Richard Carlson has always meant business when he steps inside the wrestling room at Mitchell Hall.
This season though, he's setting a second example for his younger teammates.
Following a All-America season and sixth place finish at the NCAA Division III Championships in 2015, Carlson suffered a torn ACL while playing rugby.
He was forced to delay his senior season and spend seven months recovering.
"It's not fun getting back into the swing of things. It's kind of like you have to re-establish yourself," Carlson said. "You were gone for a year, you step back into the room and some of these guys don't even know who you are."
Carlson spent countless hours in the gym getting back into shape. He even chose to lose weight and wrestle 10 pounds lighter at the 174 pound weight class.
"It was kind of a weird transition because having taken a year off, I actually lost a little bit of weight just due to not training," Carlson said. "It was nerve-racking. 'How much did I miss out on? How far back am I? Am I set back or am I going to pick up right where I left off?'"
He got his answer soon enough, winning two of his three matches at the Augsburg Open in November. He is currently 17-2 this season, with six pins.
"His one loss is division 2, a guy that's ranked second in the nation from Mankato State, that was a close match," head coach Dave Malecek said. "A couple weeks ago he got beat by the defending national champion, 2-1, from Messiah. He's had a great season."
Senior Alex Friedman wrestles with Carlson in practice, and said his teammate always gives him a good look.
"He's a guy that comes in and works every day. You like to see when hard work pays off, and I think in Richard that's the case," he said.
Carlson's ultimate goal is still to win a national title. While his passion hasn't changed, his appreciation has.
"At the end of the day, I know I want to win a national title, but I always remind myself that I do this sport because I love it, my parents love watching me wrestle," Carlson said. "I've learned so much from it, it's more the experience. Adding that national title would be icing on the cake but all-in-all, I've had an awesome experience here."