Matoaca wrestler Neal Richards is another brick in the wall of an excellent program, one that’s blooming into a dynasty. A junior, Richards (145 weight class) has amassed a 133-5 career record, as of press time, and took home state championships as both a freshman (120) and a sophomore (138). Richards and his teammates are looking to improve on a fifth place finish at state last year and further build the wrestling tradition at Matoaca.
“It feels like a big responsibility to wear the Matoaca name,” said Richards. “But when you’re surrounded with athletes just as good as you or better, you share the load with your teammates.”
Richards’ performance, thus far, already has him ranked among the all-time greats in school history- he’s currently sixth all-time in wins and projects to pass Blake Roulo, Matoaca’s all-time leader in wins before graduating. The standout was elected a team captain this year.
“He’s a leader and a spokesperson for the team,” said Matoaca Head Wrestling Coach Michael Moore. “As a freshman and sophomore he took care of business; as a junior he’s done a great job leading the team this year.”
Richards’ father, Neal, wrestled in high school (Long Island, NY) and earned a full scholarship to Morgan State University. “Neal number two,” as dad called him, has several colleges interested including Virginia Tech, Stanford, Arizona State, Maryland, The Naval Academy and Brown. Richards took unofficial visits to both Maryland and Virginia Tech recently. Richards maintains a 3.0 grade point average, taking honors and dual enrollment classes.
“I was the first to wrestle,” explained Richards’ father. “I got him into the sport, and it turns out he’s pretty good at it.”
“Pretty good” can mean a lot of things, but by most standards- Richards is great. Richards is a wrestler who likes to go for the takedown, but is also skilled on the mat. Mental toughness is important in many sports, but to stay focused on his routine and during matches is his strength and biggest key to success. The junior stays busy with school, practice and traveling to meets; something that most high school athletes don’t have to deal with.
“If we didn’t travel, we wouldn’t get to wrestle much,” explained Richards. “It’s really good for bonding with your teammates on the bus or when you stay at hotels.”
Traveling and winning has put Matoaca’s program on the map, allowing a very competitive team to wrestle other top talent in the Mid-Atlantic. The Warriors traveled to Delaware for the Beast of the East tournament and recently took first place at the Big Blue Invitational in Christiansburg, Virginia two weekends ago.
A part of that hectic schedule that keeps Richards busy is going to the gym for at least an hour after every practice, hitting the weights and doing a surprising amount of cardio. Both strength and endurance are important as wrestling matches feature short, but intense periods of activity.
“Sometimes we have a problem getting him to do his homework,” Richards’ dad joked. “He stays busy; it’s our job to keep him focused as parents.”
A focused Richards and Matoaca squad under the tutelage of Moore and assistant Jonn White is looking forward to more postseason success. Stay tuned on twitter @VNewsSports, have your results wrestling results there.