Nebraska brought in a huge freshman class this year and they’ve begun getting their feet wet as college athletes.
As true freshmen, athletes are allowed to compete in five “events” and still keep their redshirts. These events can be either tournaments or duals. Nebraska has eight redshirts that have wrestled in at least one event. Their two grayshirts have also competed a couple times this season (A grayshirt is where an athlete defers their eligibility to the following year).
Let’s start with the highly-touted grayshirts in Kael Lauridsen and Camden McDanel. Lauridsen was a four-time Nebraska state champion for Bennington and one of the better recent prospects in the state, while McDanel was an Ohio state champion and recently won a U20 World bronze medal in freestyle.
Both Lauridsen and McDanel have been training at the OTC in Colorado Springs and both have competed unattached twice — at the Rookie Open and the Younes Hospitality Open. They’re both perfect on the year, capturing titles at both opens.
At 125 pounds, Lauridsen went 4-0 at the Rookie Open before going 3-0 at Younes, giving him a 7-0 record so far. McDanel is at 197 pounds and went 3-0 at the Rookie Open before going 5-0 at Younes, giving him an 8-0 record. In the final of the Younes Open, McDanel beat DII No. 8-ranked Caden Steffen of SW Minnesota State 7-3.
Now, for the 13 true freshmen on the Husker roster:
Christopher Minto has led the charge for the Husker freshmen, going 5-1 at the Grand View Open and 4-1 at the Navy Classic, dropping his final match 5-0 to No. 28 Danny Wask of Navy. With his 9-2 record on the year, Minto is positioning himself for a starting gig at a 174-pound weight class that’s still an open competition.
Another standout for the Huskers has been Ethan Stiles at 157 pounds. The backup to Peyton Robb, the former Top-100 recruit is now 10-1 on the year after competing in a pair of tournaments. He went 5-1 at the Grand View Open with his lone loss a 7-3 decision to NCAA qualifier Jason Kraisser of Iowa State. He then went 5-0 in winning the Younes Hospitality Open, winning four matches via bonus points.
Also wrestling at 157, Weston Dalton was impressive in his first match at the Younes Hospitality Open with a 17-0 tech fall before medically forfeiting out of the tournament with an ankle injury.
The backup to Ridge Lovett at 149 pounds, Scott Robertson is 0-2 on the year after competing at the Navy Classic. The former Millard South state champion, Robertson beat Dalton in their wrestle-off at 149 pounds before the season.
Competing at 184 pounds, freshman Ethan DeLeon went 4-1 at the Younes Hospitality Open, dropping his semifinal match 9-3 before wrestling back for third place.
At heavyweight, Nebraska has struggled this year and freshman Matthew Moore earned his shot to compete with the big boys at the Navy Classic. He went 1-2 with a 9-3 decision win over Cleveland State’s Mason Cover. He did wrestle No. 22 Dan Bucknavich of Cleveland St. tough in a 2-0 loss.
Two other freshmen who’ve wrestled are Jake Licking at 165 and Dominic Thebeau at 197. Both guys are 2-2 on the year with Licking wrestling at the Grand View Open and Thebeau at the Younes Hospitality Open.
True freshmen Alan Koehler (125 pounds), Drew Cooper (133), Tanner Frothinger (141), Cooper French (165) and Griffin Ray (174) have yet to compete this season.
I fully expect to see Koehler at some point. The multi-time Fargo All-American has been praised by head coach Mark Manning as being really good — I expect him to get in on a few duals while maintaining his redshirt.
How the Non-Redshirt Backups are Doing
Nebraska has a number of backups that aren’t eligible for a redshirt that have competed this year.
Last year’s starter at 133 pounds, junior Kyle Burwick is 3-1 on the year after finishing third at the Navy Classic. Also a starter last season, Bubba Wilson went 3-2 at the Navy Classic at 165 pounds.
After a loss in the opening dual at 141 pounds, sophomore Blake Cushing went on to win the Younes Hospitality Open and is now 4-1 on the year.
A redshirt freshman at 133 pounds, Hayden Mills is 5-2 on the year with a 5th-place finish at the Grand View Open to his name.
At 174, there’s no telling who will be this year’s starter once Big Ten season rolls around. So far, we have a three-man race with Minto, sophomore Adam Thebeau and junior Elise Brown Ton.
Brown Ton started the year and lost his dual match at NDSU, he’s now 8-4 on the year. Thebeau won his dual matchup against Campbell via tech fall and went 4-1 at the Navy Classic for 5th place, giving him a 5-1 record on the year. His only loss was via pinfall against No. 28 Danny Wask of Navy, the same guy that beat Minto in the final.