The Nebraska wrestling team brought five wrestlers to Omaha to compete in the UWW Junior and U23 Nationals this past weekend.
And the Huskers brought some impressive hardware back home with them, as sophomore-to-be Ridge Lovett earned the Junior National Championship in freestyle at 61 kg.
Throughout most of the tournament, Lovett was a man among boys. Coming in sporting the cornrows hairdo, the Husker sophomore went 3-0 on Saturday with all three wins being 10-0 tech falls. Throughout those three wins, Lovett was only on the mat for 6 minutes, 1 second.
In Suday’s quarterfinal against Carter Young, Lovett gave up his first points of the tournament when Young took a 4-1 lead behind two early takedowns. Lovett then scored a late first-period takedown to cut his deficit to one. Straight away in the second, Lovett took Young down and put him on his back for a four-point move to go up 7-4 just before ending the match with a pinfall at the 4:01 mark, advancing him to the semifinal round. In the semis, Lovett scored another 10-0 tech fall over Isaiah Delgado in 3:36.
Lovett took on Cole Matthews in the 61 kg final. Matthews wrestles for Pitt and qualified for the NCAA tournament at 141 pounds as a freshman in 2020, much like Lovett qualified for NCAAs as a freshman at 133 pounds.
The first period didn’t have a lot of action, but Lovett was able to score a takedown, taking a 2-0 lead into the final period. Matthews reversed Lovett’s early takedown attempt to tie the match at 2-all, but Lovett scored another takedown with about 30 seconds left and added a point on a push out to go up 5-2.
As time was winding down, Matthews got Lovett in a head-pinch position for a takedown, cutting the Lovett lead to 5-4. As the seconds ticked away, Lovett was forced to fight off the pin attempt as time expired. It was very close to a pin, as the smile on Lovett’s face indicated after the match was called a 5-4 win for the Husker.
Also at 61 kg for Nebraska was freshman Dominick Serrano. Serrano entered the tournament at 57 kg but wrestled at 61 kg, leading me to believe that he probably missed weight and decided to go up a weight class. Despite the move up, the Husker freshman held his own, finishing with a 3-2 record.
In his first match, Serrano squeaked out a 11-10 win over Julian Farber before losing to Cleveland Belton 10-0 in the Round of 32. In the consolation bracket, Serrano won another close one with an 8-7 victory over Patrick Noonan. Serrano then beat Caleb Gross 9-4 before falling 10-10 on criteria to Daniel Kimball.
At 74 kg, Nebraska had another wrestler head home with some hardward as Isaiah Alford finished in fifth place with a 6-2 record on the weekend. Alford outscored his opponents 34-4 on Day 1 with three tech falls before losing 12-1 by tech fall in the quarterfinal round to Cade DeVos to start Day 2.
Moving down to the consolation bracket, Alford was matched up against teammate Elise Brown Ton with the winner being guaranteed a medal (top-8 finish). In a matchup between two Huskers that very well may be vying for a starting spot this year at 165 pounds, Alford got the better of the incoming freshman from Texas. Alford downed Brown Ton 11-1 to advance.
Alford then earned a 14-7 win against Josh Otto before getting pinned in the consolation semifinal round. Alford went on to beat Baylor Fernandes 15-5 by tech fall in the fifth-place match.
Brown Ton went 3-2 over the weekend, starting things off with a quick 10-0 tech fall in the round of 32. Brown Ton then lost by tech fall, sending him to the consolation bracket, where he beat Cory Peterson 8-4 and Grant Cuomo 14-8 before losing to his elder teammate Alford.
In the U23 division, Jordan Kelber competed for the Huskers at 61 kg. Kelber took an early 2-0 lead over Taylor LaMont in his first match before eventually losing 12-2 as LaMont reeled off ten straight points for the tech fall. Kelber then lost to Matthew Berlin 7-4 in the consolation round, ending his tournament with an 0-2 record.