The 21-year old freshman.
Sounds a bit like a certain Steve Carrell movie, doesn’t it?
But Caleb Richardson is more than just a statistical anomaly. He’s Penn wrestling’s best prospect in years. And after bouncing around during and following high school, he’s here to stay.
Richardson seemed destined for greatness from the very beginning.
A Virginia Beach, Va. native, he quickly climbed the public school ranks at Cox High School while demonstrating an ability to win at a variety of weightclasses, winning the state crown at 109 pounds as a sophomore with a perfect 47-0 record and then following that up with a 112-pound state title the very next year.
Even after leaving Cox for the prestigious Blair Academy, Richardson just kept on winning, moving up another weightclass and becoming the national prep runner-up at 119 pounds.
Ranked 121st nationally by D1Collegewrestling.net in his 2011 high school graduating class, it seemed fait accompli that Richardson would spend his career wrestling at Cornell while he took a gap year to wrestle at the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club, a traditional feeder into the Big Red program.
But a funny thing happened on the way to Ithaca. Richardson changed his mind.
“[Cornell] wasn’t a place for me.”
Decommitting from Cornell, Richardson took a second gap year, this
time spending his downtime at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, perfecting and honing his craft. And after going head-to-head against some of the best wrestlers in the country for two years, he’s learned more than just a thing or two.
“The room was great [at Finger Lakes],” Richardson said. “I was able to wrestle with All-Americans every day and they have a good program there … I just really didn’t feel at home there.”
While searching for a home, Richardson fell in love with Penn, drawn to the Quakers’ experienced coaching staff and superior academics.
And just like that, the Red and Blue had snagged their fourth top 150 wrestler out of the Class of 2011.
With Richardson coming aboard, the Quakers now have a “freshman” with as much experience as one could possibly ask for. He’s a valuable asset — and Penn knows it.
“It’s just a maturity factor,” coach Rob Eiter said. “He’s just a little bit more mature, he gets it right away and he understands what he needs to do to be successful.
“It’s good to see a mature kid that we know we have four more years with.”
Given Richardson’s versatility, Eiter has called on the newcomer to adjust to a new weight class once again. Listed on Penn’s official roster as wrestling at 125-133 pounds, he will be starting solely at 125 pounds.
But the transition won’t be much of an issue for Richardson. After years of working his way up the weightclasses, he’s boiled down what needs to be done to cut weight into an exact science.
“As I get more experienced, I kind of learned how to manage my diet and get my body weight down,” he said.
As Richardson has settled into his new role on the team, high expectations have developed around the top recruit.
An Olympian in his own right, Eiter sees the potential for big things in Richardson’s debut season.
“I tease [Caleb] all the time — he’s the oldest freshman in the country,” he said. “Our expectations are: he should be in the [EIWA] finals. He should be eyeing to win it — the conference tournament — and then obviously fight for an All-American spot.”
But Richardson has set a bar for himself much higher than that.
“National champ. Period.”
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