At the start of every season, a teams fans take stock of their squad and look for places to find hope. For this year's Nebraska Cornhuskers, hope comes in the form of youth.
Nebraska will lean hard on their 2016 recruiting class, which was fifth in the country. They've since added Isaiah White, meaning there are five athletes from the 2016 Big Board who will be in the starting lineup this year.
Nebraska 2017-18 Lineup125: Kris Williams
133: Jason Renteria
141: Chad Red
149: Colton McCrystal
157: Tyler Berger
165: Isaiah White
174: Beau Breske
184: Taylor Venz
197: Eric Schultz
285: David Jensen
The first thing that jumps out about this team is just how green they are. There's only one senior projected to start, with half the lineup having freshman eligibility.
Kris Williams takes over for perennial Round of 12er Tim Lambert. Williams has never wrestled in a dual for the Huskers, but does have wins over NCAA qualifiers Josh Rodriguez, Brandon Jeske, Kyle Akins and Pat D'Arcy in his two years on campus. He was 87th on the Class of 2015 Big Board.
Like any true freshman, there is a strong likelihood they don't wrestle Jason Renteria right away and end up getting redshirted. But Renteria could be the best option for coach Mark Manning and staff at 133. Given how inexperienced the team is, that may not be the best option, but no matter who they use it will be a tall task replacing All American Eric Montoya. Renteria finished his career 32nd on the Class of 2017 Big Board.
It's difficult not to love the way Chad Red approaches wrestling. It goes beyond him being fun to watch, it's how he combines technique and athleticism. He can scramble, he can leg attack, but perhaps most importantly, he can put guys away. You don't just fall into turns like that, he has honed those vicious cradles. Nothing from his redshirt season gave us any reason to expect he won't be ready to compete right away.
Colton McCrystal bumps up to 149 with Red coming into the lineup. That puts last year's starter Collin Purinton on the bench and could give Nebraska a senior at this weight for the next two years.
Tyler Berger is THE guy right now for the program. Ranked 5th and the squad's only returning All American, there will be a lot of pressure on him to carry the program into the future. Watch Berger take out Joe Smith in the NCAA quarterfinals.
It's hard to pick who the most anticipated newcomer will be this season, but Husker fans may settle on Isaiah White. A Division 2 national champ last year, he has always been better at freestyle than folkstyle. While certainly not bad at folkstyle, White has beaten guys over the spring and summer that he will see in a different style this winter.
Beau Breske is another guy who made his name on the freestyle circuit, but has reportedly made jumps in his folkstyle. Those jumps will have to translate from the practice room to the gym floor as he starts the year ranked 11th in the conference. Like Red, Breske was a name to watch in our redshirt report.
Taylor Venz's stats from last year jump off the page: 28-4 with eight pins, seven techs and six majors. But only two of those wins came against Division 1 competition, so there may be a bit of a drop off production wise from three-time AA Tim Dudley.
Nebraska 9th in Big Ten Team Rankings
Red, White and Breske were the star recruits coming out of high school. But Eric Schultz was up there as well, being the No. 35 recruit on the Big Board. Although similar to Venz in that most of the wins in his redshirt year came against non-D1 opponents, he did at least beat a few guys who have or will get starting spots: Wyatt Koelling, Sammy Colbray, Steban Cervantes, and Bobby Steveson.
David Jensen has taken hold of the starting spot at heavyweight. His main goal for this year should be to qualify for NCAAs, but the odds could be against him.
It'll be hard for Nebraska fans to expect much more than an All American or two this season. They key for them will be getting the second year guys prepared for the rest of their careers and set themselves up to be a team trophy contender in 2019 or 2020.