Wrestling has always been in Nebraska freshman wrestler Joshua Licking’s blood.
Growing up in Norfolk, Nebraska, Licking grew up watching Nebraska wrestling as a child, particularly NCAA champion Jordan Burroughs’ run from 2007-2011. Licking started wrestling when he was just four years old, with dreams of one day wrestling for the Huskers.
As he grew older he began to take wrestling more seriously, traveling to competitions starting in sixth grade and going to camps to improve his wrestling skills. His eventual break towards realizing his lifelong dream of wrestling for the Huskers came from a familiar source.
Licking’s older brother, Caleb Licking, wrestled for four years at Nebraska, starting in 2017. Of the five sons in the Licking household, four of them wrestled, with Caleb being the first to reach the big stage of Nebraska. Joshua Licking took his brother’s achievement as an opportunity to introduce himself to the wrestling coaches at Nebraska, helping him get his foot in the door at the program.
Always being competitive with his brothers, whether in wrestling or simply competing to see who can get through the dinner line first, Joshua Licking used Caleb Licking’s success as motivation to reach the next level.
“It was cool to watch him do all that stuff,” Joshua Licking said. “It gives me something to beat, in a way, so that’s a driving factor every day.”
Aside from the sibling rivalry competitive factor, having a brother who's gone through five years of wrestling at the program gave Joshua Licking valuable insight on what it takes to succeed at Nebraska. Caleb Licking already went through the ringer of his first college wrestling season, and is using his experience to help his little brother out with whatever problems he’s facing in his first year.
“Every freshman goes through a transition period where they’re no longer the top dog in the room and they have to adjust to what competition’s like in college,” Caleb Licking said. “These guys are grown men, so I encourage him and tell him to hang in there and that things are gonna get better.”
A main staple of Caleb Licking’s advice to his brother is to fight for every point he can get in his first year, knowing that nothing’s going to come easy in his first year at the new level. Caleb Licking said he learned the ropes from his older teammates in his first years, and encouraged Joshua Licking to do the same and to pick the brains of his teammates and coaches.
Sophomore wrestler Peyton Robb is an upperclassman who helped Joshua Licking get adjusted. Robb has been with the Nebraska wrestling program since 2018. Robb, and every other upperclassmen on the team, knew Caleb Licking well, with him just leaving the program last year.
Because of this, they know just how good Joshua Licking can be, and offer him motivation so he can meet his ceiling.
“We’re looking for Caleb’s positive attitude at practice in Joshua, and we’ve seen it so far,” Robb said. “Although he hasn’t been here as long, they’re very similar people so it almost feels like the same person is here.”
Although freshmen don’t typically see the rotation right away, a wrestler’s first year is vital in making sure the right mindset is adopted while not letting early struggles derail the season.
With a solid support system of upperclassmen and valuable advice from his brother, who made a successful jump from small town Nebraska to a top Division I wrestling rotation, Joshua Licking’s future is bright at Nebraska.
“I think Joshie is gonna adjust really well to college life and the wrestling scene,” Caleb said. “He definitely has a really good shot at making the lineup at some point in his career, and I’m super excited to see what he does in the future.”