Only 28 wrestlers in Nebraska program history have won at least 100 matches as Huskers.
Three of them are on this year’s coaching staff — associate head coach Bryan Snyder is third with 136, first-year assistant Robert Kokesh is second with 144 and volunteer assistant Tyler Berger, a national runner-up at 157 pounds last season, is ninth with 116.
“They understand the pride of the program and culturally they understand where the team needs to go,” said Mark Manning, who enters his 20th season as NU coach and was himself a two-time national champion for UNO during his collegiate days. “I’m proud to have them here.”
With the lineup Nebraska is rolling out this season, there’s a good possibility a few current Huskers could join that 100-win club within the next few years.
Nebraska returns seven starters from a team that finished 10th at nationals, including four All-Americans. Only two of the returners are seniors.
The Huskers opened their season Thursday by winning a pair of duals over NCAA Division II’s Chadron State and UNK — NU won 19 of the 20 matches.
Nebraska is back in action Sunday at the Collegiate Classic, an individual tournament in New York. The Huskers are sending 15 wrestlers to compete and will face opponents from the likes of No. 8 Arizona State, No. 10 Lehigh, No. 20 Oklahoma and No. 25 Old Dominion.
Nebraska opens the season ranked fifth nationally, and, according to InterMat, five Huskers are ranked in the top 10 in their weight classes. That has Manning optimistic about this season.
“It’s been positive from the standpoint that they’ve all put in great work in the offseason,” Manning said. “They’re ready to take it up a notch.”
The upper weights are the strength of the team entering the season. Senior Isaiah White placed fifth at nationals at 165, while Mikey Labriola was sixth at 174. As a freshman last year, Labriola led the team in wins with 30.
Junior Taylor Venz, an All-American as a freshman before losing in the round of 12 at nationals last year, is back at 184, while junior Eric Schultz (197) and senior heavyweight David Jensen each won matches at nationals. Also back is junior CJ Red, who has been an All-American the past two years at 141.
“They’ve made a leap in their growth as a person and as an athlete,” Manning said of his returners. “All of them have big goals.”
Among the newcomers Manning expects to make an immediate impact are redshirt freshmen Alex Thomsen (125) and Peyton Robb (157).
Thomsen was a four-time Iowa state champion at Underwood when he had a 190-1 record in high school. He went 13-2 in open tournaments last season. Robb was a three-time state champion in Minnesota and went 22-3 in open tournaments a year ago.
“They have a lot of experience,” Manning said. “They’re looking great.”
Nov. 7: Chadron State, W 37-3; UNK, W 47-(-1). 10: at Collegiate Classic, Troy, N.Y.; 17: at Daktronics Open, Brookings, S.D. 22: Wyoming, 7 p.m.; 24: at Northern Iowa, 1 p.m.
Dec. 6-7: at Cliff Keen Invitational, Las Vegas; 20: Oregon State, 6 p.m.
Jan. 12: at Wisconsin, TBA; 18: at Iowa, 8 p.m.; 24: Penn State, 6 p.m. 26: Michigan State, 2 p.m.
Feb. 2: Ohio State, noon; 7: at Purdue, TBA; 9: at Indiana, TBA; 14: Michigan, 8 p.m. 21: at Minnesota, 8 p.m.
March 7-8: Big Ten Championships, Piscataway, N.J. 19-21: NCAA Championships, Minneapolis