The Nebraska wrestling team redshirted every single freshman in this year’s class. That is, except for one: Ridge Lovett. He is a true freshman wrestler from Post Falls, Idaho, and he was the No. 19 overall prospect in the 2019 class, according to FloWrestling. He had plenty of options when it came time to wrestle collegiately, but he chose Nebraska.
“I was just so impressed with the fan base. Thousands of people at every meet, super active on social media, Husker fans are something special,” Lovett said. “I was sold from my first unofficial visit. I felt really comfortable, the facilities were unlike anything I had ever seen before and everybody was really committed to the wrestling process.”
His father, Lonnie, got him into wrestling when he was just three years old. Lonnie was a coach for the local wrestling club called Team Real Life, when he would bring young Lovett into practices with him.
“Wrestling is part of a lot of my earliest memories as a kid, and I think that it really helped to shape who I am today,” Lovett said.
Lovett was certainly shaped by his early experiences on the mat, as he went on to wrestle at both club and high school levels. In high school, he won the Idaho 5A state title four years in a row and was the 2019 Idaho Wrestler of the Year.
At the club level, starting at the age of eight, he traveled to Virginia, Florida, Colorado and many other places across the country to compete in wrestling tournaments. His crowning achievements are his placements at the Fargo Invitational that he competed in for three years. In his first year, he finished third in Greco-Roman and fifth in freestyle at the 120-pound weight class. In his second year, he finished first in Greco-Roman and second in freestyle at the 132-pound weight class. Also competing in the 132-pound weight class in his third year at Fargo, he placed the exact same as the previous year’s results.
“I think that competing at a high level early on in my wrestling career helps to give me an advantage, as I have more wrestling experience, but also have more to learn from,” Lovett said.
That preparation has paid off so far, as Lovett is 12-6 overall this season with three pins. He is the only true freshman starting for the Nebraska wrestling team this year.
“I started the season with a redshirt, but then the coaches asked me if I wanted to pull it and give it a shot this year, and I figured, ‘Why not go for it?’” Lovett said.
Since then, Lovett has been a stalwart at the 133-pound weight class for the Huskers. Lovett did not always know if he was ready for such a large responsibility and had many conversations with the coaching staff before he made his decision. Head coach Mark Manning knew from the start that he could trust the true freshman.
“Ridge is a tremendous competitor and very mature in his approach to the sport and the discipline it takes to sustain success,” he said. “We always know what kind of effort and attitude he’s going to bring to the mat, and he leads by example.”
Other than wrestling, Lovett enjoys keeping a balance in his life by participating in hobbies such as fishing, wakeboarding and hunting in his free time. He also has a great time with his teammates outside of practice.
However, Lovett maintains that his primary focus at the moment is wrestling, and he has set lofty goals for himself and for his team. He also understands that he needs to get better, particularly in the neutral position on his feet, an area of wrestling he identifies as his weak point.
“If everyone achieves their personal goals, I know that together this team has the ability to compete for a national championship — that is our whole goal every year as a team, and I’m willing to do anything I can to make it happen,” Lovett said.