Cadet Neal Richards ’19 was named Most Outstanding Wrestler after winning the 174-pound individual championship at the 2019 Southern Conference Wrestling Championships, hosted by Appalachian State University March 10, 2019. The red-shirt junior automatically qualifies for the NCAA Division I Tournament, with the chance to earn All-American honors.Richards, the top seed in his weight bracket, earned a first-round bye. He defeated Kyle Homet in the second round by technical fall (23-8) to reach the finals. Richards won by a major decision in the finals, besting second-seeded Andrew Morgan 16-6 to win his first SoCon title.
Richards has now won 21-straight matches entering NCAA Championship competition. He has a 28-3 record with 10 pins, six technical falls and six major decisions.
Chris Beck reached the consolation semifinals at 197 pounds. Coming in as the sixth-seed, he fell just 2-1 to No. 3 Anthony Perrine of Gardner-Webb. In the consolation bracket, Beck outlasted Finlay Holston of Davidson 7-3 before again losing just 2-1, this time to Rod Jones of Chattanooga.
The last Keydet to win his weight class at the Southern Conference championships was Josh Wine at 285 pounds in 2011. Adam Britt ’03 was the last VMI grappler to be named the SoCon’s Tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler.
Richards will compete March 21-23 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for the chance to become VMI’s first All-American since Leslie Apedoe ’99 at 285 pounds in 1999.
Richards was named SoCon Wrestler of the Month for February for the second straight month. Richards is also a five-time Southern Conference Wrestler of the Week selection.
This article was first published on vmikeydets.com.