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Nebraska Wrestling’s 149-pound Outlook

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Husker look to replace departing senior Collin Purinton

Nebraska’s coaches (from left) volunteer assistant Tyler Berger, assistant coach Robert Kokesh, head coach Mark Manning and (standing) associate head choach Bryan Snyder have a few options in replacing departing senior Collin Purinton.
Jon Johnston / Corn Nation

Previous weight-class previews: 125, 133, 141

Who’s Leaving?

* Senior Collin Purinton (2019-20 starter)

* Junior Zemua Baptista

Who’s Coming Back?

*Grades representative of upcoming 2020-21 season

* Senior Caleb Licking

* Redshirt freshman Kevon Davenport

New Arrivals?

*Recruiting rankings from InterMat

* Freshman Brock Hardy (Ranked No. 2 at 145 pounds in 2018 class)

Analysis

As I’ve mentioned previously, there is a void at 149 pounds with the graduation of Collin Purinton. Purinton had a solid senior year, going 18-9 overall with a 7-5 dual record. The senior went 5-1 at the Big Ten Championships to finish in third place with his lone loss to eventual champion Pat Lugo of Iowa. It’s unfortunate that the NCAA tournament got canceled for Purinton, as he was peaking heading into the year end tournament.

It’s a mystery to me as there isn’t news on it, but it seems Zemua Baptista is off the team as he’s no longer listed on the Husker roster. Baptista went 5-3 this past season and didn’t take the mat for the Huskers after November 2019.

As stated previously, it’s possible that senior Chad Red Jr. moves up from 141 pounds to 149 pounds. If that’s the case, it’ll be his spot in 2020-21.

If Red stays at 141 pounds, senior-to-be Caleb Licking will get a long look going into next season. The Norfolk, Neb. native finished the year 17-5 with a 2-0 dual record. Licking really turned some heads in the season-ending dual against Minnesota when he moved up to 157 pounds to wrestle in place of redshirt freshman Peyton Robb when he missed weight. Licking defeated Ryan Thomas 6-0 in a dominant effort.

Next up is redshirt freshman Kevon Davenport, Nebraska’s unofficial hype man. Watching the Huskers this year, it was almost impossible to miss Davenport. Whether jumping around, cheering on his teammates, or pumping them up before matches, Davenport took an active role despite sitting on the sidelines during a redshirt year.

On the mat, Davenport has an impressive resume. The freshman went 18-4 while redshirting. Two of those “losses” were forfeits to teammates in tournaments, so really he only suffered two losses. He won a pair of tournaments in the Daktronics Open and the Hastings College Open. Statistically, Davenport racked up bonus points in bunches, as he recorded eight wins by pinfall, three by technical fall and three more by major decision. So, 14 of his 18 wins were bonus-point victories.

As a recruit, Davenport was highly touted. Along with Ridge Lovett, Davenport was a top prize in 2019. Lovett was the No. 19 overall recruit in the class while Davenport was ranked No. 22. A four-time state champion from Detroit Central Catholic High School, Davenport was the Detroit Free-Press Athlete of the Year in 2019.

Nebraska welcomes another top recruit this season in Brock Hardy. Hardy, a 149-pounder from Utah graduated high school in 2018 and is finishing up his two-year LDS mission to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He joins the Huskers for this upcoming season as a freshman. Hardy comes in with a laundry list of accomplishments on the mat. The four-time state champion also won five titles at USA Folkstyle Nationals. He was ranked as high as No. 2 at 145 pounds.

Despite his pedigree, I anticipate Hardy taking a redshirt year to get back into wrestling shape after taking two years off. It’ll be interesting to see how long that’ll take, as he’s a guy that is destined to be a starter for the Huskers sooner rather than later.

Prediction

In the end, I see Red staying at 141 pounds, so I believe the Husker coaches will hold an open competition between Licking and Davenport. And as solid as Licking has looked, Davenport is still the favorite in my eyes. The energy the freshman brings is infectious and he’s been impressive on the mat as well. His athleticism is next-level and his wrestling pedigree is long. After spending a season redshirting, I see Davenport winning this starting spot.

Projected Depth Chart

  1. Kevon Davenport (R-Fr.)
  2. Caleb Licking (Sr.)
  3. Brock Hardy (Fr.) (Redshirting)