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2022 Wrestling Awards: MVP, Best Takedown, Best Pin, etc.

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We look at MVP, Best Takedown, Best Pin, Most Improved, Best New Starter, and Top Redshirt

Nebraska’s Ridge Lovett walks onto the mat during a dual against Illinois.
Dylan Guenther / CORN NATION

With the 2021-22 season over, it’s time to dole out some postseason awards.

Nebraska had one of its best seasons in years, finishing 5th at the NCAA Championships.

2021-22 Season Awards

MVP

Ridge Lovett (So.) - 149 pounds

After taking over as the starter at 149 pounds midway through the shortened 2021 season, Ridge Lovett cemented himself as one of the best in the Husker lineup in 2021-22.

The Husker sophomore finished his season with a 24-4 record, giving him the highest win percentage among Husker starters (.857). He also was the main reason Nebraska finished in 5th-place at the NCAA Championships, as he went on to the NCAA final before falling to now-3x NCAA Champion Yianni Diakomihalis.

Lovett started his season with two dominant performances at the Nebraska Duals in November of 2021. He won via 18-0 tech fall before a first-period pin. Lovett went on to down then-No. 6 Zach Sherman of North Carolina 4-3 in an early-season dual.

After going 2-0 before medical forfeiting out of the Dakronics Open, Lovett traveled to Las Vegas to take part in the Cliff Keen Invitational. There he won his first three matches, including a win over then-No. 6 Jaden Abas of Stanford in the quarterfinal round. That set him up for a match against Diakomihalis in the semis. Lovett gave Diakomihalis his closest match of the season, but the Husker ultimately fell in sudden victory 6-4. Watch that match below.

After taking his first loss of the season, Lovett went on to beat Oklahoma’s then-No. 15 Mitch Moore in the consolation semis before finishing third with a win via medical forfeit.

Turning the page to the Big Ten dual season, Lovett went 7-1 in those matches with his only loss to eventual Big Ten Champion Austin Gomez of Wisconsin. Lovett lost a close 4-2 decision. In Big Ten dual action, Lovett picked up wins over some of the conference’s best in Yahya Thomas of Northwestern and Beau Bartlett of Penn State.

Going into the Big Ten Championships, Lovett earned the 3-seed. He won his first two matches, including a tough 2-0 decision against Rutgers’ Mike Van Brill in the quarters. Then in the semis, Lovett was humbled as Gomez locked up with the Husker in an upper body exchange that saw Lovett get thrown to his back and pinned in just 20 seconds.

Lovett then beat Michael Blockhus of Minnesota 9-5 before finishing in 4th place with a medical forfeit loss in the 3rd-place match.

Onto the NCAA Championships, Lovett again beat Abas of Stanford before knocking off 7-seed Josh Heil of Campbell via 8-1 decision. Then Lovett really announced his presence at the tournament as he pinned undefeated 2-seed Tariq Wilson of NC State in the second period of their quarterfinal matchup.

Lovett then moved on to face 11-seed Bryce Andonian of Virginia Tech in the semis. In a match between two guys who love to scramble, Lovett came out on top via 5-4 decision.

In the NCAA final, Lovett had a rematch against Diakomihalis. This time though, Diakomihalis showed just how far he is ahead of the field with an 11-5 dismantling of Lovett.

In my opinion, the best thing that could have happened going into the upperclassman portion of Lovett’s career may very well be that he got beaten so badly by Diakomihalis. Lovett comes across as a competitive guy who likes to work on his game, and he found out exactly how far he is away from being elite like Diakomihalis.

Hopefully, that loss only makes him more hungry this off season. That was the kind of experience that should fuel him all summer as he works to improve for his junior season.

Best Pin

Taylor Venz vs. Abe Assad (Iowa)

In a season-ending dual against No. 2 Iowa on Senior Night, the Huskers started slow against the Hawkeyes in falling behind 17-3. But the Huskers put together an impressive near comeback in the upper weights, highlighted by an emphatic pin and the all-important six team points that go along with it.

Facing then-No. 16 Abe Assad, Venz tangled with the Hawkeye in an upper-body exchange that Venz played perfectly. Smashing the Hawkeye on his back, Venz eventually got the pin and some much-needed momentum going into the Big Ten tournament.

Best Takedown

Ridge Lovett vs. Beau Bartlett (Penn State)

Down 11-0 in their dual against No. 1 Penn State, Nebraska’s Ridge Lovett completely controlled the match against then-No. 15 Beau Bartlett on the way to a 6-0 shutout.

During the match, Lovett looked to be all but taken down when he somehow went from having his left foot above his head with his butt on the mat to getting his feet down and planting for a double-leg takedown.

