How’s that for a hometown performance?
The Huskers had two wrestlers win U23 Wrestling National Championships on Saturday at the Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln, securing their spots on Team USA for the U23 Wrestling World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia in November.
Both Peyton Robb and Mikey Labriola went undefeated on the weekend while a handful of other Huskers had quality performances. Robb won at 74kg in freestyle, while Labriola won the 79kg division. Junior Cale Davidson finished fifth at 97kg, while Ridge Lovett took sixth at 70kg and Alex Thomsen finished seventh at 61kg. In Greco-Roman wrestling, Nebraska’s lone entrant was heavyweight Austin Emerson at 130kg. Emerson finished in seventh place.
Also wrestling but not placing in freestyle were Chad Red at 65kg, Bubba Wilson at 74kg, and Elise Brown Ton at 79kg. Red went 1-2, while Brown Ton went 0-2. Wilson lost his only match via injury after injuring his left leg less than a minute into his first match. The injury looks to be either his knee or his hip as his leg got caught under him while getting turned. Wilson, who is a serious contender for Nebraska’s 157-pound spot this year, couldn’t put weight on his leg so that will be something to monitor as the season approaches.
Nebraska joins Iowa as the only school with two representatives on the 10-man U23 World Team. The Hawkeyes will send Myles Wilson (86kg) and Tony Cassioppi (125kg) to Belgrade.
74 kg - 1st Place
Nebraska’s Robb was an absolute force as he coasted into the best-of-three final. In his four matches leading up to the finals, Robb outscored his opponents 40-0 with four 10-0 wins by tech fall. He spent only three minutes, 42 seconds on the mat in that time.
In the finals, Robb faced Princeton All-American Quincy Monday. Robb opened up a 10-1 lead in the first period of the first match with a couple takedowns and three exposure. Robb and Monday wrestled an even second period with Robb earning the 12-3 win.
In Match 2, Robb started things off with a big move. After catching Monday’s shot, Robb lifted and flipped Monday for a four-point move. Monday then evened things up with a takedown and a trapped-arm turn.
In the second period, Robb went up 5-4 with a push-out. Robb gave up a push-out with four seconds left, evening the score at 5-5, but the Husker still led the match on criteria (highest-point move). As Monday tried a desperation sprint, Robb came out on top of the late exchange for another takedown, giving him the 7-5 win.
79 kg - 1st Place
Labriola wasn’t quite as dominant as Robb was, but the two-time All-American got it done with a perfect 6-0 record. Labriola started things off with a 10-0 win over Nick Incontrera before downing Casey Randles 7-3. Labriola then beat DJ Shannon of Illinois 6-0 in the quarterfinals before coming from behind to beat Indiana’s DJ Washington 5-3 in the semis.
In the first match of the finals against Drexel’s Michael O’Malley, both men had a hard time scoring. O’Malley scored a big early takedown in the first period, but the Husker was solid defensively the rest of the match. With 48 seconds left in the match, Labriola was still trailing 2-0 when he was put on the shot clock (two passivity calls and a wrestler gets put on a 30-second clock. If there is no score in that time, their opponent gets a point.). Needing some offense, Labriola was able to pick O’Malley’s ankle before transitioning to a double-leg for a takedown, giving him the 2-2 criteria win (most recent score).
In the second match, Labriola again went on the clock for passivity. This time, he couldn’t score so O’Malley went up 1-0. Heading into the break trailing for the third-straight match, Labriola left no doubt in the second period. Labriola evened things up when O’Malley gave up a shot-clock point. Labriola then got two takedowns to go up 5-1 before a late push-out cut Labriola’s win to 5-2.
97 kg - 5th Place
The former Wyoming transfer, Davidson was initially registered for 125kg, which was expected with his move up to 285 pounds in college. However, Davidson wrestled at 97kg (214 pounds) where he went 3-2 to finish in fifth place.
After winning his first two matches by tech fall, Davidson ran into a buzzsaw in the form of Jay Aiello of Virginia in the semifinals. Aiello, the eventual champion, outscored his opponents 48-1 on the weekend, so Davidson’s lone point in his 11-1 loss was the only point Aiello surrendered.
Davidson then lost 10-0 to Jack Flynn in the consolation semis before coming back to beat Peter Ming via pinfall in the second period of the 5th-place match.
70 kg - 6th Place
Ridge Lovett put together a solid performance at U23 after winning Junior Nationals last year. After an opening win, Lovett fell to Doug Zapf 8-1 in the round of 32, sending him to the consolation bracket.
Lovett then beat Ty Raines 17-15 in a wild match before rattling off five more wins in the consolation bracket. In the consolation semis, Lovett was dominated by All-American Brayton Lee of Minnesota in a 12-2 loss. Lovett then dropped his 5th-place match 12-1 to another All-American in Northwestern’s Yahya Thomas.
Lovett finished with a 7-3 record on the weekend.
61 kg - 7th Place
Thomsen won his first match 13-6 over Matthew Berlin before taking a loss to Dylan Shawver of Rutgers in the round of 16. Thomsen then beat Ohio State’s Michael DeAugustino 9-2 to start a string of three-straight wins in the consolation bracket.
Another loss in the consolations sent Thomsen into the 7th-place match where he faced Malyke Hines. Thomsen secured an easy 15-5 win to finish seventh.
Thomsen finished the weekend with a 5-2 record.
Austin Emerson (Greco-Roman)
130 kg - 7th Place
Emerson wrestled at 130kg in Greco and started things off with a 7-0 win over Ethan Bunce. In the quarterfinal round, Emerson fell to Spencer Trenary 9-1.
In the consolation bracket, Emerson beat Trent Ragland 5-0 before falling to Caleb Warner 3-1. In the 7th-place match, Emerson downed Jonovan Smith 7-1, finishing with a 3-2 record on the weekend.