With the 2022-23 season over, it’s time to give out some postseason hardware.
Nebraska had another Top-10 finish at NCAAs this season while also finishing third at Big Tens. The Huskers crowned four All-Americans and its first Big Ten champion in seven years to conclude a successful season.
In 8 of the last 9 years we have:— Husker Wrestling (@HuskerWrestling) March 20, 2023
▶ Finished with 3 or more All-Americans
▶️ Finished in the top-10#ToughTogether | #GBR pic.twitter.com/ErH8D8QX2F
2022-23 Season Awards
Mikey Labriola (Sr.) - 174 pounds
Few have been a more consistent presence in this Husker lineup than Mikey Labriola. He was a five-year starter and earned All-American honors at NCAAs four times.
As a redshirt freshman in 2018-19, Labriola broke into the starting lineup right away. He went 30-9 and finished sixth at NCAAs. As a sophomore, he went 20-10 before the NCAA tournament was cancelled due to Covid.
Then during the shortened 2021 season, Labriola went 17-2 while finishing third at NCAAs. After not losing a year of eligibility in 2021, Labriola was a junior again in 2021-22. He finished the year with a 23-5 record and a seventh-place finish at nationals for his third All-American finish.
Then this past season, Labriola saved his best for last. He went 30-2 with his only losses coming to Penn State’s Carter Starocci in both the Big Ten finals and the NCAA finals.
After falling to Starocci 6-1 in the Big Ten final, Labriola reeled off three impressive wins at NCAAs to make it to the finals for a rematch. Labriola took down Demetrius Romero of Utah Valley before beating Missouri’s Peyton Mocco in the quarters. In the semis, Labriola was able to outlast NCAA champion Mekhi Lewis 3-1 in tiebreakers.
Things didn’t go Labriola’s way in the NCAA final as he fell to Starocci via pinfall. But it was apparent in that match that Labriola was going after Starocci because he knew he couldn’t play his usual slow match where he capitalizes on his opponent’s mistakes in the scrambles. Starocci proved at Big Tens he was too good to beat that way, so it looked like Labriola was going out there guns blazing. He just got caught being overly aggressive and put on his back.
Starocci is already a three-time champion and looking like one of the best to ever do it. That’s a hell of a season for Labriola. He really was the team’s most valuable wrestler. It was one of the best seasons by a Husker in some time and he should be proud of how his career played out.
Ready for the show— Husker Wrestling (@HuskerWrestling) March 18, 2023
All of Husker Nation is behind you, Mikey.#ToughTogether | #NCAAWrestling pic.twitter.com/E7ltvT0hqn
Lenny Pinto vs. Anthony Montalvo (Arizona St.)
Much like last season, the Huskers’ pin of the year came on Senior Night to end the dual slate. And much like last year, it was the 184-pound weight class that provided the stick.
Last season, then-senior Taylor Venz pinned Iowa’s Abe Assad to get his team back in the dual. It’s a gem, check it out.
MUST-SEE ❗️@Tvenzz WITH THE PIN ON SENIOR NIGHT.— Husker Wrestling (@HuskerWrestling) February 21, 2022
Huskers | 12
Hawkeyes | 17 pic.twitter.com/cBsI44GXn4
This season it was redshirt freshman Lenny Pinto who provided the fireworks at 184, putting Anthony Montalvo on his back in a wild exchange. Pinto started things with a whip-over that put Montalvo on his back. Montalvo then reversed Pinto and had him nearly pinned. Then Pinto reversed him back and got the pinfall.
LENNY ARE YOU SERIOUS— Husker Wrestling (@HuskerWrestling) February 19, 2023
The Bob is rockin'❗️ Big Red up 20-12. pic.twitter.com/i5Fmfa7QGk
In his first year, Pinto went 24-11 for the Huskers and qualified for the NCAA tournament. Lenny PIN-to tallied six pins on the year and looked to be rapidly improving before a rough patch at NCAAs where he went 1-2 and didn’t place.
Pinto is very raw but incredibly talented. I expect big things from the former Pennsylvania high school champ.
Liam Cronin (Sr) - 125 pounds
It’s been well-documented already, but Cronin transferred to Nebraska after four seasons at Indiana, one of them a redshirt. He then wrestled three years at Nebraska.
As a Hoosier, Cronin never qualified for NCAAs while going 43-39. After transferring to Nebraska, Cronin improved rapidly. He went 10-5 in the shortened 2021 season. After suffering an injury the next year, Cronin received a medical redshirt. With the 2022-23 season his last, Cronin made the most of it.
Not only did he vastly improve in the win-loss column, Cronin also made it to the Big Ten final and finished fifth at NCAAs for his first career All-American honors. He went an impressive 24-6 as a senior, pushing his career record to 80-53. As a Husker, Cronin went a combined 37-14.
125 | @Liam_Cronin125 scores the TD in OT to become an ALL-AMERICAN!— Husker Wrestling (@HuskerWrestling) March 17, 2023
He defeated Virginia Tech's Ventresca to advance to the semis! pic.twitter.com/BYjy8V7uHP
Coming off injury and having a senior season like that made Cronin the obvious choice as Most Improved.
Best New Starter(s)
Brock Hardy (R-Fr.) - 141 pounds
Silas Allred (R-Fr.) - 197 pounds
It was impossible to choose between Hardy and Allred here. On one hand, Hardy earned All-American honors with a 6th-place finish at NCAAs, while Allred fell in the Round of 12 and didn’t earn All-American honors. On the other hand. Allred won a Big Ten title while Hardy fell to Real Woods of Iowa 2-1 in the Big Ten final.
They also had extremely similar records with Hardy going 30-8 and Allred finishing his year 28-7. Both were redshirt freshmen this season and will be title threats from here on out.
When it comes to quality wins, Allred has the advantage with his two wins over Penn State’s Max Dean, a 2022 NCAA champion. On the season, Hardy had wins over All-Americans Beau Bartlett of Penn State (3rd at NCAAs), Clay Carlson of South Dakota State (5th), Parker Filius of Purdue (7th) and Dylan D’Emilio of Ohio State (8th).
For what it’s worth, Hardy finished his year after gutting out a rib injury he sustained early in his semifinal match against Woods. He lost his two matches on the final day while in obvious pain. He should be commended for that. Without the injury, I believe he would have finished much higher on the podium.
Redshirt(s) of the Year
Jacob Van Dee (Fr.) - 125 pounds
Harley Andrews (Fr.) - 285 pounds
Rather than choose between these two, I’ll just state the case for both here as well. Both are deserving, but in different ways. Van Dee had more losses but had a tougher road, while Andrews was dominant while largely facing inferior opposition.
Van Dee went 10-4 on the year but appeared in two duals. In his first career match as a Husker, Van Dee downed a ranked Jarrett Trombley of NC State 7-3. In his only other dual match, Van Dee lost a close 5-3 decision to Purdue’s Matt Ramos, the man that beat Spencer Lee in the NCAA semis before falling in the finals to Princeton’s Pat Glory.
Andrews was dominant as a redshirt, going 22-2 with 12 wins via pinfall. He did get one dual match and was pinned by Illinois’ Matt Wroblewski.
Both will likely be counted on to jump into the starting lineup next year to replace Cronin at 125 and Cale Davidson at heavyweight. Both have very high ceilings and could have big redshirt freshman seasons just like Hardy, Allred and Pinto did this season.