s-NathanHaas

On Jan. 8, 2021, Nebraska redshirt freshman wrestler Nathan Haas made some noise by winning his first ever collegiate match. 

Getting to that point, though, was far from an easy path.  Persistence was key in elevating Haas towards his first major collegiate milestone. 

Growing up, the Norfolk, California native played football in middle school, but wanted to try something new. His dad had also wrestled, so Haas wanted to see what it was all about. After he joined a youth program in 6th grade, he immediately fell in love with the sport.

“I loved it because It's a sport that never ends, you're always learning and it never gets old, you're always adapting and evolving,” Haas said.

While in middle school, Haas mostly competed locally, but found success early on, winning the state tournament his second year of wrestling, and then winning state again in 8th grade.

According to Haas, competing at a high level during his youth years prepared him to compete at St. John Bosco High School, a school known for producing great wrestlers.

“The youth team, Tribe Youth Wrestling Club, was a feeder program for our high school, so the program prepared me because I was already familiar with the people and facilities,” Haas said. “It guided me to want to go there and I already felt comfortable as a freshman.”

According to St. John Bosco assistant coach Ruben Valencia, who was also his coach at the youth level, Haas stood out early on. Valencia said his work ethic contributed greatly to his high school success. 

“He was always a hard worker, shy, but super obedient,” Valencia said. “When he first came to Tribe he was not very good yet, but his effort was top notch. He kept improving and freshman year we formed a bond because he listened to me and wanted to get better.” 

Once Haas got to high school, competing in college was the goal from the beginning for him and his coaches. However, his high school career did not start out as great as he had hoped, not even placing at the state qualifiers his freshman year. 

Nonetheless, this motivated him to work even harder that summer, leading him to the state meet his sophomore year. However, he did not place there as he had hoped. 

“That really stung, almost even more than freshman year, because I had put in all this work, made it State and then didn't place like I should have,” Haas said. “It just showed I had more work to do.”

That summer, he was determined to prove himself, relentlessly perfecting his skills and competing at multiple national tournaments. His hard work ended up paying off, placing second at the Junior National Tournament in Fargo, North Dakota, finally putting him on the map.

“Placing second at that tournament was a game-changer,” Haas said. “I was finally able to make a name for myself again in the national rankings. I was ranked 20th in the nation going into junior year.”

Things began to click for Haas after that, only losing once his junior year and winning his first high school state title. Going into his senior year, he was ranked No. 4 in the nation. Once again, he only lost once the entire season and won his second state title. 

“The biggest moment of my high school career was winning state for the first time,” Haas said. “I wasn’t supposed to win because there was a reigning state champion in the bracket, so beating him was a big moment for me. My career started off rocky, but my last two years proved what I was capable of.”

He attributes his success to his coaches, especially Valencia. 

“He pushed me crazy hard, but was also a mentor to me,” Haas said. “Without him guiding me in the right direction I wouldn't be near as good today. He is one of the most impactful people in my career.” 

His talent on the mat caught the attention of Nebraska, much to his excitement. After an official visit, his first in the recruiting process, he committed right away and cancelled his other visits. 

“It immediately felt like it was the place I wanted to be, it just felt like home,” Haas said. “I wanted to go to a big university and get that experience. Being able to compete at a Big Ten school is a huge accomplishment on its own and I was excited to be a part of something huge like that.”

Haas came to campus last fall, and made a statement in Nebraska’s first meet last season. Haas started his collegiate career off strong, winning his first aforementioned collegiate match in January against Minnesota's then-No. 19 Michael Blockhus. This season, he won the Grand View Open at 184 pounds, winning the championship bout 10-4.

“I was confident going into Grand View that my training was going to pay off, and was ready to see how I compared to others,” Haas said. “I expected myself to win, but it was a good showing.”

Despite not competing in Nebraska’s lineup quite yet, he looks forward to seeing what he can do in some open meets and hopefully crack the Huskers’ rotation next season. 

Of course, he still talks with Valencia often, whether it be about his schoolwork or after a match. Valencia looks forward to seeing what his former athlete will do at the collegiate level.

“I’m looking forward to him doing his best and going as far as he can,” Valencia said.  “For the next four years of his collegiate career I know he's going to work hard, wrestle well and do good for the Cornhuskers.”

For now, Haas is just enjoying being able to compete and having fun, as well as starting his fashion design major while furthering his growth both on and off the mat.

“There are so many resources to help me grow and have a smooth ride here at Nebraska,” Haas said. “Even though it was a quick choice, it was the right choice, and I can’t wait to see where it leads me.” 

Despite being excited to watch his wrestling career unfold, Valencia said that he is looking even more forward to what he does after college. While he has enjoyed watching his progress as an athlete, he emphasizes that Haas is so much more than a wrestler. 

“He is so creative and will do even bigger and better things,” Valencia said. “He's good as a wrestler, but if he continues to dream and pursue and work he's going to do amazing things in life.”

sports@dailynebraskan.com