We all know football is big in Texas, especially here in Dallas-Fort Worth, but during the 1970s and ‘80s wrestling was also popular. From the famous Sportatorium near downtown Dallas, the world-famous Von Erich family World Class Championship Wrestling and, believe it or not, the Richland Thunderducks wowed audiences in DFW.
From 1973 to 1984, Richland was a college wrestling powerhouse. As the first and only two-year wrestling program in Texas, Richland won numerous team and individual championships in state, national and world competitions, plus 47 individual place finishers. If Richland had a wrestling hall of fame, several wrestlers would have been inducted, including Rudy Perez, who won three national titles and one world championship, and Evan Bernstein, who wrestled in the 1988 Olympic Games.
Unfortunately, competitions held in Kansas nearly every weekend caused Richland to cancel the program in the mid ‘80s. Richland’s head wrestling coach, Bill Neal, has recently organized a school-based wrestling club called the Wounded Ducks in whichstudents competed in tournaments as individuals. After receiving lots of feedback from high school student athletes and parents alongside Neal’s need for local talent, the Dallas County Community College District agreed to reinstate the wrestling program at Richland College.
Neal, the original coach during Richland wrestling’s first run, is back to coach the program. He says it is a wonderful opportunity for North Texas high school wrestlers who didn’t have the grades or couldn’t afford to attend a four-year university out of town.
“That’s great news for high school wrestlers and North Texas families because now they won’t have to travel two or more hours,” said Neal. “ They can come to Richland where the education is affordable and top-notch. Plus, they get to wrestle close to home, which has been a huge priority.”
He has his sights set on restoring the school tradition and delivering more championships to Richland.
With Neal’s 40-plus years of coaching experience that includes the traditional college style wrestling that led to all of those championships, the Thunderducks will be a team to watch this season. Richland is still the first and only two-year wrestling program in the state of Texas and one of only three two-year schools in the Southwest.
The men’s and women’s teams will be affiliated with the National Collegiate Wrestling Association (NCWA) and the Women’s Collegiate Wrestling Association (WCWA). Richland will compete against four-year schools including University of North Texas, University of Texas-Arlington, Texas State University and TexasA & M University. The expectations and standards are high but Richland has been there before. Neal and the Thunderducks will continue to try and prove to everyone that they are still a Texas wrestling powerhouse.