The USMC US Open Championships started on Wednesday and will go through Sunday, May 1 in Las Vegas.
With World Team Trials spots on the line as well as the top seeds (going to the winners of the brackets), this weekend’s US Open will go a long way in seeing how successful these future, current and past Huskers can be this summer on the freestyle and Greco-Roman circuits.
Nebraska will be represented by a total of 15 wrestlers. Four former Huskers will compete this weekend, while nine current Nebraska wrestlers will also take the mat. Also competing are 2022 signee Antrell Taylor and recent 2023 commit Kael Lauridsen.
Lauridsen kicks things off for the men this morning in U17 Greco-Roman. He’ll also wrestle on Saturday and Sunday in U17 freestyle.
The U20 and Senior Men’s freestyle divisions will both compete Friday and Saturday. Then the Senior Greco-Roman division will compete Saturday and Sunday.
US Open Entrants
Senior Men’s Freestyle
3-seed Tyler Berger
70 kg (154 pounds)
A former NCAA runner-up and then an assistant coach for the Huskers, Tyler Berger has made some big strides in the past year or so. He’s recently moved out to California to train full time with the Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club.
In 2021 alone, Berger took third at the Last Chance Olympic Qualifier at 74 kg, finished fourth at the 2021 US Open at 70 kg, and took third at the World Team Trials at 70 kg. Then he started his 2022 season off with a gold medal at the Bill Farrell Memorial Open against a tough field.
And now that six-time World Teamer and former teammate James Green has retired, the 70 kg spot is wide open for some new blood. As the 3-seed coming in, Berger is part of a foursome of real contenders alongside 1-seed Alec Pantaleo, 2-seed Jordan Oliver and 4-seed Anthony Ashnault.
Berger is 2-1 against Pantaleo in his career, losing 6-2 in their last meeting at the 2021 US Open at 74 kg after downing him in both 2019 and earlier in 2021.
Berger has never wrestled Oliver though, as he’s moved up from 65 to 70 kg while Berger has dropped from 74 to 70 kg. Berger should enjoy a noticeable size advantage in this potential matchup.
And against Ashnault, Berger is 1-0 with his lone match against him being a 6-6 criteria win in the finals of the Bill Farrell Memorial Open just last month (video below).
Berger is already qualified for the World Team Trials in May, but a win this weekend would secure him the 1-seed in that tournament and a much more manageable path to a berth in Final X to decide the World Team spot.
74 kg (163 pounds)
The former Husker who started at 149 pounds for Nebraska in 2019-20, Collin Purinton also wrestles for the Sunkist Kids currently.
He’s also come along recently, as he finished in third-place at the Bill Farell Open last month.
In a stacked bracket, Purinton will need to pull some upsets to get into the Top-7 placers who qualify for the World Team Trials.
79 kg (174 pounds)
Isaiah White was a three-year starter for Nebraska and went 70-21 after winning a Division II National Championship for Notre Dame College.
White has decided to stick around Lincoln and continue on into the senior freestyle scene. White has some freestyle success, as he won the 2014 Fargo Junior National Championship at 145 pounds. Then last month, he competed and went 2-2 at the Bill Farrell Open.
Honestly, 79 kg is one of the toughest and deepest weights at the Open. White qualifying for the World Team Trials is a long shot, but it’s possible.
5-seed Christian Lance
125 kg (276 pounds)
The Husker heavyweight just finished his collegiate career with All-American honors at the NCAA Championships. Now, he’s decided to continue his wrestling career at the senior level.
Lance competed at both the World Team Trials and the US Open a year ago, placing fifth at the Open to earn his spot at the World Teams Trials.
The 5-seed this weekend, Lance is likely to qualify for his second shot at a World Team spot.
Senior Men’s Greco-Roman
4-seed Alex Thomsen
60 kg (132 pounds)
After starting as a freshman at 125 pounds, Thomsen moved up the past two seasons to 133 and has been a spot starter. He’s currently 19-25 for his Husker career.
But it’s been on the Greco-Roman scene that Thomsen has really excelled. Thomsen comes into this weekend as the 4-seed on the back of his 2020 Senior National Championship at 60 kg. The 9-seed in that tournament, Thomsen upset the 1-seed Taylor LaMont 10-4 on the way to his title.
UPSET ALERT No. 9 Alex Thomsen takes out No. 1 Taylor LaMont, 10-4 pic.twitter.com/GF7PuOTe9N— USA Wrestling (@USAWrestling) October 9, 2020
In 2017, Thomsen won a Junior National Championship in Greco. Then in 2021, he finished third at Senior Nationals and fourth at the Last Chance Olympic Qualifier, both in Greco.
