Redshirt freshman and Iowa native Alex Thomsen had a traditional, yet compelling path to Nebraska wrestling. He was recruited hard by Nebraska from the start, in particular by associate head coach Bryan Snyder. Thomsen was eventually chased by successful in-state programs such as Iowa and Iowa State, but it was too late, as he had already made his decision.
“I just felt really at home at Nebraska, like I belonged, that they wanted me there,” Thomsen said. “I knew I would have the chance to grow as a wrestler in Lincoln.”
Despite being from Neola, Iowa, Thomsen has a connection to Nebraska as his high school head coach Joe Stephens wrestled at Nebraska from 1992 to 1995. This did not impact Thomsen’s decision to come to Nebraska, he said, and Stephens allowed him to make his own choice without guiding him in any particular direction.
“There were some people that were unhappy with me leaving the state of Iowa to wrestle,” Thomsen said. “But I just love it here at Nebraska, and I know I made the right decision for me.”
Thomsen is a redshirt freshman and wrestles at the 125-pound weight class. Last season, during his redshirt year, he went 13-2. This season, he is 8-9 as a full member of the roster.
At nearby Underwood High School, Thomsen went a combined 190-1 during his high school career, wrestling in the 113-pound weight class and at the 126-pound weight class from his sophomore year onward. He won state titles all four years of his high school career, with three undefeated seasons.
He was also a highly accomplished wrestler outside of high school, competing in and winning many competitions. In 2016, he competed in the 126-pound weight class and finished fifth at the Super 32 tournament. In 2017, he competed in the 126-pound weight class at the Fargo Junior National Invitational, where he won the title in Greco-Roman wrestling and finished fifth in Freestyle wrestling. He also placed third in the challenge tournament, wrestling at 55 kg at the 2017 Junior Freestyle World Team Trials that took place at the Devaney Center.
“I think wrestling at those big competitions when I was younger helped to prepare me for college as a wrestler,” Thomsen said, “but also in dealing with high pressure situations and big crowds. I don’t really feel nervous wrestling in front of thousands of people now.”
He was coached by Stephens and a volunteer coach at his high school, Jake Head, who was also his club wrestling head coach from sixth grade until his freshman year of high school. The club wrestling group that Head lead was called Swift Wrestling, which Thomsen was a member of for many years. They, along with his father Aric, helped mold his passion and love for wrestling,
“There have always been people in my life who loved wrestling,” Thomsen said. “They always pushed me to be better and try harder.”
Thomsen has two younger brothers, Blake, who is a senior at Underwood and will attend St. Cloud State next year, and Carson, who is in eighth grade and will attend Underwood next year. Thomsen enjoys a family atmosphere, and it is one of the reasons he came to Nebraska.
“I think the guys on the team, the coaches, and everyone else involved with the team make a sort of family all together,” he said.
Thomsen has taken this familial atmosphere to the next level, as he lives with five of his teammates, redshirt freshmen Austin Emerson, Anthony Gaona, Jordan Kelber, Peyton Robb and sophomore Jevon Parrish.
“I really appreciate the environment of living with my teammates because it’s really fun, but we can also keep each other accountable as wrestlers,” he said.
“I feel like that has been the highlight of college outside of wrestling for me — meeting and getting to know the people I now consider to be my best friends,” Thomsen said.
One thing he shares with some of his teammates is his love for being in nature, especially through hunting and fishing. He enjoys finding new hunting and fishing spots around the Lincoln area and back home. When he can, he also enjoys going ice fishing with Gaona and Kelber.
Despite spending time on his hobbies, he says that his true passion is and always will be wrestling.
“In high school, coaches would have to tell me to take a break because I go too hard, for too long,” he said. “I’ve had to learn to bring a balance of school, wrestling and hobbies into my life to be healthier and happier.”
While he has not been satisfied with his performance up until this point in the season, Thomsen considered his matches against Penn State and Michigan State to be a turning point in his season.
“I’ve been struggling with dieting correctly, and I think that is to blame somewhat for my performance this season,” he said. “But I think things are going to keep improving from now on; those wins were momentum shifters for me.”
Thomsen believes that, individually, he has the capacity to be a better person and wrestler as the season progresses and knows that there are many things for him to improve on.
“He [Alex] is a talented young man, who is working hard at developing himself,” head coach Mark Manning said.
“I would also like to get better at top to bottom wrestling for a more well-rounded wrestling performance for me,” Thomsen said. “Whether it’s fair or not, my match is very crucial because I go first. I have to set a good tone for the dual and for everyone else to follow.”
Since he was dominant when he was younger and in high school, he wrestled a lot on his feet and did not often have to get out of a tough situation. He thinks the more he wrestles at Nebraska against strong competition, the better he will get.
“He has the ability to come on strong for us in the second half of the season,” Manning said.
Thomsen echoed the sentiments of his coach but went even further.
“I know that if I wrestle to my potential,” he said, “I can help this team win both a Big Ten title and a national title, as well as collect All-American honors for myself.”