It was one of the best takedowns I’ve ever seen. Same goes for Jim Gibbons and Shane Sparks.

Most Improved

Christian Lance (Sr) - 285 pounds

Coming from Division II Fort Hayes State as a sophomore, Nebraska’s Christian Lance didn’t start until his senior year in 2020-21, but with the extra year of eligibility Lance decided to come back this season.

Lance went 10-7 in his first year as the lone starter in the shortened 2020-21 season. He qualified for his first NCAA tournament but went 1-2 and didn’t place.

This past year, Lance still struggled against the very top guys like Gable Steveson, Tony Cassioppi, Greg Kerkvliet and Mason Parris. Who didn’t? But the Husker big man made some noticeable strides on both offense and defense.

A major factor in Lance’s improvements was the addition of volunteer assistant coach Tervel Dlagnev. The Olympic bronze medalist at heavyweight worked wonders in turning Lance into an All-American.

Lance finished the year with a 19-11 record, but where he really showed up was at the NCAA Championships. As the 12-seed, Lance made it to the medal stand with an 8th-place finish in a stacked heavyweight field.

On his way to All-American status, Lance knocked off the undefeated 5-seed Wyatt Hendrickson of Air Force before later downing 18-seed Lewis Fernandes of Cornell in sudden victory in the Round of 12 to secure a spot on the podium.

Lance will most certainly be missed in the Husker locker room.

Best New Starter

Bubba Wilson (R-Fr.) - 165 pounds

In his first season in the starting lineup, Bubba Wilson had a solid season. In a tough Big Ten at 165 pounds, Wilson finished with a 14-14 record on the year.

Wilson took eighth place at the Cliff Keen Invitational early in the year before going 3-4 in Big Ten dual action. The highlight of his first season definitely came when he upset Michigan’s then-No. 12 Cam Amine via 5-3 decision. You can watch the final period of that match below.

As the 8-seed, Wilson went on to finish in sixth place at the Big Ten Championships, taking out higher-seeded guys in 7-seed Hayden Lohrey of Purdue and 5-seed Caleb Fish of Michigan State along the way. His only losses came to eventual All-Americans Carson Kharchla of Ohio State and Dean Hamiti of Wisconsin.

With his impressive showing at Big Tens, Wilson earned an automatic qualifier spot in the NCAA tournament. At NCAAs, the 27-seed Wilson dropped his first-round match to 6-seed Amine 3-1 before getting his first NCAA win in the consolation bracket with a 3-1 decision over 22-seed Rodrick Mosley of Gardner-Webb. Wilson then fell in his next match and did not place.

But for a freshman in the starting lineup, Wilson held down his weight admirably.

Redshirt of the Year

Silas Allred (Fr.) - 197 pounds

This was possibly the hardest award to pick the winner for.

Nebraska had a total of 12 guys redshirting this past season, and there were more than a few standouts. Nebraska has 133-pound transfer Boo Dryden in redshirt as a junior as he went 14-0 in open tournaments. Freshman Nathan Haas went 8-0 on the year, while Brock Hardy went 5-0. Jagger Condomitti, who will likely compete with Wilson at 165 next year, went 9-1 as a redshirt with four pins.

But it was ultimately freshman Silas Allred at 197 pounds who gets the nod as the Redshirt of the Year.

Allred is the odds-on favorite to replace Eric Schultz at 197 pounds this coming season as a redshirt freshman. The Indiana native, Allred was a stud recruit who recorded 138 of his 146 career wins in high school by fall. He went 146-2 in high school and was a two-time Indiana state champion. He pinned his way through his senior season on the way to state gold.

It seems that his penchant for winning by either pinfall or tech fall has translated to college thus far. He finished his redshirt season with a 7-0 record. He recorded five pins and a tech fall to go with one win via medical forfeit. It was in his first career match that he downed Northern Iowa’s Adam Ahrendsen 19-4 via tech fall. Then in his season highlight, Allred fell behind against Iowa State’s Yonger Bastida but found a way to get the Cyclone on his back for a pinfall win late in the third period.

What’s most impressive about that particular pin is that Bastida went on to finish as an All-American (5th-place) as a redshirt freshman with a 25-7 record. In their dual this season, Bastida knocked off eventual NCAA finalist Jacob Warner of Iowa.

That’s an extremely impressive win for your second collegiate match.

Allred went on to pin all four of his next opponents on the season, all in the first period.

I’m really excited to see what this redshirting class can bring to the table this coming season because if Nebraska wants to reload instead of rebuild, multiple redshirts will need to jump into the starting lineup and succeed right away.