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Senior Nationals Results and Observations

22 Huskers competed at Senior Wrestling Nationals, here’s what we learned

Eric Schultz, seen here wrestling in a dual against Minnesota in February, took home fifth place at the US Senior Nationals Freestyle Wrestling Championships at 97 kg on Sunday in Coralville, Iowa.
Jon Johnston / CORN NATION

As we moved on to Sunday’s final day of the US Senior Nationals, Nebraska had two wrestlers take the mat. In case you missed it, 14 of Nebraska’s wrestlers saw their tournaments end on Saturday. Check it out here.

Eric Schultz was the best wrestler for the Huskers this past season, and I think he’ll do it again. At Senior Nationals, Schultz was the No. 12-seed. But apparently nobody told that to Schultz.

The Husker senior wrestles at 197 pounds in college but was all the way up at 97 kg (214 pounds) this weekend so he was going against some much bigger men. Despite sometimes being overpowered, Schultz more than held his own. In his first match Saturday, Schultz beat 5-seed Benjamin Honis before being pinned by 4-seed Kyven Gadson, who was simply enormous compared to Schultz. The Husker then beat 10-seed Scottie Boykin 12-10 to advance to Sunday’s consolation quarterfinal.

On Sunday, Schultz opened things up with a narrow 9-7 win over 11-seed Lucas Davison. Moving onto the consolation semifinal, Schultz took on 2-seed Hayden Zillmer who won Senior Nationals a year ago at 97 kg. The defending champ proved too much for Schultz, downing him 10-0 by tech fall in the second period. Schultz then moved on to the 5th-place match where he was scheduled to face top-seeded Olympic Champion Kyle Snyder. But the reason Snyder found himself in a 5th-place match at all was due to an injury in the semifinal round causing him to injury default out.

Also in action Sunday was Husker senior Christian Lance. After going 2-1 on Saturday, Lance took on 8-seed Daniel Chaid in the consolation quarterfinals. In a very evenly matched contest, Lance fell 6-6 on criteria, moving on to the 7th-place match. Lance wrestled 4-seed Tate Orndorff for seventh place and downed the Utah Valley product who will wrestle for the Ohio State Buckeyes this coming season as a senior. As a big underdog, Lance fell to an early 4-0 lead when he was thrown for a takedown and an exposure. He fended off Orndorff the remainder of the first period.

Lance was immediately on the offense in the second period with a quick shot to an ankle pick. Lance turned it into a takedown and a turn for four points, tying the bout. With two minutes remaining, Lance secured another takedown to go up 6-4 and managed to fend off Orndorff’s attacks to end the bout with a win and a 7th-place finish. Lance went 3-2 throughout the tournament.

What We Learned

Some guys had to wrestle up, some wrestled down

With the tournament only using the six Olympic weights in freestyle (57 kg, 65, 74, 86, 97, 125), so many wrestlers aren’t at their ideal weight classes and have to move up or down in weight. In non-Olympic action, there are typically 10 weight classes with the addition of 61 kg, 70 kg, 79 kg and 92 kg.

As I mentioned, Schultz was up in weight at 97 kg. He was wrestling 17 pounds above his college weight. Also wrestling up significantly in weight was Mikey Labriola. Labriola wrestles at 174 pounds in college and was wrestling at 86 kg (190 pounds) this weekend, so 16 pounds above his college weight. Those are significant jumps.

Some Huskers opted to move down in weight, highlighted by Kevon Davenport and Dominick Serrano. The freshman Davenport will wrestle at 149 pounds this season for the Huskers and was even projected in high school as a future 157 or 165-pounder due to his frame. But Davenport made weight at 65 kg (143 pounds) this weekend. When moving down in weight classes, a difference of six pounds is significant. Also moving down was Serrano, who is an incoming freshman who will wrestle at 133 pounds this season. He went down eight pounds with a drop to 57 kg (125 pounds).

Weight class moves coming into focus

There are a lot of variables here. We haven’t seen these guys compete in seven months. There’s been a quarantine due to a global pandemic. A handful of guys for Nebraska wrestled up in weights, but much of that was due to there only being Olympic weights.

Two guys in particular interested me with their weight classes. Ridge Lovett, a sophomore who is listed at 133 pounds, competed in Greco-Roman at 67 kg (148 pounds). As I see him moving up as his career continues and growing into that long frame, it’s possible that process has been accelerated and he’s possibly outgrown 133 pounds.

Also listed at a heavier weight was Peyton Robb, who wrestled at 157 pounds as a redshirt freshman. Robb competed in Greco-Roman at 77 kg (170 pounds). With the added intrigue over who will move up to take Isaiah White’s spot at 165 pounds, that question may have been answered this weekend with Robb all the way up at 170.

As I touched on, Labriola and Schultz both wrestled above their college weights, but I don’t see that as a sign of any changes. Labriola, Taylor Venz and Schultz are locked in at 174, 184 and 197. With Venz and Schultz being seniors and Labriola a junior, I could see Labriola moving up to 184 as a senior, but that’s obviously down the road.

Nebraska’s Greco-Roman champion Alex Thomsen, who won on Friday at 60 kg (132 pounds), could also be primed for a move up from 125 pounds to 133.

Pecking order at Heavyweight forming

Going into the season, I was looking at this spot as a battle between Lance and Wyoming transfer Cale Davidson. Nebraska did bring in junior college transfer Landon Brown, but I didn’t expect him to compete for the job. What happened this weekend answered a lot of questions for Nebraska’s heavyweight competition.

First of all, after that performance, the job is Lance’s to lose. I anticipated Davidson taking the job this year, but Lance put an end to those projections. Brown went 1-2 at Senior Nationals while Davidson went 0-2. Both guys have much ground to make up to catch Lance.

Nebraska has a solid core

Nebraska had nice performances from its top guys but also saw some things that could shake up the lineup. In freestyle, it was Schultz, Chad Red Jr., Venz, Lance, Davenport and Labriola leading the way. They combined to go 19-12 at Senior Nationals, while the rest of Nebraska’s wrestlers went a combined 10-20.

In Greco-Roman, Alex Thomsen turned some heads with his win at 60 kg (132 pounds). The 10-seed Thomsen outperformed 5-seed Liam Cron for Nebraska, who was brought in as a transfer from Indiana to compete for the 125-pound spot.

Robb, another guy that will help anchor this year’s team as well as for years to come, took fourth place with a 4-2 record in Greco on Friday at 77 kg.