By Colin Anderson
Eli Richards, Senior
When Bonners Ferry senior Eli Richards took 6th place at the state wrestling tournament as a freshman, people took notice. Eli would take another step forward as a sophomore, placing second at the state tournament. The culmination of his dedication to the sport would happen his junior year as a state champion, an honor that he also repeated as a senior. Eli won the triple crown of wrestling: State Champion, USA-Idaho Freestyle Champion, and Greco State Champion.
Eli wrestled this past season at 182 pounds, and with a lack of experienced regional wrestlers at his weight class, he had to rely on a unique training situation with his teammates. “I had Jackson Rickter at 220 pounds and Marcus Regehr at 145 pounds to drill with. It was great to have these two in the room to practice. Even with the range of our weights, we made it work. They both have gone to Fargo with me and have been traveling with me for years, so their experience was an added plus,” said Eli. Seeing the potential in Eli, former Badger wrestlers Zack Heigel and Justin Pluid also stepped in to practice to challenge him, something Eli very much welcomed and appreciated.
While much of his success can be attributed to his own hard work and dedication, Eli is confident he wouldn’t be the champion he is today without the massive support he’s received throughout his career. “It takes more than just me to succeed; it takes a village of coaches and great people to raise a state champion and being grateful for all the ones that help me achieve my goals.”
From raking leaves at the Bonners Ferry Vet Clinic to stacking wood and other odd jobs and tasks to raise money for travel to tournaments, Eli is now in the position to accept a full-ride college scholarship. He’s been contacted by many programs and is currently narrowing down his choices. While in school he plans on studying criminal justice and can envision working for the Border Patrol.
As he prepares for even tougher competition ahead, Eli is thankful to continue the sport in which he’s dedicated so much of his life. “I love it. Wrestling is so small in people’s eyes around here, but, on the other hand, how popular the wrestling world is, once you get involved and are able to travel and experience such things as I been able to do and being part of a huge wrestling family, it’s just amazing.”