The Huskers are sending two dozen wrestlers to Iowa this weekend to participate in the 2020 US Senior Nationals in Coralville, Iowa. The competition will take place Friday through Sunday, with Greco-Roman on Friday and Freestyle competing on Saturday and Sunday.
Nebraska will be represented by 24 former or current wrestlers at Nationals with the vast majority being current players (22).
In the Greco-Roman style of wrestling, Nebraska has six wrestlers competing with four of them earning seeds going into the tournament. Indiana transfer and senior Liam Cronin is the No. 5 seed at 60 kilograms. Sophomore Alex Thomsen will be seeded No. 10 at 60 kg.
At 67 kg in Greco, Nebraska will send No. 8 seed Ridge Lovett, a sophomore-to-be, and incoming freshman Brock Hardy. Sophomore Peyton Robb is seeded No. 8 at 77 kg, and Austin Emerson is competing at 130 kg.
On another Husker note, former three-year starter on Nebraska’s offensive line Tanner Farmer, who most recently finished second at the NAIA National Wrestling Championships at heavyweight for Concordia, is seeded No. 5 at 130 kg in Greco. Farmer was on the Husker wrestling team for a short stint while also on the football team.
In freestyle, Nebraska is sending 17 wrestlers, with 16 being guys currently on the roster and the only former Husker in the freestyle field being Collin Purinton. Purinton finished out his career this past season with a third-place finish at the Big Ten Tournament.
Nebraska has four wrestlers that are seeded in freestyle: No. 14-seed Chad Red Jr. at 65 kg, No. 11-seed Mikey Labriola and No. 12-seed Taylor Venz at 86 kg, and No. 12-seed Eric Schultz at 97 kg.
At 57 kg, Nebraska will send both of its prized lightweight recruits in incoming freshmen Dominick Serrano and Jeremiah Reno. At 65 kg, Nebraska is also sending redshirt freshman Kevon Davenport, sophomore Jevon Parrish and junior Christian Miller. At 74 kg, Nebraska will send Caleb Licking as well as Purinton. Freshmen Nathan Haas and Brandyn Van Tassell will join Venz and Labriola at 86 kg, while freshman Silas Allred will compete at 97 kg. At 125 kg, Nebraska is sending a trio of heavyweights in senior Christian Lance and juniors Cale Davidson and Landon Brown.
And I understand, that’s a lot to digest right now. But I’ll help you out by laying out five takeaways going into the tournament.
Nebraska’s Bell Cows Earn Seeds in Freestyle
The four guys that will be called upon to carry the Huskers this coming season also coincidentally are the four Huskers that earned seeds at Senior Nationals. Chad Red Jr. is No. 14 at 65 kg and is always a threat with his athleticism and scrambling ability. Mikey Labriola will be No. 11 with Taylor Venz seeded No. 12 at 86 kg. At 97 kg, Eric Schultz earned the No. 12 seed.
Now, with the fields stacked with top-level current NCAA talent as well as some of the best senior level wrestlers in the country and the world, I see it as a very slim chance that any Huskers really make it deep into the bracket.
If I’m picking one of these four to make a surprisingly deep run, my money would be on Red.
Nebraska has been seriously recruiting some Greco-Roman muscle the past few years. Of the six wrestlers Nebraska has competing at Greco-Roman, four of them earned seeds and five of them will still be underclassmen this season. The transfer Cronin is Nebraska’s highest seed at No. 5 at 60 kg.
Sophomore Alex Thomsen is seeded No. 10 at 60 kg, and don’t rule him out. Thomsen has a serious Greco background, as he won the 2017 Fargo Junior National Championship in Greco.
At 67 kg, sophomore Ridge Lovett is another former Fargo champ in Greco as he won in 2018. Also at 67 kg, Nebraska will send incoming freshman Brock Hardy, who finished runner-up in Greco at the 2016 Junior Fargo Nationals, the same year he won the freestyle bracket, earning double All-American status. Considering Hardy has taken two years off for his LDS mission, this tournament will be interesting to see what kind of shape Hardy is in.
At 77 kg, Peyton Robb is seeded No. 8. The sophomore-to-be was a consistent performer on the cadet and junior circuit, highlighted by a runner-up finish in 2015 and a third-place finish in 2017. He also won the 2017 Minnesota junior state Greco championship at 160 pounds while also winning the 2017 Pan-American Championship at 69 kg in both Greco and Freestyle.
At 130 kg, Austin Emerson is unseeded for Nebraska. The sophomore-to-be was a double Cadet All-American in 2016 (third in Greco, fifth in freestyle) while finishing fourth at Junior Nationals in 2017. Emerson also won state championships in Greco-Roman at the 2017 and 2018 Michigan USA Wrestling State Finals.
How Will the Young Guys Look?
If you haven’t noticed, Nebraska has been killing it on the recruiting trail the past few years. This field of Huskers shows that, as 12 of their 22 wrestlers will be underclassmen this upcoming season. Nebraska is sending seven freshmen and five sophomores, and it’ll be interesting to see how some of these young guys stand up to the big jump in competition.
I’ll be most curious to see how Jeremiah Reno (57 kg), Dominick Serrano (57 kg), Kevon Davenport (65 kg), Nathan Haas (86 kg) and Silas Allred (97 kg) do. Serrano and Reno have both earned Cadet and Junior Fargo Championships and were two of the top-level junior competitors in the country. Their first foray into the senior level will be interesting to watch.
Davenport also has some freestyle chops, as he finished second at the 2017 Cadet Fargo Nationals. Haas is another Husker that won a Junior Freestyle Natonal Championship, winning it in 2018. Allred, who didn’t compete much throughout high school on the freestyle circuit, did come out of nowhere to win the 2019 FloNationals Championship.
Can Unseeded Husker Make a Run?
I’ve already touched on Reno, Serrano, Davenport, Haas and Allred; but the Huskers have a number of unseeded wrestlers that have the potential to pull off some upsets.
Former Husker Collin Purinton could take some people by surprise, while the trio of heavyweights should prove to be interesting, even if just to determine who has the upper hand in the upcoming competition to be Nebraska’s 285-pounder.
Not Many Former Huskers
I’m kind of surprised to not see more former Huskers in the field. Mostly, I’m surprised guys like Isaiah White (2020 graduate and All-American) and Tyler Berger (2019 graduate and NCAA runner-up, current volunteer assistant coach) aren’t competing.
Of the former Huskers competing, I see former Husker offensive lineman and wrestler Tanner Farmer having a much better chance in his bracket than Purinton in his.