Wrestling Season Preview

Nebraska wrestling head coach Mark Manning speaks with wrestler Mikey Labriola during a meet against Iowa at the Bob Devaney Sports Complex on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The Nebraska Huskers wrestling team begins its season Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019, at 6:30 p.m. with duals against Hastings College, University of Nebraska at Kearney and Chadron State College, at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. 

The Huskers have high expectations going into this season as they are ranked No. 5 in the NCAA preseason wrestling poll.

“We’ve got a lot of guys coming back with experience so I expect us to get the most out of our abilities and to train really hard. The main expectation is to give our best effort out on the mat for each match,” junior All-American Taylor Venz said (184 pounds). 

Junior and two-time All-American Chad Red Jr. (141 pounds) was more quantitative in his expectations for the Huskers this season. 

“I am holding myself accountable to helping bring home a team Big Ten title and a national title for Nebraska,” he said.

Head coach Mark Manning feels the team hasn’t reached its potential yet, and needs improvement over the course of the season to reach their goals.

“I think we just really need to keep developing our guys mentally and physically throughout the season. That’s the biggest thing, it goes a long way, keeping them disciplined,” Manning said.

While many of the starting spots at each weight class for the Huskers are filled mostly by returning starters from last season, there are a few weight classes that are still up for grabs even as the season gets underway. 

According to Manning, the 133-pound spot could go to fifth-year veteran Zak Hensley, but freshman Ridge Lovett and sophomore Jevon Parrish are challenging for the spot. Meanwhile, senior Collin Purington has faced competition from junior Caleb Licking and freshman Kevon Davenport at 149 pounds.

While those weight classes are still up in the air, there are many which have experienced veterans filling the spot. One of these weight classes is at 141 pounds where Red Jr. feels like he can become a leader this season. 

“I want to use everything I can coming into practice everyday, giving 110% and making sure I’m holding everyone accountable and being the best leader I can be,” Red Jr. said.

When it comes to leadership, the Huskers lost a big competitor and team leader in All-American and national runner-up Tyler Berger (157 pounds). However, Berger is now on the coaching staff as a volunteer coach so his leadership is still felt.

“Even though we lost Tyler as a competitor, we still have him in practice and the weight room everyday pushing guys and making them better,” Manning said.

Nebraska will have one of the most challenging schedules in the country. Its non-conference schedule includes duals against No. 14 Northern Iowa and No. 24 Wyoming. During the conference season, the Huskers will face No. 1 Penn State, No. 2 Iowa, No. 3 Ohio State, No. 6 Minnesota, No. 7 Wisconsin, No. 19 Michigan and No. 21 Northwestern. 

Even with so many high-level opponents on the schedule, Red Jr. said that Nebraska isn’t looking forward to any one opponent more than another.

“Anyone who steps on the mat against us, we see it as disrespectful, we’ll try and make quick work out of anybody we face and take them down fast,” he said.

Over the course of the year, Manning is looking to keep helping his wrestlers improve and contribute to a winning team.

“Every year is a big year, we are focusing on developing each guy to better themselves each year,” he said. “They are never a finished product. We develop their work ethic and try to bring out the best in each guy on the team.”


This article was modified at 10:24 a.m. on Nov. 8 to correct the upcoming duals.