Sports

Grappler Billy Richardson makes it official

Bremerton wrestler Billy Richardson gets a hand from dad Bill as he signs his letter of intent to hit the mats for Mesa State College in Colorado. - Wesley Remmer/staff photo
Bremerton wrestler Billy Richardson gets a hand from dad Bill as he signs his letter of intent to hit the mats for Mesa State College in Colorado.
— image credit: Wesley Remmer/staff photo

Bremerton’s most accomplished high school wrestler, Billy Richardson, John Hancock-ed the dotted line last Friday, signing a letter of intent to wrestle at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colo.

After receiving interest from a slew of other schools, including Colorado State University, the University of Wyoming, California State-Fullerton and the University or Northern Colorado, Richardson’s heart led him to Mesa State.

“I felt a good connection,” he explained of the school where he’ll begin wrestling this fall. “I got a better feeling (from Mesa State), a welcome-home feeling.”

Reaching the state tournament four consecutive years at Bremerton, Richardson combined speed and strength to dominate the Olympic League’s 112-pound weight class as a senior after grappling at 103 for three years prior. As a junior, Richardson placed third in the 3A 103 bracket, while taking sixth at 112 as a senior in what was largely considered the toughest bracket in the state.

And while the shift from high school competition to the college ranks will present a number of challenges, bringing stiffer competition and a rigorous training load, Richardson remains confident in his ability to adjust.

“I think it’ll be a good transition,” he said. “I want to become a college All-American.”

Under BHS wrestling coach Jeff Barton’s wing, Richardson learned how dedication leads to success on — and off — the mat, a character trait he will bring to Mesa State and his new coach, Chuck Pipher.

“He taught me the ethics of working hard,” Richardson said of Barton.

And Pipher, who will be in his third year at the helm when Richardson rolls into Grand Junction, believes Richardson’s modesty and a workman-like mentality will help him succeed at the college level.

“He’s a very respectful kid,” Pipher said. “What we like about Billy is the amount of wrestling he’s done. You know that he’s put in the work.”

Hovering around 110 pounds throughout high school, Richardson’s first challenge will be to bulk up to 125 pounds, the weight he will wrestle at collegiately.

“I think the biggest thing with Billy is (for him) to take a year to grow into 125 (pounds),” Pipher said, adding that it may take one season for Richardson to settle in at the heavier weight. “Realistically, we’d like to red shirt him (as a freshman).”

But Mesa State’s lineup won’t be solidified until the team’s first match, meaning Richardson will be in the running for a starting slot at 125 pounds.

“You never count a kid out,” Pipher said. “He (Richardson) may be a guy at 125.”

While Mesa State currently lists three wrestlers at 125 pounds — Jason Blasdel, Bryce Boling and Jacob Breslin — Pipher said lack of depth has been plagued, opening the door for Richardson to step in and make an impact.

“We’ve had some real depth issues this year,” Pipher said of the squad, in its third year as a Division II team. “We’re still very young.”

Richardson will graduate in June and wrestle over the summer, preparing for the next chapter in his wrestling career. And though his victories will no longer be posted in the Knights’ win column, his legacy already resonates the halls of BHS.

“Billy has walked the halls (of BHS) with his head held high,” BHS athletic director George Duarte said. He’s a great role model... probably our most decorated athlete in his sport.”

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