Medal of Courage — Richard Perry
by National Wrestling Hall of Fame
Richard Perry suffered a terrible head injury on August 27, 2018 during a USA Wrestling National Team training camp at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.
Participating in a drill with foam-padded batons, Perry took a shot to the face and the foam protection dislodged, allowing the baton’s thin, hard central rod to slip through a hole in his protective facemask.
The end struck Perry’s eye orbit, shattering it. The pieces then penetrated Perry’s brain tissue.
Perry almost died and doctors initially did not believe that he would recover, noting that if he did survive, he would be bedridden or, at best, in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
Perry’s injuries left him completely paralyzed for months, unable to speak, move, or eat on his own.
With support from the wrestling community from around the world, Perry began to show signs of improvement and eventually was able to have the brain surgery necessary to remove the portion of his skull that had penetrated into his brain.
Perry then spent almost three more months in an inpatient facility, learning to talk, move his left hand, use his fingers and control his arms.
He also had to relearn basic functions, including walking, writing, reading, chewing, and showering.
After being told he would not walk again, the husband, father of three and wrestler challenged himself and was determined to walk out of the hospital.
On November 16, 2018, Perry walked unassisted out of his hospital room, into an elevator, down a hallway and out of the hospital.
In December of 2020, following countless doctor visits, cognitive, speech and physical therapy, and specialized strength and mobility sessions, Perry returned to the mat and began training again with his coach Hall of Fame Distinguished Member Brandon Slay and the other members of the Pennsylvania Regional Training Center in Philadelphia.
Perry did not begin wrestling until his junior year of high school, finally succumbing to the pleas of Mark Fong, the freshman football coach at Middletown High School in Connecticut who also guided the varsity wrestling team.
Fong’s instincts proved right and Perry became an instant starter for a state championship team.
After a third-place finish in his first season, Perry’s wrestling reached a new level as he traveled to tournaments around New England during the offseason.
The additional mat time and competition resulted in a Connecticut state championship as a senior.
He continued his wrestling career at Bloomsburg State, qualifying for the NCAA Division I tournament three times while winning over 100 matches and an Eastern Wrestling League title.
After college he began competing internationally, making his senior debut at the 2014 Bill Farrell International Tournament where he earned recognition as the Outstanding Wrestler winning gold while beating an Olympic silver medalist and national team member. In 2015 Richard competed at the Belarus Alexander Medved Grand Prix and the Bill Farrell International Tournament where he placed third.
Perry was a two-time finalist at the Dave Schultz International Tournament and at the U.S. Open.
Perry placed fifth at the 2016 Olympic Trials and finished fourth at the World Team Trials in 2017.
In 2018, he was a finalist at the Ukraine Outstanding Tournament, the U.S. Open and the World Team Trials. He earned a spot on the U.S. National Team, but did not get a chance to compete because of his accident.