Double duties: Richard Perry, the wrestler and the coach
Pursuing a post-collegiate wrestling career was never the plan for Richard Perry, at least not initially. Neither was coaching. As a freshman college student-athlete at Bloomsburg College in Pennsylvania, he was initially focused on building off his successful high school career where he won two state titles in Connecticut.
Perry went 110-30 in his four years at Bloomsburg, set the school record for longest winning streak with 31 straight wins his senior season and was a three-time NCAA Qualifier. It was during his collegiate career, which included extended training in the off-season, that led Perry to discover a passion in freestyle wrestling. This newfound passion, coupled with an inner drive to succeed, led Perry to pursue a career post-collegiately as a freestyle wrestler.
“Loving the sport and wanting to continue to wrestle is a major part,” Perry said of his decision to pursue a post-collegiate career. “And not achieving the goals collegiately I had set for myself also drives me to push more in this style of wrestling.”
Despite small technical differences between collegiate wrestling and freestyle wrestling, including the absence of moves from the bottom position in freestyle wrestling, Perry said his adjustment to the different style was not difficult.
“I was always taught wrestling is just wrestling,” Perry said. “You’ve got to go out there and put points on the board and be stingy. For my style of wrestling, I think it [freestyle] compliments me more than the collegiate style of wrestling.”
In the short period Perry has wrestled post-collegiately, he has already experienced high levels of success in freestyle wrestling. This success has permitted him to travel with the USA Wrestling Team. Perry won a gold medal and the Outstanding Wrestler title at the Bill Farrell Invitational, a silver medal in the Dave Schultz Memorial Invitational and, most recently, a bronze medal at the Alexander Medved International Tournament.
"Loving the sport and wanting to continue to wrestle is a major part."
For some athletes, the task of competing in highly respected international invitational tournaments would be difficult enough, but for Perry, that’s only half of his job. Perry also works as an assistant coach for the AU Wrestling team, primarily working with the upper-weight wrestlers.
AU head coach Teague Moore first saw Perry compete at Bloomsburg while coaching at Clarion University in Pennsylvania. Moore and Perry’s paths crossed again last year when Perry, a senior in college, wrestled current AU sophomore Jason Grimes at the Northeast Regional Championships in the 86kg freestyle competition.
Perry’s coach at Bloomsburg his senior year, Jason Mester, knew Moore from coaching against him while Moore was at Clarion. Mester and John Stutsman, who was Perry’s coach during his first three years at Bloomsburg, contacted Moore and offered glowing recommendations of Perry when they first heard that Moore was considering taking Perry as an assistant coach.
“I think for me, the key thing that they both said was [he was] extremely mature for his age,” Moore said. “When I met him and sat down with him, that definitely came through.”
Perry brings an interesting dynamic to the AU team, having been a collegiate athlete and currently being a competitor himself.
“Me being just out of college, I understand a lot of what they’re going though, whether it’s on the mat or off the mat,” Perry said. “I can be that guy to them and try to bridge the gap between athlete and coach, because I am both.”
Moore said he believes that Perry’s words really resonate with the athletes because he was a successful collegiate athlete and continues to be competitive internationally.
“You get the level of respect that he commands from our guys has a lot to do with how he’s doing on the international circuit,” Moore said. “Seeing his success and now seeing him as one of the top prospects on the Olympic level, I think for our guys there is a reassurance for them because this guy [Perry] is in my corner.”
Grimes says that Perry’s career and the success he has achieved internationally give his words have greater weight to the upper-weight wrestlers he works with each day.
“He knows what it takes to become one of the best guys in the country, and he’s in shape and he’s always training, which makes it better,” Grimes said.
While Perry enjoys his role as a coach and a competitor, sometimes it is difficult to strike a balance between Perry’s lofty personal goals and his role as a mentor and coach to the collegiate athletes.
“If I’m training for myself, I want to exhaust myself and push myself to the limit,” Perry said. “But if I am helping them [the AU Wrestlers], I don’t really want to beat up on them or have them beat up on me because we’re preparing to compete.”
Perry said his passion for coaching developed over the summer when he worked with the Warsaw Team X Wrestling Club in upstate New York.
“I knew I wanted to coach after college, but after working with these kids and feeling all the overall raw emotions of the coaches that I’ve never felt before, it was really an eye-opener that this is what I really want to do, whether it be now or in the long term,” Perry said.
Perry also has long term plans for his competitive career. His ultimate goal: an Olympic gold medal. Moore said he believes Perry is well on his way to achieving his Olympic aspirations.
“In one year, he has gone from just basically another guy that’s out there training to one of the top contenders [internationally]” Moore said.