Nebraska Head Wrestling Coach Mark Manning has become the gold standard for Husker wrestling coaches since the program started in 1910. He’s the program’s all-time leader in dual wins and has helped his wrestlers accumulate four individual national titles and 60 All-American honors.
As a team, he’s had ten Top-10 finishes at the NCAA tournament, highlighted by back-to-back 4th-place finishes in 2008 and 2009. He’s also finished fifth twice, in 2004 and this past season (2022). In his 22 years as the head man at Nebraska, Manning has a career dual record of 270-102-3.
As for coaching awards, Manning is highly decorated. He’s a three-time winner of the Terry McCann Award, given to the USA Wrestling Freestyle Coach of the Year. While guiding both Jordan Burroughs and James Green to significant freestyle success, Manning took home the award in 2011, 2015 and 2017.
Then on the college scene, Manning won the prestigious Dan Gable Coach of the Year award in 2009, the top honor for NCAA coaches. He was also named the Big 12 Coach of the Year in 2008 and 2009.
That kind of success only happens with a lot of really good wrestlers in the program. Manning has coached 18 Husker wrestlers to 100 or more career wins, including four of the Top-6 on the Huskers’ all-time wins list.
With Manning set to start his 23rd season at Nebraska, here’s my best attempt at compiling his Top-10 best pupils.
Manning’s Ten Best
10. Stephen Dwyer
Stephen Dwyer held down the 174-pounds spot for Nebraska from 2006-2010. He was a two-time All-American and won an individual Big 12 Championship as a senior in 2010 after finishing runner-up in both 2008 and 2009.
Dwyer finished eighth at NCAAs as a sophomore and took fourth as a senior while finishing his career with a 106-35 record. On the way to his fourth-place finish, Dwyer pitched three-straight shutouts heading into the semifinal round where he lost to 1-seed Mack Lewnes 3-2.
9. TJ Dudley
Wrestling at 184 pounds, TJ Dudley was a four-year starter for the Huskers from 2013-2017. The three-time All-American, Dudley was also a Big Ten finalist and an NCAA finalist in 2016.
After finishing in 8th place at NCAAs as a sophomore in 2015, Dudley made it all the way to the Big Ten and NCAA final as a junior. However, Dudley fell to Iowa’s Sammy Brooks 6-4 in the conference final before beating him at the NCAA tournament in the quarterfinal round. Dudley then fell to 1-seed Gabe Dean of Cornell 5-3 in the NCAA final.
In 2017, Dudley couldn’t get past eventual three-time NCAA Champion Bo Nickal of Penn State, falling to the Nittany Lion at both Big Tens and NCAAs. Dudley finished third at NCAAs though, pinning Brooks in the 3rd-place match to cap off an impressive collegiate career.
Dudley finished with a 114-31 career record at Nebraska, good enough for No. 11 on the Huskers’ all-time career wins list.
8. Tyler Berger
Tyler Berger has always been one of those wrestlers that just keeps getting better, even on the senior level where he’s currently one of the top Americans at 70 kg.
As a Husker from 2015-2019, Berger was a three-time All-American. After a solid freshman season, Berger went 36-6 as a sophomore and finished fifth at the NCAA Championships. Then as a junior, Berger finished higher at third.
But it was his senior year that Berger really cemented his status on this list. He went 28-4 while making it to both the Big Ten and NCAA finals. He finished runner-up in both, however, falling to Penn State’s Jason Nolf in both finals. Nolf went on to end his career as a three-time NCAA champion.
Berger finished his career with a 116-32 record, putting him in the Husker Top-10 in career wins at No. 9.
Berger went on to serve at Nebraska as an assistant coach until recently when he moved out to California to train full-time with the Sunkist Kids.
7. Craig Brester
From 2006-2010, Craig Brester manned the 197-pound spot for Nebraska and finished as a three-time All-American.
Brester was one of the best in the conference throughout his entire career, as he made it to the Big 12 final all four years he competed. The four-time finalist won his lone conference title in 2009 as a junior against top-seeded Jake Varner of Iowa State, earning the Big 12 tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler Award for his efforts.
At NCAAs, Brester finished fourth as a sophomore before finishing runner-up both as a junior and as a senior. Varner beat Brester in the NCAA final in both 2009 and 2010.
Brester went 109-21 in his career for the Huskers and is still in the Top 10 in win percentage for the Huskers (.838).
6. Paul Donahoe
Paul Donahoe has an interesting story at Nebraska, but he’s still one of the best to ever hit the mat for Coach Manning.
After redshirting in 2004-05, Donahoe went on to finish third at the Big 12 Tournament as a redshirt freshman. He then finished runner-up at Big 12s as a sophomore before winning the NCAA Championship that year at 125 pounds, giving Manning his second NCAA champion as a head coach at Nebraska. As a junior, Donahoe went 25-4 and won the Big 12 title before finishing third at NCAAs for his second All-American honor.
