The first week of December was a busy one in Nebraska sports with invitationals and NCAA Tournament action taking over the weekend in multiple sports. This week’s Daily Nebraskan Freshman Athlete of the Week winner is 133-pound wrestler Ridge Lovett.
Over the course of two days, the wrestling team traveled out to Las Vegas to compete in the Cliff Keen Invitational. As a team, Nebraska won the invitational. Lovett walked away from the invite with a third-place finish, going 5-1 in the 133-pound weight class.
On the first day, Lovett entered his first match going up against ninth-ranked Taylor LaMont of Utah Valley. Despite the competition, Lovett defeated LaMont with a 6-1 decision. He moved on and won his next two matches, including a nail-biting 8-7 decision in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, Lovett lost to eighth-ranked Montorie Bridges of Wyoming in a 5-1 decision, and competed in the wrestlebacks to grab third place.
Lovett wrestled in two more matches, pinning his first opponent in nearly two minutes and then winning the third-place match in a 7-1 decision. Lovett was one of three Huskers to finish in the top three. The other two were fourth-ranked 165-pounder Isaiah White, who finished first, and fifth-ranked 174-pounder Mikey Labriola who finished third as well.
This was Lovett’s first career invitational with the team, and although he didn’t win his weight class, he still made a fine impression at the invite. On the season, Lovett was 3-1 going into the Cliff Keen Invite, with a 3-0 sweep at the Daktronics Open and a loss against Northern Iowa in a dual meet. With the team just over a month into the season, Lovett has already been tested against heavy competition. He is 1-1 against top 10 opponents in his weight class, which could be a sign of greater things to come.
The first honorable mention is volleyball outside hitter Madi Kubik. With the NCAA women’s volleyball tournament in full swing, the fifth-ranked Huskers have a lot riding on them. They hosted the first two rounds of the tournament and went toe-to-toe with Ball State and Missouri. The Huskers defeated both opponents to advance to regionals. Kubik knocked in 11 kills in each match, totaling 22 after two rounds. She also earned 17 digs, four blocks, two assists and an ace as well. Along with the stellar performance, Kubik received her sixth double-double of the season against Missouri, her last one coming against Minnesota in November. With the team traveling to Madison, Wisconsin, to battle 18th-ranked Hawaii, Kubik will most certainly be a key component for the Huskers.
The second honorable mention is volleyball libero Kenzie Knuckles. While Kubik was contributing to the team with kills, Knuckles was playing her part with digs and assists. After two rounds, Knuckles had racked up 25 digs and 13 assists. Knuckles leads the team in digs as she surpassed 400 digs during the second-round match against Missouri, and has been a big contributor all season.