Photograph by Jamie Betts

Four decades ago, some of Richmond’s finest wrestlers graduated, started families after graduation, and worked in a range of careers. Some of them, now in their early 60s, met again in November, and it felt as if no time passed.

Eight members of the Richmond wrestling team, along with two of their coaches, gathered over Homecoming, enjoying dinner, football tailgating, and Sunday brunch at D-hall.

“It’s even better than old roommates from campus,” said Russ Rainer, R’80, a national and world champion after Richmond. “These guys shared their sweat and blood together on the mat and working out.”

Seven of the men in attendance were freshmen in 1976–77, a breakthrough season under head coach Don Pate. The program folded in 1982.

“We won a disproportionate amount for such a small, startup program and going up against some of the top programs in the country, and not always having our heads handed to us,” said Jonathan Hölljes, R’80, the reunion’s organizer. “Serving up one of theirs every once in a while, too.”

Decades after wearing the Spider singlet, the bond the men formed was evident as they enjoyed each other’s company, told stories, and roughhoused. They are wrestlers, after all.

“Coming to the University of Richmond was a life-changing experience for not just myself, but the entire team,” Rainer said. “It’s a relationship and an attitude that the university and coaches cared about us, not just as athletes, but as people.”