With over 100 years of history, Nebraska wrestling is one of the most storied programs in the collegiate wrestling ranks. Head Coach Mark Manning has taken the Huskers to new heights in his tenure and has established himself as one of the top wrestling coaches in the nation.
The NU record book is a testament to Manning’s accomplishments in Lincoln. In his 17 years at the helm, he has coached 46 of Nebraska’s 105 All-Americans. He has led the Huskers to six top-eight finishes at the NCAA Championships, compared to just eight for the 14 NU coaches before him. He became the winningest coach in school history on Feb. 21, 2015 when he picked up his 200th win at Nebraska. He won back-to-back Big 12 Coach-of-the-Year awards (2008 and 2009) after guiding Nebraska to a share of the conference crown in 2009 and a runner-up finish in 2008. Manning has also guided five wrestlers to a total of four individual NCAA championships.
Manning earned one of the top coaching honors in the entire sport when he was named the 2011 FILA Freestyle Coach of the Year after helping Jordan Burroughs capture the gold medal at the World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey. In 2015, Manning received the honor for a second time, as Burroughs earned another world title and a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team. Burroughs reached the pinnacle of the sport, earning Olympic gold in 2012, while winning world titles in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017 with Manning in his corner. Manning has also overseen the growth of James Green, who earned world bronze in 2015 and silver in 2017.
Records go on paper and in books and get tucked away. More important to Manning is the fact that he has helped numerous young men grow into upstanding adults by teaching them the correct principles of life. Regarded as one of the nation’s top recruiters, has a keen eye for finding the athletes with the right work ethic and dedication that he can develop.
Manning’s coaching philosophy is one that he began during his competitive days, developed during his time as an assistant coach and continues to modify during his time as head coach at Nebraska. It focuses on developing wrestlers to reach their potential. A wrestler who brings a positive attitude and work ethic to the room can use goal setting and responsibility to develop into an upstanding citizen who is committed to excellence. Manning works daily with the team on every detail in and out of practice, while keeping in mind the best long-term interests of his student-athletes.
Known for his fiery nature on the edge of the mat, Manning instills in his wrestlers a sense of determination and pride through his actions and demeanor. His guidance teaches his athletes to become winners in life, which translates into success in the classroom, on the mat and in their lives beyond wrestling.
In addition to their success on the mat, Husker wrestlers under Manning have earned 100 academic all-conference selections, including 59 Academic All-Big Ten awards during Nebraska’s first six seasons in the conference. In 2012, Nebraska turned in the nation’s best team grade-point average (3.46). Manning’s beliefs and values in developing student-athletes are evident right outside his office, where former Husker All-American Bryan Snyder is a member of the NU staff.
Manning’s coaching philosophy is one that he began during his competitive days, developed during his time as an assistant coach and continues to modify during his time as head coach at Nebraska.
Manning’s Mark at Nebraska
Manning began teaching his methods immediately when he was hired at Nebraska in May of 2000. His efforts first paid dividends when he led Nebraska to back-to-back eighth-place team finishes at the NCAA Championships in 2001 and 2002. Four Huskers (Snyder, Todd Beckerman, Ati Conner and Brad Vering) claimed All-America honors in Manning’s first year coaching the Huskers in 2000-01, as NU finished with an 11-6 dual record. Powell and Snyder also gave Manning his first two Big 12 Conference champions that year.
During the 2001-02 season, Manning led the Huskers to their third consecutive third-place finish at the Big 12 Championships. Justin Ruiz and Powell earned their first All-America accolades under Manning, while Snyder became Nebraska’s first four-time All-American with his second-place finish at 157 pounds.
Nebraska claimed a 16-7 dual record in 2002-03, as Manning guided NU to seven victories over ranked opponents, including a 20-17 victory over fifth-ranked Illinois at the Virginia Duals. At the 2003 NCAA Championships, Manning led a young lineup that included two juniors, five sophomores and three redshirt freshmen to a 13th-place showing. The finish marked the eighth time in nine seasons that NU had claimed a spot in the top 15 in the nation.
