2022-23 Nebraska Wrestling

Husker Insider: Nebraska Leaning On Vets, Promising Prospects In '22-'23

Husker Insider: Nebraska Leaning On Vets, Promising Prospects In '22-'23

Coming off its best NCAA tournament in more than a decade, Nebraska has a trio of stars and a set of credentialed newcomers returning this season.

Nov 2, 2022 by Dylan Guenther
Husker Insider: Nebraska Leaning On Vets, Promising Prospects In '22-'23
This past spring, Nebraska put together its best NCAA tournament in more than a decade. The Huskers’ fifth-place finish was the best Nebraska fans have seen since they finished fourth in 2008 and 2009.

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

This past spring, Nebraska put together its best NCAA tournament in more than a decade. The Huskers’ fifth-place finish was the best Nebraska fans have seen since they finished fourth in 2008 and 2009. 

But this year’s edition of Nebraska wrestling is going to look much different than the 2021-22 version that had five guys finish on the podium. Gone are Chad Red Jr. at 141 pounds, Taylor Venz at 184, Eric Schultz at 197 and Christian Lance at heavyweight.

The Huskers — ranked #8 in the first NWCA Coaches Poll of 2022 — return a strong core of All-Americans in Ridge Lovett at 149, Peyton Robb at 157 and Mikey Labriola at 174. But if you dive deeper, you see that there are some serious reinforcements on the way who have been waiting in the wings and toiling behind the scenes for years in Lincoln.

At 125 and 133, Nebraska relied a year ago on a pair of freshmen. This year, the Huskers return seventh-year senior Liam Cronin at 125 after his season was cut short last year due to injury. At 133, the Huskers welcome Boo Dryden off of redshirt for his final year of eligibility.

Then there’s a whole host of redshirt freshmen set to enter the Husker two-deep. The Huskers could have as many as eight redshirt freshmen on there. With the free Covid year in 2021, many of the wrestlers in Nebraska’s big recruiting class that year ended up redshirting last season, along with the class of 2021.

“Guys like Silas Allred (197 pounds) and Nathan Haas (184) and Brock Hardy (141) came in during Covid. No one saw them because you couldn’t wrestle open tournaments and maybe wrestled at some backup spot or some extra matches,” Nebraska coach Mark Manning said. “Then last year was a redshirt year, so they wrestled a little bit but we still weren’t back to full go there as far as a lot of open tournaments. So, they’ve been in college for two years and nobody knows them.”

Add in a solid 2022 recruiting class, many of whom will travel with the team and wrestle in some duals with the new redshirt rules, and this Husker team will certainly look different with some of the big names graduated, but it can be just as good as last year’s squad.

Roster Battles Ongoing At 133 And 165

With their wrestle-offs behind them, the Huskers still haven’t nailed down their starters at 133 or 165 due to some injury issues that prevented a couple matchups there. 

The odds-on favorite at 133 pounds has to be Boo Dryden. The former Minnesota transfer redshirted last season and went 13-0 in open tournaments. The junior college national champion wanted to redshirt when he got to Lincoln to give himself a chance to develop.

Standing a legit 6-foot-2, Dryden is as tall as they get at 133 pounds, something that makes him hard to deal with, according to Manning.

“He’s very awkward. If I was to put myself in the mindset of a 133, I’m like man I would not want to wrestle that guy. He can put you on your back just because of pure leverage,” Manning said. “He wanted to redshirt. He never really got that year to really develop, so he got a lot out of his redshirt year last year. He’s ready to go.”

Also at 133 are Kyle Burwick, a Wisconsin transfer who is a junior this season, last year's starter Dominick Serrano, and past spot starter Alex Thomsen. Serrano, a sophomore, will likely redshirt with this much depth at the weight. Burwick's status remains unclear after his departure from the Badgers. 

At 165, Nebraska returns #16 Bubba Wilson, who qualified for the NCAA tournament a year ago as a redshirt freshman. But that starting gig isn’t guaranteed, as he’ll be competing against Pennsylvania state champ Jagger Condomitti and Adam Thebeau, who are both fresh off redshirts.

“They’re kind of all scrapping it out there. We have a couple guys kind of banged up there, so we’ll see how this week goes to see who’s available,” Manning said. “They’re all pretty competitive, so it’s a pretty good problem to have right now.”

Can Lovett, Robb And Labriola Elevate Team Finish

A year ago, Nebraska fell just short of its first team trophy since 2009, and this year’s squad is hungry to bring some team hardware back to Lincoln.

Gone are Red, Venz, Schultz and Lance…but second-ranked Ridge Lovett finished as a runner-up last season to three-time NCAA champ Yianni Diakomihalis at 149 pounds; Peyton Robb took fourth at 157 after big wins over Ed Scott of N.C. State, Brady Berge of Penn State and Jacori Teemer of Arizona State; Labriola finished seventh but took third the year before at 174. 

“I really think that Peyton Robb is going to be a hard guy to beat. He’s gotten better over the summer. I’ve seen his development. He’s just a next-level guy,” Manning said. “He’s a national team type of guy in my mind. He’s just made that jump and figured some stuff out over the summer, some positions he’s had that he’s really corrected and worked on.”

The #3-ranked Labriola has a tough road in front of him as he sits behind NCAA champs Carter Starocci of Penn State and Mekhi Lewis of Virginia Tech.

