2022-23 Nebraska Wrestling

Husker Insider: Lovett's Redshirt, Robb's Rise Grabbing November Headlines

Husker Insider: Lovett's Redshirt, Robb's Rise Grabbing November Headlines

Mark Manning explains the decision to redshirt NCAA finalist Ridge Lovett. Peyton Robb is off to a fast start, and Manning likes his '23 recruiting class.

Nov 17, 2022 by Dylan Guenther
Husker Insider: Lovett's Redshirt, Robb's Rise Grabbing November Headlines
There have really been only a handful of big storylines that have surrounded this Husker team to start the season.

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There have really been only a handful of big storylines that have surrounded this Husker team to start the season.

First, it’s the redshirt of Ridge Lovett. The 2022 NCAA finalist, Lovett is a big hit to Nebraska's team hopes. Then there’s the Kyle Burwick transfer from Wisconsin and his eligibility issues. And of course, on the actual mat, there’s the dominance of Peyton Robb and the influx of first-timers cutting their teeth in the lineup for the first time. 

Nebraska has started its season with a 1-2 dual record with losses to #18 North Dakota State and #9 NC State. The Huskers’ lone dual win came against Army at the Journeymen  Wranglemania. 

The Huskers have seen some promising signs out of both their veterans and their youngsters. Both #3 Peyton Robb and #3 Mikey Labriola have been dominant to start, and the youth movement has been led by #18 Silas Allred at 197 pounds and #24 Brock Hardy at 141, both redshirt freshmen.

Ridge Takes A Redshirt

This year’s Husker team looked to boast three possible NCAA finalists in Ridge Lovett at 149, Robb at 157, and Labriola at 174. Now there’s only two as Lovett is taking an available redshirt year to develop.

As a freshman in 2019-20, Lovett was set to redshirt but had it pulled during dual season and had to face a murderer’s row at 133 pounds. Facing a brutal cut and even more brutal competition, Lovett faced it head-on, according to Nebraska coach Mark Manning. In successive matches, Lovett faced the top three wrestlers in the country in Roman Bravo-Young, Seth Gross and Austin DeSanto. He got majored twice, but held DeSanto to a 7-4 decision. He later lost to DeSanto at Big Tens 1-0. 

“This is just big picture and this is just how I think about these things. One, he really sacrificed for our team and cut down to 133 (as a freshman),” Manning said. “It was about Ridge’s future. He wants to wrestle longer than just five years in college, so he needs to continue to develop on his feet. Always competing, you don’t always have time to work on those things.”

So Manning would like Lovett to get some matches in this year. Lovett did go 4-0 in winning the Cowboy Open on Saturday with all wins by bonus, including an 18-0 tech in the final. But Manning also wants Lovett to have time to focus on improving his technique in the room.

“His first year, he was cutting a lot of weight, and last year he was just trying to be a savage,” Manning said. “Now it’s about his development.”

Lovett’s top game is pretty widely known and feared. Many choose neutral against Lovett, and many of those who choose bottom regret it, like when #2 seed Tariq Wilson chose bottom against Lovett in the 2022 NCAA quarters, only to get cradled twice and eventually pinned.

“You go from folkstyle wrestling into an Olympic and international style of wrestling, you have to be good on your feet offensively and defensively,” Manning said. “He’s going to kind of just focus on that, and that’s going to make him a better college wrestler. He’s already good on the mat. People know that Ridge is really good in top and bottom.”

Peyton Robb On A Mission

Nebraska’s Peyton Robb is ranked #3 at 157 pounds, but he probably boasts the best hit list so far this season as he’s beaten both #6 Jared Franek and #8 Ed Scott so far.

And it’s not just that Robb has those wins, but it’s how he’s won them. He’s committed to riding out his opponents and dominating matches, according to Manning.

“I just think he sees that he’s got the skills to do it, he just has to make the commitment to do it,” Manning said. “He’s a strong, physical dude, and he just needs to be more physical and use it to his advantage. He’s always been good on top, but to be great on it you have to really commit to it. He didn’t really commit until last year at the NCAA tournament.”

Robb racked up 2 minutes, 24 seconds of riding time in a 7-4 win over Franek of North Dakota State. Then he controlled Army’s Nathan Lukez for 4:26 for a 12-0 major. Against N.C. State’s Scott, Robb finished with 3:31 in riding time while winning a dominant 8-2 decision.

“We really emphasize being great in all three positions. If you can take someone down and you can ride them and you can get off the bottom, that’s the difference,” Manning said. “He’s just really bought in, and he’s a tough competitor.”

Newcomers In Nebraska’s Lineup

With so many graduated seniors from last year, Nebraska has sent out a lot of first-time starters and freshmen. 

The new wave of Huskers has been led by Hardy and Allred. Ranked #24 at 141 pounds, Hardy is 5-2 on the year with a pin over #23 Jesse Vasquez. Allred is #18 at 197 and started his varsity career with a 4-2 win over #17 Owen Pentz of NDSU. He’s 5-1 with his lone loss a 9-2 decision to NC State’s #17 Isaac Trumble. 

Senior Boo Dryden, a first-time starter for the Huskers after transferring from Minnesota then redshirting, is 2-1 on the year with his loss a 6-4 decision to #19 Kai Orine of N.C. State. Right now, Dryden is the Husker starter. But that competition is still close, according to Manning. 

“He’s got a lot better from when he came to us. He feels a lot more confident,” Manning said. “He’s got to continue to develop because there are good guys nipping at his heels in the room.”

