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Wrestling: Some Husker Seniors Make Decisions on Returning

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Nebraska’s lower weights get a boost with the return of Liam Cronin and Chad Red, while Caleb Licking will not return

Four-time All-American Chad Red Jr. will return for another year along with NCAA qualifier Liam Cronin.
Jon Johnston / Corn Nation

For Nebraska, much rides on the decision of its six seniors. No official word has been put out, but FloWrestling is reporting that three of these Huskers have made their decisions.

Both Liam Cronin and Chad Red Jr. are set to return for another senior year after this past year didn’t exhaust a year of eligibility. Cronin finished the year ranked No. 19 at 125 pounds, while Red sits at No. 7 at 141 pounds.

Fellow senior and 2021 starter Caleb Licking has elected not to return for another year, so the Huskers will need to find a new starter at 157 pounds.

Impact at 125 pounds

Cronin coming back is a huge boost for the Huskers, not just now but in the future as well. The senior went 10-5 in 2021 but disappointed in the postseason after going 7-1 during the regular season. Cronin failed to achieve All-American status after qualifying for the 2021 NCAA Tournament. I think he’s looking to get on the podium next year.

Not only will Nebraska have a solid presence at 125 this coming year, but this means the Huskers can give freshman Jeremiah Reno a real redshirt year. Letting him compete in some tournaments unattached and go through a full season will be huge for his development. Reno was a four-time state champ in Missouri and went 179-0 in high school. He won freestyle national titles at the cadet and junior levels while in high school, so his ceiling appears to be sky high.

In his first year on campus, Reno wrestled three extra matches and went 1-2.

With nobody else on the roster at 125, Nebraska will rely on Cronin staying healthy to keep Reno’s redshirt intact.

Impact at 141 pounds

Chad Red Jr. has manned the 141-pounds spot for the Huskers for four straight years and has earned All-American honors all four years. He has a career record of 82-38 and is coming off his best NCAA finish after coming in 6th in March.

Red has an exciting style and a lot of energy. The team seems to feed off his energy at times, so his return helps Nebraska immensely.

With Red returning, the Huskers can now redshirt Brock Hardy. Hardy, who started at 149 pounds the first half of the year as a true freshman, is the future for Nebraska at 141 pounds, according to Nebraska head coach Mark Manning. Hardy went 5-3 in 2021 with his first collegiate match a win over then-No. 19 Michael Blockhus of Minnesota. He went 2-2 against ranked foes.

The dilema is this: Hardy arrived as a freshman in 2020 after a two-year Mormon mission, so he’ll be 21 at the start of the season. If he redshirts this year, he’ll be a 22-year-old redshirt freshman in 2022-23, so I’m not entirely sure the Husker staff wants him to sit another year.

This could cause some extra intrigue. Yes it’s true that every year there are guys changing weight classes, but Nebraska has a lot of options at the lower weights. Hardy could stay at 149 for a year and compete with Ridge Lovett for the spot while Red finishes out his career. The sophomore Lovett did overtake Hardy midway through the season and competed at 149 in the postseason for Nebraska, nearly winning a Big Ten title. So, Hardy beating out the talented Lovett would be a tall order.

Then again, Manning has indicated that Lovett may not be done growing and moving up in weight. He wrestled at 133 as a freshmen then was up at 149 as a sophomore. I got the impression from Manning that Lovett is destined to be a 157-pounder. If that’s the case, then Red, Hardy and Lovett could start for the Huskers at 141, 149 and 157, respectively.

With the opening at 157 and no experienced wrestler to fill it, that would probably be an ideal scenario.

Impact at 157 pounds

Caleb Licking will not return for the Huskers after going 5-8 in 2021 as a first-year starter. He went 2-2 at the Big Ten tournament to finish in 7th place before failing to place at NCAAs with a pair of losses.

So if Lovett doesn’t move up to 157, the Huskers have two options in redshirt freshmen Kevon Davenport and Bubba Wilson. They’re talented and were highly-ranked recruits, but they’re both also unproven.

Davenport was a four-time state champ out of Michigan and was the No. 22 overall recruit coming out of high school in 2019 according to FloWrestling. He finished his redshirt year with an 18-4 record at 149 pounds before moving up this season to 157. He went 0-2 on the year with both losses coming in extra matches during the regular season.

Wilson was a Kansas state champion who was ranked as the No. 11 recruit at 152 pounds coming out of high school. During his redshirt year, Wilson went an impressive 19-1. He’s talented and will have every shot at this spot.

Also at 157, Nebraska will get to redshirt Nic Stoltenberg. The three-time Nebraska state champ from Omaha Skutt, Stoltenberg came into the program in 2020 but didn’t see the mat during his freshman season that was shortened due to Covid-19.

Nebraska also signed three wrestlers who project at or around 157 pounds in this recruiting class in Adam Thebeau, Jagger Condomitti and Scott Robertson. Thebeau was a two-time state medalist for Belleville East in Illinois, while Jagger Condomitti will be taking a gap year and training at the Olympic Training Center until arriving on campus in 2022. Condomitti is the No. 4-ranked recruit in the country at 160 pounds by FloWrestling. Also joining the Huskers is Scott Robertson of Millard South who will be taking two years off to complete a Mormon mission and will join the team in 2023.

Huskers Yet to Decide

Taylor Venz, the No. 9-ranked wrestler at 184 pounds, has not announced a decision yet. The senior holds a career 82-30 record and is a two-time All-American. In 2021, Venz went 9-5 and finished runner-up at the Big Ten Championships.

Eric Schultz also has not decided yet. He is a four-time NCAA qualifier at 197 pounds but has yet to get on the podium. He has an 86-30 career record after going 12-3 in 2021 and finishing runner-up at Big Tens.

At heavyweight, Christian Lance is yet to decide if he’s coming back after going 10-7 in 2021. He finished fifth at Big Tens and qualified for the NCAA tournament. Lance has a 27-16 record as a Husker after transferring from Fort Hays State in 2018.