Despite his struggle with folkstyle in college, Thomsen is a legit Greco threat and could absolutely win his second Senior National Championship.
U20 Men’s Freestyle (Formerly “Junior”)
61 kg (134 pounds)
A former super-recruit, Dominick Serrano won a Cadet National Championship in 2018 and a Junior title in 2019. In 2020, Serrano competed at both Senior and Junior Nationals.
As a Husker, Serrano is 13-14 at 133 pounds for his career after starting the second half of 2021-22.
The former undefeated Colorado high school wrestler, Serrano has proven to be very dangerous in freestyle and absolutely has a chance to navigate this bracket for another Junior title.
65 kg (143 pounds)
A former Grand Island standout and Nebraska state champion, Blake Cushing went 13-4 this past season while redshirting at 141 pounds.
He doesn’t have a lot of freestyle experience, so it’ll be fun to see how the talented in-state product looks against the best in the country at his age level.
70 kg (154 pounds)
The former Nebraska state runner-up for Norfolk, Joshua Licking went 3-2 at 157 pounds in 2021-22 while redshirting.
Without a lot of freestyle background, it’s hard to tell how Licking may fare this weekend. It’ll be interesting to see how a lot of these young Huskers stack up.
74 kg (163 pounds)
Nebraska’s lone 2022 signee in the U20 division, Antrell Taylor is competing for the MWC Wrestling Academy as a former standout for Millard South. The three-time Nebraska state champion will be joining the Huskers for the 2022-23 season.
On the freestyle scene, Taylor is already fairly accomplished. Last year he finished fifth at the Cadet World Team Trials.
With his explosive nature and lazer-quick takedowns, Taylor’s style is perfectly suited for freestyle wrestling. I’m looking for the future Husker to turn some heads this weekend.
74 kg (163 pounds)
Adam Thebeau spent this past season redshirting for the Huskers but didn’t make it on the mat.
Thebeau, an Illinois native, placed eighth at last year’s Junior National Championships in freestyle in Fargo, ND. He has some freestyle acumen, so he could rack up a few wins this weekend.
Elise Brown Ton
79 kg (174 pounds)
Husker freshman Elise Brown Ton redshirted this past season and finished with a 10-6 record.
On the freestyle scene, Brown Ton finished fourth at the 2019 Cadet World Team Trials, so he’s got some real promise.
86 kg (190 pounds)
Freshman Nathan Haas has taken an unorthodox route at Nebraska thanks to the free Covid year in 2021. Haas started three duals in 2021 as a true freshman behind Taylor Venz, going 2-1 in those duals. Then, he went 8-0 in 2021-22 while redshirting and figures to replace Venz in the lineup next season at 184 pounds as a redshirt freshman.
A Cadet National Champion in 2018, Haas was a big-time recruit and has some real freestyle skill. He’ll be fun to watch in Vegas.
92 kg (203 pounds)
Silas Allred is another freshman coming off redshirt that looks to be a starter for the Huskers next season. He went 7-0 this past season while redshirting and is the odds-on favorite to take over for Eric Schultz at 197 pounds.
Without a lot of freestyle experience, the talented Allred will be interesting to watch as well.
97 kg (214 pounds)
Zak Taylor came to Nebraska as a heavyweight but wrestled this past season at 197 pounds. He went 4-5 on the year while redshirting.
This weekend, he’s registered at 97 kg (214 pounds), so I imagine the extra weight will help a guy that likely struggled to get down to 197.
U17 Men’s Freestyle and Greco-Roman (Formerly “Cadet”)
55 kg (121 pounds)
Nebraska’s most recent commit out of Bennington, Kael Lauridsen will look to defend his 2021 Cadet National Championship in Greco-Roman from a year ago. After also finishing fourth in freestyle in 2021, Lauridsen secured Team USA’s berth at the Pan-American Championships where he won gold medals in both freestyle and Greco.
This year, he’ll again compete at 55 kg but will be going against some of the best 120-pounders in the country. And unlike the Senior and Junior levels which will use this weekend’s results to seed and fill its World Team Trials tournaments, this weekend’s U17 action will act as a World Team Trials tournament. Each competitor competes in both freestyle and Greco with the World Team members being selected in best-of-three final matchups.
A year ago, Lauridsen finished runner-up at the Cadet World Team Trials in freestyle, so I’m sure he’s hungry for another shot at that World Team spot.