After one of the strangest wrestling seasons in history, the Huskers head to the offseason with more questions than answers.
Nebraska, widely considered one of the best teams in the country coming into the NCAA Championships, will finish either 12th or 13th as a team with 38 points. Iowa State has a chance to jump the Huskers with 38.5 points if their 3-seed David Carr can win the 157-pound national title. He’ll be favored to win against 4-seed Jesse Dellavecchia of Rider.
Six Big Ten teams will end up ahead of Nebraska in Iowa, Penn State, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State and Northwestern.
With all that said, Nebraska will have an eventful offseason with six senior starters set to make decisions on whether they want to return for another year.
But the Huskers also have some things to be excited about as they head home from St. Louis. Mikey Labriola secured All-American honors for the second time in as many tries. After finishing 6th as a freshman in 2019, Labriola finished 3rd on Saturday.
Senior Chad Red Jr. suffered an injury early in the consolation semifinal match and was obviously hindered by it but he continued on and wrestled his way through until the end, finishing in 6th place. Red is a four-time All-American for the Huskers after finishing 7th in 2018, 8th in 2019, and 6th on Saturday. After the cancelled 2020 NCAA tournament, Red was named a NWCA first-team All-American (Top 8). Whether Red returns for another year will impact the Huskers immensely next season.
Mikey Labriola - 174 pounds
3rd place, 6-1 record, 16 team points
The junior came in as the 4-seed and wrestled as you would expect a top contender to wrestle. After falling in the quarterfinal round to 12-seed Bernie Truax of Cal Poly, Labriola won three straight matches on his way to the third-place match.
Labriola started Saturday with a win over 2-seed Demetrius Romero of Utah Valley. Romero started the match with a 2-0 lead on a takedown before riding out the period. Labriola scored a second-period escape, But Romero went up 3-1 with an early escape in the third.
The Husker hit a nice go-behind on a Romero shot for a takedown to tie the match but quickly fell behind again on a Romero escape. With just over 30 seconds left, Labriola hit a low shot for a takedown to go up 5-4. Labriola rode the period out, erasing Romero’s riding-time advantage for the 5-4 win.
In the third-place match, Labriola saw a familiar foe in Truax, the Cal Poly product that knocked the Husker out of the championship bracket with a 4-2 decision.
On Saturday, Labriola struck first with a first-period takedown before conceding an escape. Truax then scored another escape in the second period to tie the match at 2-all.
In the third period, Labriola was able to drive through for a big takedown onto Traux’s back and was able to score four nearfall points and an 8-2 lead. Truax escaped, but Labriola secured the 8-3 win.
Labriola went 6-1 on the day and avenged his only loss with the third-place win. The junior has a bright future for the Huskers.
Chad Red Jr. - 141 pounds
6th place, 5-3 record, 10 team points
After a stellar Friday, 8-seed Chad Red Jr. was set to face 4-seed Tariq Wilson of NC State. The two have wrestled before, with Red pinning Wilson at last year’s Cliff Keen Invitational.
Red started the match with a shot, but Wilson was able to catch it and go behind for a takedown, but the match was stopped with Red writhing in pain from his left shoulder and arm. Red fell behind 5-0 when Wilson scored another takedown and you could really see that the injury was hindering Red.
Red finished the match but was no match for Wilson in a 12-1 major decision loss.
Red went out and took the mat to face 14-seed Dylan Duncan of Illinois in the fifth-place match. Red had defeated Duncan twice this season, but the Red didn’t have much of a chance due to his injury.
The two wrestled to a scoreless first period, but Duncan was able to get a reversal and a ride-out to go up 2-0 in the second period. Red started on bottom in the third and gave a valiant effort trying to escape with some granby rolls in there, but Duncan rode out the Husker for the 3-0 win.
I feel bad for Red. After putting things all together and going 4-0 on Saturday, he looked to have the momentum for a third-place run. But there is obviously no shame in a 6th-place finish at NCAAs.
I know his dad Chad Red Sr., his high school coach, was proud of his son’s performance.