In a controversial move, Donahoe was dismissed from the team after his junior year after he was paid to pose nude for a website aimed at gay men. Read about it here. Back then, it was an NCAA violation to profit off of your own image or likeness.
Donahoe finished his Husker career with an 86-18 record with an NCAA title, a Big 12 title and two All-American honors.
Donahoe went on to transfer to Edinboro for his senior year where he went undefeated until a 2-1 loss in the NCAA final, making him a three-time All-American and two-time NCAA finalist.
5. Bryan Snyder
The current associate head coach, Bryan Snyder would be much higher on this list but he only spent two seasons under Manning.
After winning two Big 12 titles and securing All-American honors in his first two seasons, Snyder jumped levels with the arrival of Coach Manning. As a junior in 2000-01, Snyder went 28-2 with another Big 12 title and a runner-up finish at NCAAs at 157 pounds. As a senior, Snyder went 33-1 with his only loss in overtime in the NCAA final to Minnesota’s Luke Becker.
With a 136-11 career record, Snyder is the third-winningest wrestler in Nebraska history and holds the highest career winning percentage (.925). While with Manning, Snyder went 61-3. Snyder was Nebraska’s first four-time All-American.
4. James Green
One of Nebraska’s most accomplished wrestlers also went on to be one of Team USA’s most accomplished as well. Green was a six-time World Team member and just recently retired and will coach for Team USA.
James Green was just Nebraska’s second four-time All-American in school history when he accomplished that feat in 2015. After finishing seventh as a freshman and sophomore, Green dominated as an upperclassman. As a junior, Green went 35-2 while winning a Big Ten Champinship and finishing third at NCAAs. As a senior, Green finished third at both Big Tens and NCAAs.
Green sits at No. 5 in career wins at Nebraska with a 129-22 record. He’s No. 8 in win percentage at .854.
3. Robert Kokesh
Currently Nebraska’s assistant coach, Robert Kokesh was great for the Huskers from 2010-2015, earning three All-American honors and winning two conference titles.
After redshirting and going 34-1 (redshirt years do not count toward a wrestler’s career record), Kokesh put together four of the best years by a Husker but failed to win an elusive NCAA title.
As a freshman at 165, Kokesh went 30-7 while finishing third at Big Tens. Then as a sophomore, Kokesh moved up to 174 and went 38-4 while finishing third at both Big Tens and NCAAs.
As a junior, Kokesh went 37-3 and won an individual Big Ten title before finishing fourth at NCAAs, earning three wins in the consolation bracket with a torn ACL. Lastly, as a senior, Kokesh went 39-1, winning a second Big Ten crown. Kokesh went into the NCAA tournament undefeated but was upset in the quarters by 8-seed Tyler Wilps of Pitt. Kokesh wrestled back with four straight wins to finish third.
Kokesh sits at No. 2 on the Huskers’ career wins list with a 144-15 record. His .906 win percentage is the second best in school history as well.
2. Jason Powell
Jason Powell, Manning’s first national champion at Nebraska, redshirted the year before Manning’s arrival.
Powell started his career in style as he went on to become Nebraska’s fifth freshman in school history to win a conference title when he won the Big 12 title in 2001. As a sophomore, Powell went 29-8 with a third-place finish at Big 12s and 5th at NCAAs, giving him his first All-American honor. He finished his sophomore year with 15 pins.
As a junior, Powell went 35-6 while placing third at both Big 12s and NCAAs. He won the Gorrarian Award that year, an award given out to the wrestler at the NCAA tournament with the most pins in the least amount of time. He had three wins by pinfall while going 6-1. As a senior, Powell went 26-2 while finishing runner-up at Big 12s before winning an NCAA title at 125 pounds. Powell demolished Illinois’ Kyle Ott in the NCAA final 17-2 via tech fall.
Powell’s 109-24 record puts him at No. 16 on the all-time wins list at Nebraska as well as earning three All-American honors to go with his conference title and NCAA title.
1. Jordan Burroughs
What is there to say about Jordan Burroughs that hasn’t already been said?
The guy was Nebraska’s first two-time NCAA Champion and its only Hodge Trophy winner. He has since gone on to win a record six World/Olympic gold medals. He’s soon to compete in his 11th World Championships/Olympics for Team USA.
He is not only the best wrestler that the University of Nebraska has produced, but quite possibly the best the United States as a whole has ever produced. He’s the greatest of his generation for sure.
At Nebraska, Burroughs went 129-19 with 13 of those losses coming as a freshman in 2006-07. He went on to win three Big 12 titles and two NCAA titles, winning at both 157 pounds (2009) and 165 (2011). He holds Nebraska’s only two undefeated seasons as he went 35-0 in 2008-09 and 36-0 in 2010-11.
And the guy is about to compete for his 10th World/Olympic medal. Stay tuned to see how many more accolades he stacks up.