cleveland Heights native returned to rowing as a member of the U.S. National Team in Princeton, NJ, following his military service in 1998.

“I got to know Ryan when he showed up at training camp in the late ’90s,” Cipollone said. “It was rare for someone to have been away from rowing for so long and to try and make it at the highest level. 

“Over the course of three years, I watched him transform from someone barely on the fringes of the squad to a mainstay of the team.  We raced together at the world championships in 2002 and 2003, getting bronze and silver medals.”

Torgerson won silver world championship medals in 2000 and 2003 and the bronze in 2002. His rowing career ended in 2004.

Since 2005, Torgerson worked for United Airlines in Chicago, where he was a ramp supervisor.

Survivors include his wife of six years, Paige Elizabeth (nee Heebink); children, Brett Axl, 5, and Heidi Love, 3; his mother, Eugenie Torgerson; his father and stepmother, Kenneth and Katherine Torgerson; sister, Kirstin Knight; stepsiblings, Leslie K. Segal and Travis P. Kinsey; grandmother, Olga McMahon; and step-grandmother, Barbara Perris.

No local services are planned. A memorial service will take place this summer in Princeton, NJ.

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