ODU’s Caleb Richardson wrestles past injuries, sets eyes toward final All-American push

Posted at 11:50 PM, Feb 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-17 18:14:44-05

NORFOLK, Va. - In order to be a wrestler, you have to be wired differently. Practices happen in rooms with less than ideal temperatures, bumps and bruises happen on the daily, and in order to compete, you have to make weight before you can take the mat.

Caleb Richardson wins vs. CMU.

"Wrestling, it’s a sport that's one on one, man vs. man, and man vs. self. There’s a battle that goes on before that battle," said graduate transfer Caleb Richardson.

Richardson's battle started long before he arrived at Old Dominion. After winning two state titles at Cox High School, he would move on to the Blair Academy in New Jersey to compete at a higher level.

After a year at Cornell training, and a stint at the Olympic Training Center, Richardson started his collegiate career officially at the University of Pennsylvania.

Before he posted a 31-6 record at Penn in three seasons, Richardson was wrestling with injuries. A backflip gone awry ended up flipping Caleb's life upside down.

"My foot had shrunk a whole size, my leg was atrophied, my body was completely imbalanced and it was giving me a lot of pain," Richardson told News 3. He fought through the pain.

Richardson would get surgery on his foot. But his back began to become a problem. By this point, wrestling was causing more harm than happiness.

Caleb Richardson warming up vs. CMU

"I remember coming home I had got hurt real bad in practice and I was like, it’s over," said Richardson. "I was really internalizing that it was done. I was never going to have a chance to reach my full potential.”

Another surgery later, and another problem arises; A cat scan revealed a benign tumor in his back. That would require two more surgeries to remove it, but Caleb would get back to the mat.

“He’s just a really tough individual," freshman teammate Killian Cardinale said. "I mean most people I think after going through all the injuries he’s been through, would’ve checked out awhile ago."

His family was there for him every step of the way. His father wrestled at ODU, and his mother Laura Hastings, played field hockey under Beth Anders.

During her freshman year, Laura tore her ACL, giving her a perspective to share when Caleb was sidelined.

“I think I was living my own feelings through him. The first time he called me he was training at the Olympic center, and he just sounded really hopeless,” Hastings told News 3.

Caleb Richardson wrestles. 

This season, Caleb says he's "feeling better than ever." He enters the weekend at 12-and-15, with his final regular season dual meet of his collegiate career at Duke on Saturday.

Although his wires endured some frays, Richardson continues to charge towards his ultimate goal; becoming an NCAA All-American.

“Nobody stopped believing in me. Nobody ever stopped believing in what I could do or what I could be.”