LEXINGTON, Va. – Following his third season at the helm of the VMI wrestling program, head coach Chris Skretkowicz continued to lead his team to new heights and elevate the status and perception of the program both nationally and within the Southern Conference.
Sophomore Neal Richards, a year after qualifying for the NCAA Tournament, again led the way for the Keydets as he earned a team-best 25 wins for the year including 10 dual wins and five league victories. Ranked as high as No. 18 in the country at 157 pounds, the Chesterfield, Virginia, native also finished first on the team in tech falls with four and dual points (38). He placed first at the Lock Haven Classic and second at both the Bearcat Open and the All-Academy Championships.
Senior Dalton Henderson finished his VMI career strong with a 22-13 overall record that consisted of seven dual wins and three league victories. The Virginia Beach native also showed well at tournaments for the Keydets as he led the team with 15 tournament bout wins on the year. Henderson led the team in major decision wins with six for the season and came in second in both tech falls (2) and dual points (33). A year after claiming the 125-pound title at the All-Academy Championships, he again showed well in 2017 with a runner-up finish.
Fellow senior Shabaka Johns ended his Keydet career with 14 wins in his final year that included a 6-9 dual mark and 3-4 SoCon record. The Indianapolis native had the second most tech falls on the team with two while also coming in second on the team in SoCon wins with three. A team leader, Johns ranked highly among his peers by finishing third on the team in dual points with 22 for the season. He also placed fourth at the Lock Haven Classic in late December.
The youth of the program showed much promise for the future as freshmen Chris Beck (184) and Cade Kiely (165) were named to the SoCon All-Freshman team based on their accomplishments during the year.
Beck won nine bouts on the year including three dual wins and two victories over Southern Conference opponents, which tied for fourth most on the team. In addition to logging six tournament bout wins on the year, the Norfolk, Virginia native registered two pins and totaled nine team points in his three dual wins. He picked up a 4-1 decision over George Mason's Austin Harrison on Jan. 7 for his first career dual win and later that same day earned his first SoCon win over SIUE's Jake Godinez by a 3-1 decision.
Kiely earned a 7-20 overall record for the year, including a 3-10 dual record and 2-4 mark in SoCon bouts. His two SoCon wins tied for fourth most on the team while earning nine dual points for the team over the course of the season. Kiely claimed his first career win as a Keydet at the Southeast Open in Roanoke where he earned a 6-2 decision over The Citadel's Russ Hill. He would go on to defeat Hill in a home dual on Jan. 27 and a third time at the SoCon Championships in which he took a 7-2 decision. A excellent student, he was also a Dean's List recipient and named to the Cadet-Athlete Honors Society.