Tim Jackson, the Head Editor of the school newspaper, has agreed to join the wrestling program for a season-long series of articles highlighting the program and it's wrestlers through stories from both on and off the mat. Tim has put together an extensive series of article topics. Below is the ninth story in the series.
Squaring off against many of his competitors, Richard Durso is the young one. As a freshman, he's relatively inexperienced and lacks the seasoning of his older wrestling counterparts who have been around the block a few times. But that hasn't slowed him down.
With 16 victories, the first-year 141-pounder has more wins than anyone else on the F&M squad. He has established a high standard for himself, and he is one of several reasons to be excited about what lies ahead for F&M wrestling. Durso is excited about what he has accomplished thus far, but recognizes the need to keep working and to remain hungry.
"It feels good," Durso said when asked about his fast start. "It looks like a good road from here. However, you just can't be satisfied with where you're at. At F&M, there is a lot of good competition. I've already gotten better in the few months I've been here. To get better here requires a lot of heart."
Despite his accomplishments as a wrestler, Durso was not always enamored by the sport. He had to be coaxed by those around him to stay with the sport, and he admits the first years as a wrestler were not always kind. He struggled to catch on and it wasn't until high school that he really began to enjoy the sport.
"I have been wrestling since kindergarten," Durso said. "My Dad asked if I wanted to go out [for wrestling] as a kid and I said yes. I didn't love it at first. I cried after my first practice. It wasn't until high school that I really started to love it."
That image is a far cry from what Durso has become. He is the leader of what many hope will be a rejuvenation of the program. Along with the other members of his freshman class, Durso believes the goal of restoring the Diplomats to prominence can be achieved. He's a quiet guy, but beneath the soft, reserved exterior is a passionate kid. He wants to win and he wants to be remembered as one of the wrestlers who helped F&M bounce back.
"When it comes to wrestling, I hope the freshman class is the start of a new tradition," Durso said. "When I graduate, I want to know we helped start a new tradition here. I want to know we started to turn the program around."
Although he exudes confidence and truly believes F&M is on the verge of turning around what was recently a sputtering program, he realizes the task will require a great deal of work and dedication. It will need to come not only from himself and his fellow freshman, but from everyone involved with the program as well. He may have more wins than anyone else on the team, but he acknowledges the tremendous contributions and guidance that comes from everyone around him.
In particular, Durso singled out Matt Fullowan as someone he hopes to emulate and hopes his class will take after as they continue to grow and develop into the leaders of the program.
"Fullowan is a great influence," Durso said. "I look up to what he's doing. He's always working and making the sure the freshmen are staying hungry."
It may take awhile, but Durso is convinced that, with a little heart, he and his teammates can accomplish a lot in there time at F&M.
"Heart goes a long way," Durso said. "With it, you can pretty much accomplish anything. Not just in wrestling, but in the business world as well. It's the key to everything."
Durso's quote about heart and how it translates to the world outside wrestling is indicative of how Durso views the world. He's a division one wrestler, but at the same time, he is cognizant of the world off the mat. He recognizes he cannot focus solely on wrestling.
Likewise, Durso is humble when it comes to his status. At a primarily division three school, he believes that wrestling at the division one level does not make him any more special than his athletic counterparts, nor does it mean he works harder than they do. He is held to the standard that every other athlete at F&M is, and he likes that. In Durso's mind, every athlete at F&M is on an equal footing. Everyone works hard to excel at his or her respective craft.
"Hard work," Durso said when asked what it takes to combine the rigors of a division one sport with the academic demands he faces in the classroom. "I really have to stay on top of it. It's a division one sport, but you can't let it go to your head. It may be a little tougher competition, but everyone is putting in that same hard work."
Durso is perhaps one of the most well rounded individuals on the wrestling team. In high school, Durso placed an emphasis on his studies and he did his best to acquire as many friends as he could. He has continued these efforts in college, aspiring to be a business major and seeking out friendships both within and outside the wrestling program.
"I like to stay on top of my schoolwork," Durso said. "I also want to be remembered as a good guy. I want to be remembered as a good friend. I've already made a ton of friends outside the team."
"In high school, I had a very large group of friends," Durso added. "I spent a lot of time outside with my friends. I like to be outside doing things rather than sitting inside on a couch."
Durso credits these friendships and his adventurous personality with keeping him focused and ambitious during his years leading up to college.
It isn't hard to believe Durso has amassed a large friendship base throughout both his high school and college tenures. Despite his quiet nature, he is a likable individual. Sitting at a table in the College Center, teammate Colin Ely leaned over his shoulder and told me Durso was a "stellar athlete, model citizen, and has the most sock savvy on the team."
Quirks like Durso's stylish socks are what make people want to hang around him. When asked about what Ely meant when he said "sock savvy," Durso replied, "Always gotta have a good appearance. Look fresh. I always have to make sure the colors are matching."
He may be quiet, but he's the kind of guy people want to be around. A lot of that comes from his humble nature. He may have more wins than any other wrestler at F&M, but he hasn't lost focus and recognizes he still has much to learn. In his mind, the seniors still run the ship and he is still trying to absorb as many tidbits of information from them as he possibly can. In short, Durso has a burning desire to improve and is convinced that to do so will require hard work and attention to detail. He could let his early success go to his head, but he has chosen to remain grounded.
Perhaps that is a product of what the sport has taught him over the years.
"Wrestling teaches you mental toughness," Durso said. "A lot of it is a mix of natural talent and hard work. You can't have the former without the latter, however."
If Durso is indicative of what the future is like for the F&M wrestling program, there is much to like. Durso has launched a successful career at F&M and he is eager to reach his full potential. He may not be as outgoing as Ely or as physically imposing as some of his wrestling counterparts, but he wrestles as if he has been around the block more than a few times.
He's come a long way from crying after his first practice. Durso will be a leader for F&M wrestling for years to come.