Neal Richards ’19, Keydet red-shirt senior, was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler March 9 for the second-straight year after winning the 174-pound individual championship at the 2020 Southern Conference Wrestling Championships hosted by Appalachian State University.
He automatically qualifies for the NCAA Division I Tournament with the chance to earn All-American honors. This year, the South Chesterfield, Virginia, native had a much harder path to the trophy than he had a year ago. In 2019, he had a first-round bye and won by technical fall in the semifinals and major decision in the finals. This season as the No. 2 seed, he opened with a 21-6 technical fall win over The Citadel’s Kyle Kretzler. In the semifinals, he defeated third-seeded Austin Kraisser from Campbell 3-1 in a sudden victory session.
Richards got revenge in the finals for his only Southern Conference loss in the last two years with a 12-5 victory over top-seeded Thomas Flitz from Appalachian State. It is Richards’ third trip to the NCAA Tournament in his career and second SoCon title. He will enter the NCAA Tourney with a 38-7 record with six major decisions, seven technical falls and five pins on the year, with victories in 18 of his last 19 matches.
VMI finished sixth with 28 team points – but was just two points out of fourth place. Chris Beck ’20 finished fourth at 285 pounds, winning 5-0 in the first round and 6-2 in the consolation bracket. He narrowly lost the match for third place 3-2. Job Chishko ’23 at 149 pounds also took fourth, with a major decision win and a technical fall victory. He also fell just short of third-place accolades, falling 4-3 in the consolation finals. Will Lawrence ’21 bounced back after a tough 9-8 loss in the opening round at 157 with a 9-8 victory of his own in the consolation bracket. Jon Hoover ’23 won a match via major decision at 165 and Zach Brown ’23 pinned his first-round opponent at 197 pounds in just 1:29.
The NCAA Wrestling Selection Show will air on NCAA.com at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 11. The 2020 NCAA Championships will take place March 19-21 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on vmikeydets.com.