The 2003-04 Huskers and Manning posted one of the best wrestling seasons ever at NU with a 19-3 overall record, tying the second-highest win total in NU history. The Huskers posted two team titles during the season, winning the prestigious Las Vegas Invitational behind individual titles from Powell, Travis Shufelt and Travis Pascoe and winning the Virginia Duals with a 25-13 defeat of Lehigh in the finals. Manning directed the Huskers to second at the Big 12 Championships, while qualifying eight wrestlers for the NCAA Tournament, where NU earned a fifth-place finish. Manning coached his first national champion at Nebraska, as Powell claimed the title at 125 pounds with a 17-2 technical fall in the finals.
The Huskers’ success continued in 2004-05, with Nebraska winning 19 duals for the second straight year. NU’s 19-2-1 dual record was the second-best mark in school history. The Huskers started the campaign with eight straight dual wins, and ended the season by winning 12 of the last 13 duals. Nebraska posted eight wins over ranked foes, including a 16-15 upset of No. 2 Iowa State to end the dual season.
Manning’s 2005-06 squad was relatively inexperienced, but the Huskers earned a solid 12-5 dual record and a third-place finish at the National Duals. NU claimed third at the Big 12 Championships and two Huskers went on to finish as All-Americans. Manning’s legacy continued to grow in 2006-07, as he watched his second Husker claim a national title. Paul Donahoe earned the crown at 125 pounds after helping Nebraska to a 10-7-1 dual record.
The 2007-08 Husker campaign was one of the best ever under Manning. NU finished second at the Big 12 Championships with three individual champions and claimed fourth at the NCAA Championships with five Huskers finishing as All-Americans. That success would no doubt be a challenge to match, but the 2008-09 Nebraska wrestling team did just that. The Huskers won a share of the Big 12 championship for the first time in school history behind individual titles from Burroughs, Brandon Browne, Craig Brester and Vince Jones. Seven NU wrestlers qualified for the NCAA Championships, where the Huskers finished fourth with All-America accolades going to Burroughs (1st at 157), Brester (2nd at 197), Browne (4th at 174) and Jones (6th at 184). For his work with the 2009 squad, Manning was named Dan Gable Coach of the Year by WIN Magazine.
In 2010, Nebraska fought through a rash of injuries, including a season-ending setback to Burroughs. Despite the unfortunate luck, the Huskers still qualified five wrestlers for the NCAA Championships and finished 12th in the team standings, marking the seventh top-15 finish under Manning.
History was made in 2011, when Manning helped Burroughs become the first two-time national champion in school history by winning the 165-pound title at the NCAA Championships in Philadelphia, Pa. After the season, Burroughs was awarded the school’s first-ever Hodge Trophy, given annually to the nation’s top wrestler. As a team, the Huskers qualified seven total wrestlers for the national tournament and finished in 12th place for the second consecutive season.
In 2011-12, the Huskers finished 21st at the NCAA Championships as two wrestlers (Josh Ihnen and James Green) earned All-America accolades. Senior Tucker Lane became the 20th member of Nebraska’s 100-win club on Feb. 19.
In 2012-13, Robert Kokesh led Nebraska with a 38-4 record and a third-place finish at the NCAA Championships at 174 pounds. Green captured his second consecutive All-America honor at 157 pounds to help NU to a 13th-place finish. Ihnen fell one match short of All-America status but picked up his 100th collegiate win at the national tournament. He also earned CoSIDA Academic All-America honors, and helped the Huskers to an 11-6 dual record.
Green and Kokesh repeated as All-Americans in 2014, as Green took third at 157 pounds and Kokesh earned a fourth-place finish at 174. The pair also took home Big Ten titles, becoming the first Husker champions in three seasons as members of the conference. The Huskers returned to the newly renovated Devaney Center for all of their home duals after years of wrestling at the NU Coliseum. NU finished the dual season with a 12-2 record before finishing 11th at the NCAA Championships.
In 2014-15, the Huskers notched a ninth-place finish at the NCAA Championships, marking the 19th top-10 result in school history and first since 2009. Kokesh and Green each collected third-place finishes, while TJ Dudley earned his first All-America honor with an eighth-place showing at 184 pounds. During the dual season, NU set a school record for winning percentage (.933) after a 14-1 season, which included a tie for second in the Big Ten dual standings.
