DALLAS — It’s been 30 years since a wrestling team hit the mats at Richland College, but now the squad is back.
“All the other Texas schools had dropped their program. We were forced to go to Kansas every weekend and it just got to be too much so we dropped the program,” said Bill Neal, head coach of the wrestling team. “Now there were tons of kids, particularly DISD kids, with no place to go. They either didn’t have the money, they didn’t have their grades. It was almost a no-brainer, this is an opportunity for these kids to get back into school and continue a sport that they love so much.”
And so the legendary Richland Thunderducks wrestling team was revived, and it’s already making a huge difference for students like Dustin Basham.
“My senior year, I got hurt. I dislocated my shoulder, so I was out for a lot of the off-season,” said Basham. “And I had a lot of scholarship offers but due to my dyslexia I couldn’t really go anywhere and being in Texas there’s no two-year schools that offer wrestling.”
"I actually went to a college open tournament in 2015 and actually ran into Bill Neal and he offered (for)me to come here and wrestle.”
The haven of a two-year school is crucial for guys like Dustin, just like it was for Evan Bernstein, a Richardson grad who came to Richland out of high school to wrestle, and would later go on to compete in the ’88 Olympics.
“I just wanted to continue wrestling and as I was here I basically learned all the tools that I needed to get to where I ended up in the Olympics,” Bermstein said.
Well, thanks to the dedication of Bill Neal to bring the program back from the dead, a whole new generation of Richland wrestlers can do the same.
“2020,” remarked Basham. “The Olympic Games are coming. That’s the big goal.”
And now it’s a goal they all have a shot at.