I know it’s fun to get caught up in football and basketball recruiting, but outside of the volleyball program, Nebraska’s best recruiting machine the past 5-6 years has been the Husker wrestling program.
Head Coach Mark Manning along with his assistants have done a tremendous job the last few years bringing in talent. And with the free year of eligibility granted to wrestlers last year, it meant even less opportunities for freshmen as a wave of seniors returned to wrestle one more season. It also means that two recruiting classes were technically considered true freshmen this season and were still eligible for redshirts, even if they wrestled in duals in the shortened 2021 season. This has led to a wave of young wrestlers that haven’t had a chance to see the mat yet.
This sudden waiver of eligibility has thrown a wrench in about every program’s plans, especially for a team like the Huskers.
Originally, Nebraska had five “super seniors” coming back in Liam Cronin at 125, Chad Red at 141, Taylor Venz at 184, Eric Schultz at 197, and Christian Lance at 285. Cronin went down early in the year with an injury and will receive a medical redshirt. But still, the return of so many starters meant that the bulk of Nebraska’s young studs had to ride the pine for another year when it came to duals and the postseason.
The Huskers have been putting together impressive recruiting classes for a few years, but that talent has largely been stashed away while guys like Red, Venz and Schultz finish out their careers.
To put it into perspective, Nebraska currently has 36 wrestlers on its roster. HALF of those names are freshmen (16 true freshmen and two redshirt freshmen). Seven more are sophomores, while there are six juniors and five seniors.
With half a decade of top recruiting classes, Nebraska has a lot of talent on campus that’s ready to get in the lineup.
Nebraska’s 2022 Class
With that said, Nebraska has an impressive six-man class coming in this fall that just finished out their high school careers. In addition to the six 2022 signees, Nebraska has one 2023 commit who wrestled in his state tournament recently.
Antrell Taylor - Millard South High School (Neb.)
Ranked No. 12 in the country at 170 pounds, Antrell Taylor went on to win his third Nebraska Class A State Championship in February for Millard South.
The senior recorded two pins and a tech fall on the way to the finals where he downed Millard North’s Brian Petry 28-11 via tech fall with 13 takedowns and two back points in 3 minutes, 22 seconds. He finished with a 43-1 season record with his only loss a 1-0 decision in the Cheesehead Invitational final to the No. 2-ranked 170-pounder in the country, Brayden Thompson.
A170: Antrell Taylor securing his 3rd State Title. @PatriotsWrestle pic.twitter.com/mJYZ2WOanx— NE USA Wrestling (@NEUSAWrestling) February 20, 2022
Taylor is an impressive specimen. He likely projects to 165 or 174 pounds in college for the Huskers.
Cameron Graham - Cross County/Osceola (Neb.)
The 2021 state champ at 152 pounds, Cameron Graham put in work this year. He was an astonishing 60-0 on the season, including a 4-0 record at the state tournament to win his second straight state title, this time at 160 pounds.
Graham won all four of his state tournament matches by pinfall, including in the finals when he pinned Grand Island CC’s Ben Alberts who was 49-5 on the year coming in.
Husker commit Cameron Graham of Cross County Osceola is head to the C160 State finals. pic.twitter.com/oXZ7Iz77gR— NEwrestle (@NEBwrestle) February 19, 2022
Graham will likely wrestle at 157 or 165 for the Huskers.
Hayden Mills - Blue Valley Southwest (Kan.)
The senior from Kansas, Hayden Mills went on to capture his third-straight Kansas State Championship in late February. This time the title came at 132 pounds.
A four-time finalist, Mills finished his senior year with a 45-4 record
Mills earned bonus points all the way to the finals when he beat sophomore Harley Zimmerman 8-5 by decision. Zimmerman was 44-2 going into the final.
Mills will likely wrestle for Nebraska at 133 pounds.
Harley Andrews - Tuttle High School (Okla.)
Not just literally Nebraska’s biggest recruit, but figuratively as well.
With a big need at heavyweight, Nebraska secured an early commitment from No. 4-ranked Harley Andrews and he never waivered. He only got bigger, stronger and better.
Andrews, who won state titles as a sophomore (195 pounds) and junior (220), went on to complete another perfect season, this time at the sport’s heaviest weight. At 285 for his senior season, Andrews went 48-0 while capturing his third straight state title.
Harley Andrews - State Champ pic.twitter.com/6qTu1qhS3I— Tuttle Wrestling (@TuttleWrestling) February 28, 2022
At state, Andrews won his first match via 40-second pinfall before shutting out his opponents in the semis and finals. Andrews won via major decision 9-0 in the semis before an 8-0 major decision win in the final. He didn’t surrender a single point during his final state title run.
Andrews, who was ranked No. 23 on the Class of 2022 Big Board by FloWrestling, will absolutely compete for the starting spot at heavyweight in 2022-23.
Danny Nini - Lake Highland Prep (Fla.)
The No. 14-ranked 152-pounder in the country took a big step up after competing at 138 pounds last season. Danny Nini opted to compete at National Prep Wrestling Championships rather than the Florida State Championships this year.
Against the uptick in competition, the No. 14-ranked 152-pounder in the country Nini largely held his own. He pinned his first two opponents before a decision win in the quarters. In his semifinal matchup, Nini lost to top-seeded Joe Sealey of North Carolina 6-3. Sealey went on to win the title and is currently ranked No. 6 in the country at 152 pounds.
Nini won a pair of decisions on the back side to finish third, ending his season with a 3-1 win in sudden victory over No. 15 Nick Kunstek in the third-place match.
Jake Van Dee - Cathedral Prep HS (Penn.)
After winning the 113-pound title as a junior, Jake Van Dee moved up as a senior to 126 pounds. The senior was undefeated before being upset in the 3A regional final, dropping him to 17-1 on the year.
At state, Van Dee won a razor-thin match 2-1 in tiebreakers in the first round before scoring a 13-4 major decision in the quarterfinal round. In the semis, Van Dee was upset by way of 3-2 decision. Van Dee then dropped his consolation semi match 5-3 before rebounding with a win via pinfall in the 5th-place match.
Jake Van Dee with an emphatic final result to his Cathedral Prep wrestling career. pic.twitter.com/rrUWLQjbD4— Mike Copper (@ETNcopper) March 13, 2022
Van Dee finished the year with a 20-3 record and finishes his high school career with a 112-23 record. He’ll join the Husker program as a much-needed 125-pounder.
Alan Koehler - Prior Lake HS (Minn.)
A junior, Alan Koehler is ranked No. 10 in the country at 120 pounds. He went on to win his second straight state title this season at 120 pounds after winning the 106-pound title as a sophomore.
Finishing with a 43-1 record on the year, Koehler won his first state tournament match 22-6 via tech fall. After a 12-5 decision in the quarters, Koehler won 15-0 via tech fall in the semis.
In the final, Koehler won a close 3-1 decision over Zach Silvis of Park High School.
Blessed to win my second state title alongside some great people pic.twitter.com/Cfm7ZQJfXv— Alan Koehler (@AlanKoehler5) March 6, 2022
Koehler could be a 125-pounder for the Huskers, but with another year of high school still Koehler could grow into a 133-pounder for his Husker career.