“Labriola has a great challenge in Starocci,” Manning said. “I know that if you ask Starocci, he thinks he’s the best in the world. I wish we wrestled them four times this year.” 

Three Redshirt Freshmen Set To Start

At 141 pounds, Nebraska is excited about Brock Hardy. The Utah native has taken an unconventional path up until this point. He graduated high school in 2018, having had some epic battles with Sammy Sasso as a prep. Hardy then went on a Mormon mission for two years and enrolled at Nebraska in 2020. He wrestled in some duals in the free Covid year of 2021 at 149 pounds before ceding his spot to Lovett. He went 5-3 that year with a pair of wins over ranked opponents, including a win via pinfall against then-#19 Jonathan Moran of Indiana. Hardy then redshirted last season, going 5-0

“We recruited him when we recruited (Sammy) Sasso. They’re the same grade, and Brock’s a freshman. We’re going to find out who Brock Hardy is,” Manning said. “141 is his weight class, really. He looks great and feels really good. He’s been working on getting down there since last year. We partly knew he was going to be the heir apparent to C.J. Red. He’s doing really well and we’re looking for a big year.”

At 184, Nebraska has a competition going on between a pair of redshirt freshmen in Nathan Haas and Lenny Pinto. Much like Hardy, Haas came in in 2021 and started a few duals in the free Covid year in place of Venz. Hardy won his first career match 5-2 over Minnesota’s then-#16 Owen Webster. Haas went 8-0 last year while redshirting.

Pinto, who also redshirted a year ago, has been coming on as of late, according to Manning. In fact, Pinto beat Haas in Nebraska’s wrestle-offs this past weekend. The Pennsylvania state champion last competed at Who’s #1 in 2020. In that match, Pinto tore his knee up but still gutted out a 7-5 decision over Rylan Rogers. He missed his senior season of high school as a result and didn’t wrestle during his redshirt season, but the #11-overall recruit in the class of 2021 is healthy and ready to stake his claim at 184.

“He’s really made a lot of progress over the summer. He’s going to be a handful for people. He’s strong and explosive and he’s made a lot of strides the last couple months,” Manning said. “He’s getting in really good shape. He’s a really good competitor. We’re looking forward to seeing how he shines if he’s in the spotlight here.”

Then at 197, Nebraska will send out Silas Allred to start as a redshirt freshman. A prolific pinner in high school, Allred came in and went 7-0 while redshirting with five wins via pinfall, one win via 19-4 tech fall, and another by medical forfeit. One of those pins was at the Daktronics Open when he stuck Iowa State’s Yonger Bastida in the semifinal round. Bastida went on to finish the year with a 25-7 record and placed fifth at NCAAs. Bastida is currently ranked #7 at 197. 

This summer in freestyle, Allred also finished as runner-up at the U20 World Team Trials.

“Silas Allred there at 197, he beat the Iowa State kid last year. He pinned him,” Manning said. “He won the Dakronics Tournament. He was second on the Junior World Team this year. He’s a stud.”

Three True Freshmen Set To Travel

With the new NCAA rules on redshirting, Nebraska plans to take full advantage as the Huskers plan to put a trio of true freshmen in backup roles, so they’ll often travel with the team for duals.

Freshmen Antrell Taylor, Harley Andrews and Jacob Van Dee will all serve as backups. Taylor will back up Robb at 157 pounds, while Andrews will back up senior Cale Davidson at heavyweight. Van Dee will spell Cronin at 125.

Manning has been incredibly impressed by all three of these guys and thinks they have loads of potential, even if they’re not quite ready for the rigors of a Big Ten schedule. But sending them out for select duals or to spell an injured starter? Absolutely.

“You may have a dual in January or February that you have someone that can’t compete. That’s why a guy like Harley Andrews at heavyweight, he’s going to be really good moving forward. He and Van Dee and Antrell Taylor,” Manning said. “(Taylor is) another guy that’s been really impressive in the room the last few months. He’s going to be special for us. You just see his development taking place, and he’s learning and growing and getting better by all the guys around him that he’s wrestling: Bubba Wilson and Peyton Robb. He’s rising to the challenge.”

With Andrews, some of the transition to college has to do with pure strength and size, something that Manning sees a redshirt year paying dividends on. 

“We’ve seen a lot of improvement just this summer. He made some strides weightlifting-wise, and just lifting year-round instead of playing football and then you’re wrestling,” Manning said. “Especially at heavyweight, if you can get a guy lifting for a whole year in a college program, they can make a big jump in their development. Last year at this time, he weighed about 220 or 225 and now he’s 245. He’s bigger and stronger and he’s still growing. Harley’s going to be special.”

Jordan Burroughs Being Honored

On Friday, Nebraska opens its season at home against North Dakota State. Nebraska will be honoring former Husker Jordan Burroughs for winning his American-record seventh World or Olympic gold medal. Then on Saturday, Burroughs will be honored at halftime of Nebraska’s football game against Minnesota.

“Jordan is seen as one of the best wrestlers not only in the country but in the world. Not only accomplishments-wise but also as a leader. It’s one thing doing it on the mat, but doing it off the mat, that’s where he changes people’s perspective of our sport,” Manning said. “He represents our sport in a top-notch manner. He loves the University of Nebraska. He loves Nebraska football, you know he wants the Huskers to be good in everything. He’s a Husker through and through and he’s really looking forward to getting out this weekend. He means the world to us.”