VMI Wrestler Named SoCon Male Athlete Of The Year

VMI Wrestler Named SoCon Male Athlete Of The Year


Virginia Military Institute red-shirt senior wrestler Neal Richard was named the 2019-20 Bob Waters Southern Conference Male Athlete of the Year last Wednesday.

Richards becomes the just the second VMI studentathlete to be named the SoCon Male Athlete of the Year and the first since Johnny Mapp in 1953-54. Richards also is only the second wrestler to earn the award, joining Appalachian State’s Austin Trotman, who took the distinction in 2011-12.

“Neal will go down as one of the greatest to step on the mat for VMI,” said head Keydet wrestling coach Jim Gibson. “He has embodied everything that it means to be a cadet-athlete. It has been a tremendous honor to be in his corner.”

Richards was named a second-team All-American by the National Wrestling Coaches Association this season, becoming just the third Keydet and first since 1999 to earn All-America honors. The 174-pounder shared SoCon Championship Most Outstanding Wrestler honors in 2020, taking the award for the second straight season after winning the league title in his weight class and qualifying for the NCAA Championships for the third time in his career.

The South Chesterfield native finished the 2019-20 season with a 38-7 record that included six major decisions, seven technical falls and five pins. In addition to his 174-pound title at the SoCon Wrestling Championships, Richards also claimed the crown in that weight class at the All-Academy Championships. He won 18 of his final 19 matches to close the season and earned a spot on the Virginia Sports Information Directors all-state first team.

He finished his VMI career with a 112-32 record, tied for third on the program all-time wins leader list, and his 38 victories as a senior ranks second in Keydet history.

Richards, who graduated with a degree in civil engineering, is commissioning in the United States Army.

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