After going over Nebraska’s individual weight classes in detail (here 125, 133, 141, 149, 157, 165, 174, 184, 197, 285) it’s time to take a stab at what next year’s lineup could look like top to bottom. There are several variables at play here. The Huskers are tasked with replacing an All-American in Isaiah White along with two other starters from the 2019-20 squad that finished second at the Big Ten Conference Championship tournament.
What do they do with the offseason additions to the roster? Do the highly-touted recruits crack the lineup or do they redshirt? Is anyone changing weight classes? If so, how many moves will the Husker staff make to find their best starting ten? A year ago, Nebraska brought in one of the nation’s top classes, and five of those wrestlers are coming off redshirt years. How much of an impact will they make?
Like I said, several variables. Here goes.
Projected 2020-21 Depth Chart
- Liam Cronin (Sr.) - Indiana transfer
- Alex Thomsen (Soph.) - 2019-20 starter at 125 pounds
- Ridge Lovett (Soph.) - 2019-20 starter
- Alex Thomsen (Soph.) -OR- Jevon Parrish (Jr.) - 2018-19 starter
- Chad Red Jr. (Sr.) - All-American
- Christian Miller (Jr.)
- Kevon Davenport (R-Fr.)
- Caleb Licking (Sr.)
- Bubba Wilson (R-Fr.)
- Johnny Blankenship (Sr.)
- Peyton Robb (Soph.) - 2019-20 starter at 157 pounds
- Dalton Peters (Sr.)
- Mikey Labriola (Jr.) - All-American
- Isaiah Alford (R-Fr.)
- Taylor Venz (Sr.) - All-American
- Colton Wolfe (Jr.)
- Eric Schultz (Sr.) - 3-year starter
- Cade Svoboda (Sr.)
- Cale Davidson (Jr.) - Wyoming transfer
- Christian Lance (Sr.) - 2019-20 co-starter
With the addition of Liam Cronin from Indiana, Nebraska brings in an experienced upperclassman, something I think they were lacking this past season in the lighter weights. And you don’t bring in an experienced Big Ten transfer without putting him in your lineup. I don’t think they’ll just give Cronin the job. He’ll still have to compete, but Cronin proved to be the better wrestler between him and incumbent Alex Thomsen in March during the conference tournament.
Freshman phenom Ridge Lovett returns for his sophomore year after going 17-8 as a true freshman. The freshman was impressive as he navigated one of the toughest weight classes in the country’s toughest conference, culminating in an automatic qualifying bid for the NCAA tournament that was later cancelled. The only question is whether he moves up in weight to 141 pounds. The answer could come down to how ready incoming freshman Dominick Serrano is. One of the best recruits Nebraska has signed in years, Serrano was ranked No. 2 in his weight class nationally and finished his high school career undefeated. He has All-American and potential champion written all over him, so if he’s ready to go the coaching staff may decide to make some changes. Potentially, it could cause Lovett to move to 141 pounds and Chad Red Jr. to move up to 149. That’s not a likely scenario, but when you consider the fact that there’s a hole at 149 pounds and that Lovett seems destined to move up to 141 either this year or next, it’s not a long shot either. If Serrano does indeed end up redshirting, Lovett will likely be backed up by Alex Thomsen, who could serve as the backup at both 125 and 133 pounds. Thomsen is yet another young wrestler that seems destined to move up a weight class, especially considering that incoming freshman Jeremiah Reno will most certainly redshirt but seems like the heir apparent after Cronin’s one-and-done stint.
Sorry, that’s a lot to digest. I promise it gets more straightforward now.
Chad Red Jr. is a two-time All-American and three-year starter for the Huskers. He’s easily Nebraska’s most exciting wrestler, and his senior year will not disappoint. He could end up being the emotional leader of this squad and possibly it’s best on the mat.
Coming off a redshirt year, Kevon Davenport looks primed to jump right into a starting spot after the graduation of Collin Purinton. The freshman was often seen throughout his redshirt year jumping and hyping up his teammates, giving him the unofficial moniker of Nebraska’s hype man. That energy will be fun to watch on the mat for the Huskers, especially after the former top-25 overall recruit backed it up with an 18-4 record during his redshirt year.
I am officially All-In on the prediction that Peyton Robb will be at 165 pounds next year, so I didn’t include him at 157 pounds, the weight class he held down as a redshirt freshman. Instead, Nebraska will be trotting out a redshirt freshman for the second time in two years at this spot. Bubba Wilson, the No. 11 wrestler at 152 pounds in the class of 2019, impressed as a redshirt with a 19-1 record. He’ll likely hold this spot for the foreseeable future, and although he’ll inevitably take his lumps in the Big Ten, he could turn into a solid starter and possibly some day become an All-American. He’s got that type of potential.
After going 20-6 as a freshman at 157 pounds with a tough schedule, Peyton Robb cemented himself as one of Nebraska’s best returners. Losing All-American Isaiah White is the biggest blow for a Husker team that is really bringing back the meat of its lineup. With no real replacements on the roster at 165 pounds, Nebraska will almost assuredly move up a wrestler from 157 pounds. I think it’ll be Robb, but the Husker coaches could also slide Wilson up to this weight. I see Robb holding his own better throughout the season after a year of experience and not having to cut as much weight. I expect big things from Robb.
This one’s easy. Junior Mikey Labriola returns for his third year as the starter. Labriola already has 50 career wins and still hasn’t taken the mat as an upperclassman. And he’ll be navigating a weight class that’s been ravaged at the top by graduations, with almost all of the wrestlers ranked above Labriola having expired their eligibility. Big season coming for Labs.
Taylor Venz is another senior that returns for the Huskers looking to finish his career strong. Venz holds 73 wins in a Husker singlet and has the ability and path that’s manageable enough this year to finish as a champion.
Senior Eric Schultz was easily Nebraska’s best wrestler a season ago. After finishing second at the Big Ten Championships, Schultz was a 3-seed going into the NCAA tournament and primed to pick up his first All-American honor. With the one wrestler now out of the way that Schultz couldn’t get past (Ohio State’s Kollin Moore), the path to a national championship seems attainable. The only guy in Schultz’s way now is West Virginia’s Noah Adams who went 32-0 as a sophomore. However, Adams’ last loss was to Schultz in the 2019 NCAA tournament. The Husker senior has as good of a shot as anyone at an individual title.
These upper weights for the Huskers (174, 184, 197) will be fun to watch.
Last year’s in-season transfer Cale Davidson looks like Nebraska’s best option at heavyweight going into next season. Nebraska must replace David Jensen, who represented the Huskers in the postseason each of the last two years. Co-starter Christian Lance gives incredible effort and shows flashes, but when facing top-flight conference foes, he was exposed. After wrestling at 197 pounds for Wyoming, Davidson moved up to heavyweight for Nebraska, going 6-2 during his lone tournament outing of 2020 as a Husker.