The Huskers were led by a familiar face in five-time World Team member and two-time World medalist James Green, who went 5-0 on his way to a Senior Freestyle National Championship at 70kg over the weekend.
Nebraska had 13 wrestlers competing at the 2021 Senior and Junior Nationals over the weekend at the Xtrema Arena in Coralville, Iowa. Green led the way at the Senior level, while Tyler Berger finished fourth at 70kg. Senior Christian Lance took fifth at 125kg to earn a spot at the World Team Trials in early September. The top-5 finishers at the senior level advance to the World Team Trials, while the Junior champs from this weekend will represent Team USA at the World Championships.
Also at the Senior level, current sophomore Alex Thomsen finished third at 60kg in the Greco-Roman division, while Dominick Serrano led the Husker contingent at the Junior level with a 3rd-place finish in freestyle.
After Green fell short of his bid to make an Olympic team down at 65kg, he moved back up to the weight he’s owned in the United States since 2015. He’s been Team USA’s representative at the weight every year since, and he showed just why as he ran through the competition unscathed as the top seed.
James Green is back in the 70kg throne after taking out Pantaleo 7-2. pic.twitter.com/xwa5oLCUJM— FloWrestling (@FloWrestling) May 2, 2021
Green won his first three matches by tech fall before a tough 4-2 win over 5-seed Brayton Lee in the semifinal round. In the final, Green faced 2-seed Alec Pantaleo. After giving up the initial takedown, Green shut Pantaleo down while recording two first-period takedowns on the way to a 7-2 win.
Green outscored his opponents 44-6 on the way to the title.
Also competing at 70kg was former Husker wrestler and current assistant coach Tyler Berger. Berger narrowly missed out on an Olympic Trials berth at 74kg, so he moved down to a more natural weight at 70kg.
On the opposite side of the bracket, Berger came in as the 3-seed. After a 10-7 win over Michael Blockhus in the opening round, Berger beat Justin Kopet 10-0 by tech fall in 37 seconds to advance to the quarterfinal round. Berger comfortably won a 7-3 decision against 6-seed Yahya Thomas.
In the semis, Berger faced off with 2-seed Pantaleo. Down 5-0 at the break, Berger was able to score in the second period but it wasn’t enough. During the second, Berger and Pantaleo butted heads as both took shots at one another. Both men were injured, with Pantaleo slow to regain his composure and Berger with an eye that quickly swelled up and nearly shut. Despite his efforts, Berger fell to Pantaleo 6-2.
In the consolation semifinal, Berger with his head wrapped up was able to ride an early 6-0 lead to a 7-3 decision, advancing to the 3rd-place match. Having made the World Team Trials already, Berger injury defaulted out to finish in fourth place.
Lance came in as the 5-seed and finished right there. After a 7-0 win over Owen Trephan in the first round, Lance beat Duncan Lee 10-0 by tech fall to advance to the quarters. Lance then downed 4-seed Lucas Davison 6-2 to advance to face 1-seed Nick Gwiazdowski in the semis.
Gwiazdowski, a former two-time NCAA champ and a two-time World medalist, put it on Lance pretty good, but the Husker battled tough and avoided the tech fall, losing a 9-0 decision.
In the consolation semis, Lance fell to Dom Bradley 2-1 in a bizarre match that saw Lance give up two penalty points after being put on the activity clock twice. Lance then beat Matt Stencel 3-1 in the 5th-place match.
Also at 125kg was Landon Brown, a Husker junior. After losing 10-0 in the first round, Brown beat Michell Gruber 10-0 by tech fall in just 20 seconds in the consolation bracket. Brown then fell to Duncan Lee 4-4 on criteria, ending his weekend.
In the Greco-Roman division, Alex Thomsen was looking to repeat as Senior Nationals champ after an unlikely run to the title a year ago. The 2-seed, Thomsen won his first match by technical superiority before falling to 3-seed Dylan Koontz 8-0 by technical superiority in the semifinal round.
In the consolation semis, Thomsen beat Thomas Hicks 10-2 by tech before downing 4-seed King Sandoval 8-0 by technical superiority in 1:06 to take home third place.
The Huskers had eight current or future Huskers competing at UWW Junior Nationals, which decided who will represent Team USA at the Junior World Championships later this year.
Freshman Dominick Serrano led the way for Nebraska with a 3rd-place finish at 61kg. After an 11-0 win in his first match, Serrano won his second match by pinfall over Nick Masters.
In the quarterfinal round, Serrano downed Trey Crawford 12-0 in the first period. Then in the semifinal, Serrano fell to Jesse Mendez 12-2 by tech fall. Mendez went on to win the Junior title, outscoring his opponents 47-8 along the way.
Serrano then went on to beat Cleveland Belton 8-2 in the consolation semifinal before taking on Cullan Schriever in the 3rd-place match. Serrano built up a quick 4-0 lead over Schriever, an Iowa wrestler, with a takedown and a gut-wrench turn. Schriever scored two takedowns to tie the score, but Serrano go another of his own to go up 6-4 at the break.
Midway through the second period, Serrano shot for a low single-leg, but Schriever defended well and worked through for a takedown of his own before going up 8-6 with a gut-wrench turn.
Down late in the match, Serrano was able to put the match away with a blast double-leg and a turn to go up 10-8 before another takedown gave him the 12-8 win for third place.
Kevon Davenport competed at 70kg and finished with a 2-2 record. After a first-round win, Davenport lost 16-5 by tech fall to John Wiley. In the consolation bracket, Davenport won his first match by pinfall before injury-defaulting out of the tournament. It’s unclear what his injury is.
Nathan Haas competed at 86kg and also went 2-2. After a 14-4 tech fall win in the first round, Haas lost via tech fall to Duwayne Villalpando. In the consolation bracket, Haas won his first match 15-4 before getting pinned by Spencer Mooberry.
Rounding out the Huskers competing, freshman Jeremiah Reno went 1-2 at 57kg, while incoming recruit Scott Robertson went 0-2 at 65kg. At 70kg, freshman Nic Stoltenberg went 1-2, while freshman Elise Brown Ton went 1-2 and incoming recruit Adam Thebeau went 0-2. Both Brown Ton and Thebeau wrestled at 74kg.