Dudley repeated as an All-American in 2015-16, this time making it to the NCAA Finals at 184 pounds. His runner-up finish led the team, which produced two additional All-Americans, Eric Montoya and Austin Wilson. As a team, NU finished eighth at the NCAA Championships and fourth at the Big Ten Championships. For the first time since 1995, NU qualified all 10 wrestlers for the national tournament. The Huskers posted an 11-6 record overall, going 5-4 in Big Ten duals.
The Huskers had four All-Americans to finish ninth as a team at the 2017 NCAA Championships. Dudley finished third to capture his third All-America honor. Montoya took sixth to finish his career as a two-time All-American. Aaron Studebaker and Tyler Berger each made the podium for the first time. Nebraska finished fourth at the Big Ten Championships after going 12-4 during the dual season.
The Road to Lincoln
Manning showed his ability to develop a top-notch program was universal, as he led a turnaround in the tradition-rich Northern Iowa program in his first head coaching position. Manning coached three seasons for the Panthers from 1997 to 2000 in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Under Manning, UNI compiled a 23-24-2 dual record and improved its mark in each of his seasons. His rebuilding effort with the Panthers included strong showings at the NCAA Championships. Northern Iowa tied for 30th in Manning’s first year, but improved to a 17th-place showing in 1998 and added an 11th-place finish at the 2000 NCAA Tournament, which was the school’s best showing in seven seasons.
Individually, several UNI wrestlers excelled on the national stage under Manning. In each of his last two seasons, the Panthers had a pair of All-Americans, including Tony Davis. A two-time NCAA finalist, Davis was the national champion at 149 pounds in 2000 and finished second in 1999.
Manning returned the Northern Iowa program to national prominence by attracting some of the nation’s top wrestling talent. His first Panther recruiting class was ranked second in the nation, while his second class was tabbed as the top class in the nation in 2000.
Before his appointment as the head coach at UNI, Manning had extensive experience as an assistant coach, including ties to the Big 12 Conference. Manning spent four seasons on Jack Spates’ staff at Oklahoma from 1993 to 1997 before accepting Northern Iowa’s head position. Manning helped guide the Sooners to three top-10 team finishes at the NCAA Championships during his tenure, including a seventh-place showing at the 1997 national tournament. He assisted in coaching 14 OU wrestlers to All-America accolades, and five Sooners to the NCAA finals. John Kading also claimed the 1996 190-pound title under him. Manning aided in the recruitment of three top-five national recruiting classes while in Norman.
Manning began his coaching career as an assistant at North Carolina from 1985 to 1993. While pursuing his master’s degree in sports administration, Manning assisted Coach Bill Lam in guiding 15 Tar Heel wrestlers to All-America honors, including four NCAA finalists and a pair of national champions. UNC posted top-10 NCAA finishes in 1986, 1987 and 1993 with Manning on staff, and captured four Atlantic Coast Conference titles. He also helped attract the nation’s top recruiting class to Chapel Hill, N.C., in the spring of 1990.
In addition to his extensive collegiate coaching experience, Manning has been selected numerous times to coach the United States in international competition. He has coached on U.S. Olympic teams as an assistant in 1996, 2000, 2012 and 2016, while also being named the head coach at U.S. Olympic Festivals in 1991, 1993 and 1995. Manning was chosen to head the U.S. freestyle team at the 2001 FILA World Championships and was an assistant on the U.S. delegation to the FILA World Championships eight times. He has also been active at the FILA Junior level, serving as the head coach twice, and traveling to the 2008 FILA Junior World Championships in Turkey as an assistant coach, where he coached Burroughs to a 10th-place finish. In 2009, Manning was a coach for the U.S. Freestyle World Team at the World Wrestling Championships in Herning, Denmark.
Manning had plenty of experience to build his coaching philosophies, as he was one of the top wrestlers in the nation during his competitive career. Manning wrestled collegiately at Nebraska for one year, before transferring to the University of Nebraska-Omaha. After redshirting a season, Manning went on to become a two-time NCAA Division II national champion and three-time All-American under Coach Mike Denney. Manning posted a 121-23 record for the Mavericks, while capturing titles at 150 pounds in 1983 and 1985. