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 incoming freshman Brock Hardy.
No. 3 Brock Hardy
The incoming freshman took an unconventional path to Nebraska, going on a two-year LDS mission to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil out of high school before attending college.
And boy will it be worth the wait.
Instead of an 18 or 19 year old coming in, Hardy graduated in 2018 and will come in as a 20-year-old freshman at 149 or 157 pounds. Hardy was a four-time state champion at Box Elder High School in Utah and was ranked as the No. 2 145-pounder in the country. Hardy won five USA Folkstyle National titles and went 185-4 in high school.
In freestyle, Hardy was just as impressive. He was the 2016 Fargo Freestyle champion while also finishing second in Greco-Roman, making him a double All-American.
I’ve written about it before, but Hardy has a history with another wrestler that graduated in 2018 who just so happens to be the best college wrestler in the country at 149 pounds. Top-ranked Sammy Sasso of Ohio State and Hardy met three times in their high school years. First time, Sasso beat Hardy at the Cadet Freestyle Nationals 4-1. The following year, Hardy downed Sasso 10-9 in the Junior Freestyle Nationals final (incredible match to watch, video below). Their last match was a folkstyle match at the Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic, a match that Hardy was winning before a reversal by Sasso in the final 15 seconds.
So based on his resume through high school and his resume against the top-ranked Buckeye, I think Hardy has an incredibly high ceiling. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of shape he’s in after his two years away from the mat. Does he need a redshirt year to get back into wrestling shape? Should he move up from 149 pounds to 157? How has the two-year mission affected him?
Some of those questions were answered in early October when Hardy competed at the U.S. Senior Nationals in Greco-Roman wrestling at 67 kg (147.7 pounds). This seems to indicate that Hardy will wrestle at 149 as a freshman, and with winter sports athletes being given eligibility relief by the NCAA, there’s no telling who will see the lineup (I’ll have much more on this later). Hardy went 0-2 in his two matches but was facing senior-level competition after taking a two-year break from competition, so I’ll give him a pass. After getting tech-falled in the first round, Hardy looked solid in a close 3-2 loss in the consolation bracket.
Hardy would have to beat out Kevon Davenport to earn the starting spot at 149-pound weight class, and I don’t see that happening. I feel that Hardy will eventually be a 157-pounder, a weight that’s more in flux than 149 for Nebraska. There are a lot of moving parts and young wrestlers from 149 to 165 pounds for Nebraska, which could allow the Huskers to give Hardy a year to really get back into the swing of things. What Nebraska chooses to do in those weight classes will go a long way in determining its season.
As far as ceiling, I see Hardy as having as high of a ceiling as he wants. He’s a true blue-chip recruit who took two years off to mature and improve himself and help others. I imagine his mental game on the mat is much more advanced than a typical freshman’s, so I don’t see a big learning curve for him. After a “redshirt” year to get into shape and get back into the wrestling lifestyle, Hardy is going to get a starting spot. He could start at 149 with Davenport moving up, or he could start at 157. Or he could move up to 165 if he gets big enough.
Hardy will score a lot of points for the Huskers throughout his career and will be a mainstay at conference and national tournaments.