It was 1981, the last time a Diplomat wrestler garnered All-America recognition. That changed in March, when F&M standout Rick Durso ’15 placed eighth in the 141-pound bracket of the NCAA Division I Championships in Oklahoma City to become the first F&M All-American wrestler in more than three decades.
Durso’s run through the NCAA Championships has put the Diplomats back on the map in the Division I wrestling world and has set high expectations for student-athletes who will follow him at F&M, says Diplomat head coach Mike Rogers. Wrestling is the only F&M varsity sport that competes at the Division I level.
“Rick placing in the top eight in Division I is a major accomplishment for the program, as it shows that you can accomplish your goals at Franklin & Marshall,” said Rogers, whose team posted a 7-6 dual-meet record for its first winning season in eight years. “It also has established our program on a national level. He laid the groundwork and blazed the trail for athletes to follow.”
“You can clearly accomplish the same things here as you can anywhere else in the country,” Durso said. “We have great coaches, and they provide us with the necessary tools to make it to the top.”
A native of Broomall, Pa., Durso started the season with 13 consecutive wins and ended with the second-most victories in F&M history with 37—behind only the 39 wins he earned during his sophomore campaign. He captured four tournament titles during the season and won three straight matches in the consolation bracket of the prestigious Ken Kraft Midlands Championship at Northwestern University to place fourth, the best-ever finish for an F&M wrestler at the tournament.
Durso earned third at the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) Championships, the junior's third straight trip to that competition’s medal stand. To get there, he had to claw his way back through the consolation bracket after suffering a 4-2 upset at the hands of Boston University’s Tyler Scotton—the wrestler he later defeated, 3-0, in the third-place match.
In Oklahoma City, Durso started out with two early decisions before dropping a close 4-3 match to No. 4 Devin Carter from Virginia Tech. He bounced back in the consolation round with a dominating 13-2 major decision over Oklahoma State’s Anthony Collica in front of Collica’s home crowd to secure All-America status, before dropping his last two matches of the tournament.
“We expect Rick not only to compete for All-America status again next year, but to fight for a national title,” Rogers said. “I think Rick has the ability and the skills to be the top wrestler in his weight class in the country.”
Durso currently ranks second on the all-time F&M victory list with a record of 106-28 and trails only Blackman, who racked up 117 wins in his career. If he is able to accomplish his goal of becoming a national champion, he would become just the third F&M wrestler to do so, joining Chris Black ’72 and John Stevenson ’72—and it would be another important step in restoring glory to F&M’s rich wrestling tradition.
“I’ve had a lot of alumni reach out to me, whether it’s at tournaments or messaging me on Facebook,” Durso said. “They are very supportive and enthusiastic about what we are doing with the program, and having their support means a lot to me, my teammates, and our coaches.”