Sophomore 133-pounder Caleb Richardson has been under the bright lights of college wrestling’s biggest stage when he went to the NCAA tournament as a 125-pound freshman.
And while he may not have succeeded in his go-round, his eyes are set on not only qualifying for NCAAs again but on finishing on top of the heap.
Richardson was a standout in high school. The two-time Virginia state champion transferred to New Jersey’s Blair Academy where he was a runner-up at 119 pounds in the 2011 National Prep tournament.
That’s why it was no surprise when Richardson fought his way into Penn’s starting lineup as a freshman. The ambitious lightweight also managed to get eighth place at the prestigious Southern Scuffle tournament at Chattanooga in early January.
On top of that, he marched his way to a berth in the NCAA tournament. Unfortunately for Richardson, his freshman success would come to an abrupt end when he lost both of his matches at NCAAs.
Last season the 125-pound weight class was one of the most competitive and highly touted weight classes in the country. On top of that, Richardson was cutting a significant amount of weight.
This year, he hopes to be revitalized as he moves up to 133 pounds.
“It’s right where you should be, a little bit to feel it but not too much,” Richardson says of the seven pound cut he is making this year.
Richardson will not only make his debut at 133 pounds this Sunday at the East Stroudsburg Open but will also make his debut for the Quakers’ new wrestling coach Alex Tirapelle.
Tirapelle is excited to see his sophomore in action for the first time.
“I haven’t seen him compete too much,” Tirapelle said. “That’s the great thing about competition is it sheds a lot of light on what you need to work on as a team and as individuals.
“[Richardson] is young enough that we can still make changes.”
While Richardson says he had a great relationship with Rob Eiter, he looks forward to working with two-time All-American Tirapelle this season.
“[Eiter] showed me a lot of technique and I’ll carry that with me for the rest of my career. Tirapelle has come in and really changed the culture. We’re more organized. He’s also got good technique ... and I’m learning a lot from the new coaches,” Richardson said of the transition.
With a new weight class and vision coupled with techniques learned from two accomplished coaches, Richardson will have all of the tools to succeed come March.
And Richardson will have redepmption on his mind after last year’s NCAA performance.
“That tournament has left a bad taste in my mouth,” he said of last year’s NCAA tournament but added that this year, “I won’t be surprised.”
His first test will come Dec. 6 at Lehigh where he will face junior Mason Beckman, who is ranked eighth in the country and whom Richardson has beaten twice.
Still, Richardson can’t help but look ahead to the year’s final test.
“I have that vision in my head of what it really is like and so I’m going over that,” he said, “and when you get there (NCAAs) it’s like I’ve been here before. I’ve wrestled this match 1,000 times.”
Richardson is training with one goal in mind: “National Champion.”
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