Nebraska was well-represented this weekend at USA Wrestling’s Last Chance Qualifier event in Fort Worth, Texas.
The Husker contingent was led by an unlikely alum in Tanner Farmer. The former offensive lineman for Nebraska who played from 2014-18 also dabbled on the mat. Farmer, a native of Highland, Ill., was a two-time state champion in high school where he went undefeated as a junior and senior.
While on the football team, Farmer often worked out and practiced with the Husker wrestling team. In fact, he competed as a freshman in 2015 at heavyweight, going 5-1 in open tournaments. As he became a bigger part of the football team’s success, Farmer didn’t compete after that season, mainly because of the weight cut to 285 pounds when Farmer was playing football well north of 300 pounds.
After graduating, Farmer went on to get some looks from some NFL teams like the Indianapolis Colts and the Houston Texans before moving on to the CFL with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
After that brief stint with professional football, Farmer found himself taking graduate classes at Concordia while being a volunteer assistant for the football team. After finding out that he had a semester of eligibility in another sport, Farmer joined the Concordia wrestling team and had to cut 25 pounds to make the 285-pound weight limit, but he went 26-1 and finished as the runner-up at the NAIA National Championships in 2020.
Farmer then went on to finish fourth at the 2020 Senior National Championships in Greco-Roman wrestling, a form that only allows upper-body attacks.
This weekend, Farmer showed the strides he’s made when he won the 130 kg title, going 4-0 and outscoring his opponents 36-1 along the way. Farmer downed Tom Helton 9-0 by technical superiority in the finals, punching his ticket to this next weekend’s Olympic Wrestling Trials, which will be telecast by NBC.
Tyler Berger Just Misses Cut
Former Husker and current assistant coach Tyler Berger has been solid on the senior level since ending his career at Nebraska with a loss in the 2019 NCAA 157-pound final. Wrestling at 74 kg, Berger came into Saturday’s men’s freestyle event as the 4-seed.
Berger quickly dispatched of his first two opponents with 10-0 tech falls, but the former Husker couldn’t figure out a way to score on 5-seed Vincenzo Joseph. Joseph is a former Penn State wrestler who won two NCAA titles while making the finals three times. Berger fell to Joseph 6-0 and dropped into the consolation bracket.
After that loss to Joseph, who went on to finish runner-up, Berger went on a serious run through the backside of the bracket. He beat Quentin Perez 13-4 before upsetting top-seed Ryan Deakin in the consolation round of 4. Berger simply dominated Deakin with a takedown 30 seconds in and four gut-wrench turns for the 10-0 tech fall in 1:02.
After that, Berger faced 2-seed Alec Pantaleo in the consolation semis. With the match tied at 4-all after the first, Berger got an early takedown in the second to go up 6-4 before playing defense while giving up two step-out points to earn a razor-thin 6-6 win by criteria.
In the 3rd-place match, Berger downed 6-seed Joey Lavelle 4-3 with both of his takedowns coming in the opening seconds of each round.
What’s unfortunate for Berger is that the top-2 wrestlers advance to next weekend’s Olympic Trials. As such, this tournament implements a true-second match if the second and third-place wrestlers had not wrestled in the tournament. Chance Marsteller downed Joseph in the final 5-0 and Berger had already lost to Joseph, but had Joseph beaten Marstellar, Berger would have wrestled Marstellar for second place and an Olympic Trials berth.
Two More Huskers Compete
Current Husker sophomore Alex Thomsen tried his hand at an Olympic Trials berth in Greco-Roman at 60 kg.
The 2020 Senior National Championship at 60 kg in Greco, Thomsen went 4-2 on Friday to finish in fourth place. After winning three straight into the semis, Thomsen fell to eventual champion Travis Rice 5-2. After a win by pinfall in the consolation semis, Thomsen lost in the 3rd-place match 9-0.
In men’s freestyle at 74 kg, former Husker Collin Purinton had a respectable tournament. After finishing his Husker career in 2020 with a 3rd-place finish at the Big Ten Championships at 149 pounds, he started strong this weekend by beating Elroy Perkin 10-0 by tech fall in just over a minute. Purinton then fell in the round of 16 to 6-seed Joey Lavalle 11-6. Purinton then beat Sammy Cokeley in his first consolation match before falling to Quentin Perez 12-8 in his next, finishing the day with a 2-2 record.