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Wrestling: Huskers Add Big-Time Transfer

Caleb Smith of Appalachian State is heading to Lincoln after two years as the Mountaineers’ starter at 125 pounds

Mark Manning and Bryan Snyder
Nebraska head coach Mark Manning (right) and associate head coach Bryan Snyder look on during a dual against Northwestern.
Dylan Guenther / Corn Nation

The Husker wrestling program got a bit more formidable on Tuesday night when Caleb Smith announced his transfer from Appalachian State to Nebraska.

The junior-to-be has had a solid career to date. He’s a two-time NCAA qualifier with a 60-16 career record. This past season, Smith went 26-7 while winning the SoCon Championship at 125 pounds.

As a redshirt freshman backup in 2020-21, Smith went 10-1. Then he took over the starting duties as a redshirt freshman (again, because of the free Covid year) in 2021-22. He went 24-8 on the year and went 1-2 at NCAAs.

This past season, Smith also was able to defeat Nebraska’s graduated All-American Liam Cronin. At the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas, Smith defeated Cronin 12-2 for a major decision. He’ll slide nicely into the lineup.

With Smith’s addition, the next question is: What about redshirt freshman Jake Van Dee?

Van Dee was just the co-winner of Redshirt of the Year at the Huskers’ team banquet after going 10-4 as a true freshman at 125. He started his year with a 7-3 win over a ranked Jarrett Trombley in his first career match in a dual against NC State. His only other dual match came against eventual NCAA finalist Matt Ramos of Purdue. Ramos, who famously beat Iowa’s Spencer Lee in the NCAA semifinal a month ago, beat Van Dee, but the Husker freshman held his own in a 5-3 decision loss.

With Smith now in Lincoln with his two years of eligibility, what happens to Van Dee? According to Manning, Van Dee was going to eventually move up to 133 pounds anyway. Maybe this transfer just accelerates the process and gets him there this year.

And with a clear need at 133 pounds, Van Dee will get every chance to win that spot as he battles with junior Kyle Burwick, true freshman Kael Lauridsen and redshirt freshman Hayden Mills for the job.

The addition of Smith only adds to next season’s lineup. Adding Smith AND welcoming Ridge Lovett back to the fold will give the Huskers a really solid lineup.