A look back at the countdown so far:
Determining a wrestler’s ceiling can be a difficult proposition, especially when you consider that Nebraska’s wrestlers are at different points in their careers. So different criteria will be used based on what each wrestler has accomplished as well as potential and time left in the program.
For instance, a senior-to-be who’s already secured All-American honors has hit a certain level and maybe has shown more definitively what his ceiling is. On the other hand, an incoming freshman hasn’t accomplished anything at the collegiate level, but their experience and accolades in high school and on the junior circuit can generally give a good indication of how good they can be in college.
Continuing our Top 10 Huskers with the highest ceilings, we move on to senior Eric Schultz.
No. 2 Eric Schultz
The 2016 recruit out of Tinsley Park High School in Illinois, Eric Schultz was a 2016 state champion. He was ranked No. 4 at 197 pounds in his class and the No. 26 overall recruit in the country. The senior-to-be has lived up to the billing and may very well be Nebraska’s best wrestler this season in a senior-heavy lineup.
In his career, the currently fourth-ranked Schultz has a 66-27 record and is a three-time NCAA qualifier at 197 pounds. Despite not earning All-American honors, Schultz has started since his redshirt freshman season and had an impressive junior season. Schultz went 23-4 this past season and was the No. 3-seed going into the NCAA tournament before it was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. With a seed as high as that, Schultz wasn’t just favored to be an All-American, he had a real chance at an NCAA finals appearance.
Going back, Schultz went 27-3 during his redshirt season and earned the Redshirt of the Year honors. The next season, as a redshirt freshman, Schultz went 20-11 his first year in the starting lineup. After finishing second at the Daktronics Open, Schultz faced Ohio State’s Kollin Moore for the first time at the Cliff Keen Invitational. Moore defeated Schultz 3-2 in the first round. Schultz then defeated then-unranked Jay Aiello of VIrginia 7-4. Aiello is currently ranked No. 3 in the country at 197 pounds as a senior-to-be.
At the Big Ten Championships as a redshirt freshman, Schultz again lost to Moore, a 10-4 loss in the second round. Schultz finished seventh at Big Tens before going 2-2 at the NCAA tournament.
As a sophomore, Schultz went 23-13 on the year and finished in second place at the Cliff Keen Invite. Schultz beat No. 16 Jackson Striggow of Michigan 5-3 before downing Aiello 3-2 for the second straight year. Schultz lost to Moore 8-3 in the final. During the dual season, Schultz struggled against ranked opponents, going 0-5 against ranked foes, including an 8-6 loss to No. 1 Bo Nickal of Penn State(Nickal went on to win three NCAA titles) and a 7-5 loss to Moore.
At Big Tens, Schultz won two matches before losing to No. 1 Nickal 10-2. Schultz went on to lose to Iowa’s Jacob Warner 7-5 in sudden victory in the third-place match. Schultz finished in fourth place.
At the 2019 NCAA Championships, Schultz went 2-2 again and did not place. After a first-round win, Schultz lost to No. 3 Preston Weigel of Oklahoma State 7-2. In the consolation bracket, Schultz went on to beat No. 20 Noah Adams of West Virginia 7-2 before losing to No. 6 Willie Micklus of Iowa State 3-2. The win over Adams is significant, as Adams went 32-0 in 2019-20, winning the Big 12 title and earning the No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. Adams, the preseason No. 1-ranked wrestler at 197 pounds for 2021, last lost to Schultz at the 2019 NCAA tournament.
As a junior this past season, Schultz went 23-4 on the year. Schultz started 9-0 before a pair of losses in his fifth-place finish at the Cliff Keen Invite. In the dual season, Schultz went 13-1 and was the Huskers’ most consistent wrestler. After winning his first five Big Ten duals, including wins over No. 5 Warner of Iowa (video below) and No. 19 Shakur Rasheed of Penn State, Schultz lost to the top-ranked Moore of Ohio State 6-2. Schultz won his final four dual matches before the postseason.
At the 2020 Big Ten Championships, Schultz impressed with a second-place finish. After a pin over Minnesota’s Hunter Ritter, Schultz beat Rasheed 4-3 in the semifinal. Schultz then lost to top-seeded Moore 4-1 in the conference final.
Schultz went 0-6 against Moore in his career, and with the Buckeye out of his way due to graduation Schultz is the favorite to win the Big Ten title at 197 pounds.
After having a very impressive junior season and losing his greatest nemesis (Moore) to graduation, Schultz is positioned to have a real shot at an NCAA title. Ahead of the fourth-ranked Schultz in the preseason rankings are West Virginia’s Noah Adams (No. 1), Cornell’s Ben Darmstadt (No. 2) and Virginia’s Jay Aiello (No. 3). Darmstadt wrestles for Cornell, and the Ivy League has already cancelled its wrestling season due to Covid-19. Schultz owns wins over both Adams and Aiello (he’s 1-0 against Adams and 2-0 against Aiello). At No. 5 is Iowa’s Jacob Warner. Schultz is 1-2 against Warner, but beat him in their only matchup this past season in a dual. Warner won both matchups during Schultz’s sophomore season.
As far as potential ceiling, I think Schultz has the chance to be a conference and national champion this season. He’s certainly not the favorite, but it wouldn’t be shocking if he pulled it off. With the way that the weight class looks, it’s certainly realistic to think that Schultz could win Nebraska’s first national championship since Jordan Burroughs in 2011.
Most recently, Schultz finished in fifth place at Senior Nationals all the way up at 97 kg (214 pounds) so he’ll be in prime form whenever this season starts.