Nebraska will have 12 wrestlers competing this weekend in Geneva, Ohio at the U20 and U23 World Team Trials. Eleven of them will be competing in freestyle and another in Greco-Roman.
Competition starts on Friday, June 2 with U20 and U23 Greco-Roman. On Saturday, the U20 freestyle competition will take place and finish out with a best-of-three finals in the evening. The U23 division — with a much bigger field of competitors — will begin Saturday and run through Sunday afternoon with a best-of-three finals.
For U20 (anyone born 2003-2006), the winner of April’s US Open receives a bye to the final series and will take on the winner of the World Team Trials challenge bracket. Eligible athletes in the U20 division must be prequalified to compete.
For U23, anyone born from 2000-2005 may enter and compete.
Leading the Husker squad here will be Brock Hardy and Silas Allred — both just finished very impressive redshirt freshman seasons. Hardy finished the year with a 30-8 record and All-American accolades with his 6th-place finish at 141 pounds at NCAAs, while Allred went 28-7 and won a Big Ten championship at 197 pounds, falling one win short of All-American honors in a very deep weight class.
In freestyle, both Hardy and Allred are very accomplished. Last year, Allred fell to Jaxon Smith for a U20 World Team spot. Then in April, Allred competed at the Senior US Open where he went 4-2 and finished fourth. Watch his consolation semifinal win below. He’ll be one of the front-runners in this bracket for sure.
Hardy’s freestyle accolades date farther back to his high school days, but he was one of the best age-level wrestlers in the country. In fact, he had a really entertaining rivalry against Sammy Sasso. A senior-to-be at Ohio State, Sasso has gone on to not only won Big Ten titles and make it to the NCAA final twice, he just fell to former Husker Tyler Berger in the finals of the Senior US Open.
As preps, Hardy faced Sasso two straight years in the national final in Fargo, N.D. Sasso won that first match in 2015, but Hardy got revenge the next year with a wild 10-9 victory to earn a coveted Fargo title. If you want, you can watch both those matches here:
2015 Fargo final at 132 pounds:
2016 Fargo final at 138 pounds:
Hardy has improved rapidly this year, so don’t count him out in this 65kg bracket.
At 79kg, Elise Brown Ton will compete for the Huskers. The front-runner for the open spot at 174 pounds this season, Brown Ton has some freestyle skills. Last summer, he made it to the semifinals of the U20 US Open. In that match, Brown Ton led 9-0 before eventually giving up his lead and getting pinned (watch below). He finished in 4th place and looked impressive in doing so.
Also competing will be Kyle Burwick (61kg), Bubba Wilson (74kg) and Chris Minto (74kg). Burwick started last year for Nebraska at 133 pounds and went 13-10, while Wilson qualified for NCAAs for the second time in as many years, going 17-15. Minto is an incoming commit out of Florida.
The leader of the Husker pack here is Camden McDanel. An incoming freshman, McDanel is fresh off his domination at the U20 US Open at 97kg where he outscored his opponents 52-2 on the way to a 5-0 record and a US Open title. Now, he’ll await his opponents as he gets a bye to the best-of-three finals where he’ll face the winner of the challenge bracket.
Here’s McDanel’s beatdown of Joey Braunagel, younger brother of both Zac and Dan of Illinois, in the finals of the US Open.
McDanel fell just one win shy of making the U17 World Team a year ago at 92kg, dropping a wild 15-14 match in the final match of a best-of-three (watch below). He very well could come to Nebraska with some World hardware around his neck if he can win this weekend then perform like he has been at the World Championships in August.
Also competing for Nebraska will be a pair of former Millard South standouts in Antrell Taylor (70kg) and Tyler Antoniak (72kg). Both redshirted this past season.
Taylor just finished as runner-up at the U20 US Open in April, turning a lot of heads along the way before falling to Meyer Shapiro 7-2 in the final. Taylor will attempt to work his way back to the finals for a shot at redemption in a best-of-three series against Shapiro.
Here’s Taylor’s win in the semis of the US Open against Iowa State’s Paniro Johnson, one of the best 149-pounders in the country this past year.
Antoniak finished fifth at the U20 US Open in Greco-Roman in April and will compete on Friday for a spot on the U20 World Team. Antoniak has a very impressive Greco resume as he won National and World titles at the cadet level (U15) in 2019. Then in 2021, Antoniak won another Fargo title at 145 pounds (see below).
Also entered for Nebraska are two wrestlers who redshirted this past season in Ismael Ayoub (61kg) and Harley Andrews (125kg). Ayoub could compete for the spot at 133 pounds this year or stay at 141, while Andrews is the presumptive starter at heavyweight this season. Ayoub was a Fargo runner-up in the U20 division last summer. See his semifinal win below.
Andrews finished sixth at the U20 US Open this year. As the 12-seed, Andrews took out 4-seed Tristan Ruhlman in the quarterfinals (see below) before losing two matches in a row on the back side. He’ll be a tough out this weekend, but it’ll be a tough road to a World Team spot.
Incoming freshman Ethan Stiles is also registered for Nebraska at 70kg. One of the best high school wrestlers in the country at 160 pounds, it’ll be interesting to see how Stiles fares this weekend.