With the winner of the U20 US Open in Las Vegas earning a bye to the finals of the U20 World Team Trials, there is a lot on the line for these eight current or future Huskers competing this weekend.
We already talked about all the wrestlers with Husker ties at the Senior US Open, now it’s time to talk about the U20 division. U20 starts on Saturday at noon and goes through Sunday night.
Nebraska has one starter in the field in Lenny Pinto at 86kg. Fellow sophomore-to-be Blake Cushing is competing at 65kg. Redshirt freshmen Antrell Taylor (70kg), Tyler Antoniak (72kg in Greco) Adam Thebeau (79kg) and Harley Andrews (125kg) will also try their hands at the Open.
As for high school seniors who will be at Nebraska next year, there’s Alan Koehler (57kg), Drew Cooper (60kg in Greco, 61kg in freestyle) and Camden McDanel (97kg).
Greco competition started Thursday, with the 3-seed Antoniak winning his first three matches, including an 8-0 tech fall win over the 6-seed, before falling in the semis to 2-seed Richard Fedalen. His consolation semifinal match will take place tonight. Cooper lost his first match to the 4-seed before rattling off three wins on the back side, only to fall in the Round of 12 just short of placing.
Pinto went 24-11 as a redshirt freshman this past season, qualifying for the NCAA Championships. He was a high-risk yet high-reward prospect.
Before coming to Nebraska, Pinto was a Cadet National Champion in Fargo, N.D. He won bronze in Greco-Roman as well. He’s one of the favorites here.
An incoming freshman this next season, McDanel is a top-shelf recruit. He won a 16U Fargo title in 2021 in freestyle, so he certainly has a chance in this field.
One of the best high school guys in this bracket, McDanel is one to watch.
Andrews just completed his redshirt season with a 22-2 record and will be the new starter at heavyweight this next season.
Before coming to Nebraska, Andrews has proven to have some freestyle chops as he was an All-American at Fargo in 2019.
If anything, this will give us a look at how he’s progressed and grown into the weight class.
Another high school senior here in Koehler. The freshman-to-be has some freestyle success, finishing as a double All-American at Junior Fargo nationals in 2022. He took third in both freestyle and Greco-Roman.
He’s one of the best high schoolers in the country at this weight. He has a real chance at making a deep run.
After winning co-redshirt of the year for the Huskers, Taylor is looking to get back to some freestyle.
A 2019 Fargo runner-up, Taylor then made the U15 World Team where he went on to win a World Silver Medal. Taylor is dynamite on his feet and will be exciting to watch here.
Thebeau redshirted this past season, going 10-4 on the year at 165 pounds.
With Mikey Labriola gone, I think Thebeau moves up to a more natural weight of 174 this next season. Especially with him registered here at 79kg...or 174 pounds.
Cushing just finished his redshirt freshman season with a 14-5 record, going 1-1 in duals after moving up to 149 midway through the season.
He’s always been a solid wrestler and will be a tough out.
Tyler Antoniak (Greco-Roman)
A former Nebraska state champion from Millard South, Antoniak was a 2020 16U Fargo champ in Greco before going on to win a U15 World Championship in Greco.
Drew Cooper (both FS and Greco)
61kg in FS, 60kg in Greco-Roman
A Class B state champion at 132 pounds out of Omaha Skutt, Cooper pinned his way through the state tournament as a senior. Cooper recently joined the Huskers’ 2023 recruiting class and projects at 133.
Cooper finished with a 3-2 record in Greco Thursday and Friday. He now turns his attention to freestyle this weekend.