One big bright spot for the Huskers in their 23-10 dual loss to N.C. State was true freshman Jacob Van Dee. The Pennsylvania state champion took the mat in his first career match in a dual against #23 Jarrett Trombley of N.C. State. Van Dee beat Trombley convincingly, 7-3.

“He’s not scared of anyone and he’s ready to win,” Manning said. “And we kind of take that motto that you’re never too young to win. Step out there and get your hand raised. We know he has that mentality, so it was a great opportunity for him.”

As for all of the young guys that Nebraska has brought to compete in duals and tournaments, Manning knows that these experiences matter to these young guys and could be the difference in them getting better or not.

“You know, people can grow up in one weekend. Two or three wins can ignite a guy and say, well I know I can wrestle with these guys. It’s a confidence builder,” Manning said. “People can grow up fast. You never know when someone can get that bug and say, ‘Wow, I’m really good.’”

Huskers Sign Impressive 2023 Class

Last week, Nebraska signed an impressive 2023 recruiting class that not only included top-shelf guys, but they were also at weights of need.

Nebraska had big needs in this class at 125, 149 and 197 pounds. And the Huskers added some major talent at all three of those weights.

Nebraska’s class includes seven wrestlers, five of which are ranked on the 2023 High School Big Board – #34 Camden McDanel at 195 pounds, #41 Alan Koehler at 120, #43 Kael Lauridsen at 120, #66 Ethan Stiles at 160, and #95 Weston Dalton at 149. Then there is Tanner Frothinger at 132 and Griffin Ray at 170 to round out Nebraska’s class.

Looking at 125 pounds, Nebraska brought in both Koehler and Lauridsen. Koehler, currently ranked #4 at 120 pounds, is a two-time Minnesota state champion and a multi-time All-American at Fargo. He also took third at the Journeyman Fall Classic before winning his first five matches at Super 32 this fall, only to injury default out of the quarterfinal round. Because of Koehler’s build, Manning doesn’t see him growing out of the 125-pound weight class.

“He’s like a Nathan Tomasello junior,” Manning said of Koehler. “He’s a short, stocky little guy. He’s tough.”

As for Lauridsen, the Bennington, Neb., native is about as decorated as they come. He’s a three-time Nebraska state champion and a two-time Fargo champion in Greco-Roman and All-American in freestyle, Lauridsen has twice represented Team USA at the Pan-American Championships. In 2021, he won gold in both freestyle and Greco. Then this past summer, he won gold in freestyle and took silver in Greco. 

“(Koehler and Lauridsen are) just high-character guys, and we knew that when we recruited them,” Manning said. “They’re tough and they’re committed to the sport, and we love it. We see big things from those guys.”

As for Lauridsen, Manning sees him growing out of the 125-pound weight class.

“We’d like to get Kael bigger and put some muscle on him and get him more physically ready for the Big Ten,” Manning said. “We do see Kael being a 133 in the future. We’d like to redshirt Koehler and Lauridsen and see if we can wrestle Jacob Van Dee at 125 next year. That’s kind of our game plan now. Jacob isn’t going to be a lifetime 125, he’s going to grow out of that weight class, too.”

Then as a future 149-pounder for the Huskers, Weston Dalton is a two-time Colorado state champion out of Pueblo East High School. He’s also a Fargo All-American and has been on a tear lately, downing U17 Greco-Roman World Champion Joel Adams twice in the month of October in folkstyle.

In fact, Dalton has been working out with former Husker James Green at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs since August. And the Huskers ended up offering Dalton in the spring after Dalton came out to participate in one of the Huskers’ freestyle camps.

“When you’re around a guy for five days, you see his workout habits,” Manning said. “He’s a competitive kid and he loves the sport. Another zero-maintenance type of guy. He’s got his act together. He’s a good student and high character. He’s a winner.”

Then after national signing day, Nebraska announced the surprise signing of Stiles out of Hoffman Estates, Ill. Ranked #6 in the country at 160 pounds, Stiles is a two-time Illinois state champion and has proven to be an absolute hammer.

“Ethan Stiles is a really good wrestler. He’s top-notch, he can wrestle,” Manning said. “We’re really happy that we got him.”

Nebraska’s highest-ranked guy on the Big Board, McDanel, is ranked #8 in the country at 195 pounds right now. He’s a Cadet national champion and two-time Ohio state finalist. According to Manning, McDanel will be taking a gap year next season to train at the Olympic Training Center.

“We see him kind of being the heir apparent to Silas Allred. We’re super high on this guy, man,” Manning said. “He’ll just be working on his skills (in Colorado). We really like Camden from the sandpoint that he’s just going to get better. He loves to workout and he loves to train. We see that he has a huge upside because he loves it.”

Both currently unranked nationally, Tanner Frothinger and Griffin Ray come in as guys with a lot of upside and potential. According to Manning, it’s hard to pinpoint what weight they’ll fit in because they’re both still growing. Frothinger is a three-time state champion out of Eagle, Idaho.

“Tanner Frothinger came to our camp this year, and we really like that guy. He’s going to jump levels once he gets in our room,” Manning said. “I recently just saw him a few weeks ago, and my man has grown an inch since the summer. He’s tall and long. I don’t know if he’s shaved yet. He hasn’t got his man muscles yet. It’s hard to tell where he’s going to end up.”

As for Ray, he’s been wrestling at 170 pounds out of Hillsborough, Mo. He’s also tall and long, making his collegiate weight tough to nail down, but it’ll most likely be 174 or 184, according to Manning.