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The Tournament that Never Was

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With no NCAA Tournament, what’s next for Nebraska Wrestling?

Nebraska freshman Ridge Lovett shows love to the fans after a win against Michigan.
Dylan Guenther / Corn Nation

Tonight was supposed to be the finals of the NCAA Wrestling Tournament.

For a team like the Huskers, the cancellation of the national tournament due to the COVID-19 pandemic was especially painful.

Nebraska was fresh off its best finish ever at the Big Ten Conference tournament, coming in second place behind the juggernaut that was the Iowa Hawkeyes. Nebraska beat both Penn State and Ohio State by over 20 points, meaning the Huskers were primed for their best NCAA tournament in forever. Maybe ever.

Nebraska has never finished higher than third (1992-93) at the NCAA tournament, but it was conceivable that Nebraska would be able to finish in the top three this year. With the top-4 bringing home trophies, the Huskers were a shoe-in to bring another team trophy home.

But it’ll always be the tournament that never was.

With some good looking individual NCAA seeds, Nebraska looked like a team that could make a deep run.

All 10 of Nebraska’s wrestlers earned automatic qualifying spots after the conference tournament. No other team accomplished this feat. Iowa had 10 qualifiers, but only had 9 auto-qualifiers and needed an at-large bid to qualify Kaleb Young at 157 pounds (he was knocked off in the conference tournament by Nebraska freshman Peyton Robb).

Nebraska had three freshmen (two redshirts) set to make their NCAA tournament debuts. Five Huskers who had previously been named All-Americans (Chad Red at 141, Isaiah White at 165, Mikey Labriola at 174, Taylor Venz at 184, and Eric Schultz at 197) were set to compete with high-level seeds. Schultz held the highest seed at No. 3, but five total huskers were top-10 seeds.

With the end of the season coming sooner than we all wanted, I’ll be taking a look at who’s coming back, who’s arriving, and just an overall outlook for each weight class.

With the entire news cycle focused around the coronavirus at the time, hopefully I can help some wrestling fans take their minds off it for a little bit. That’s the hope at least.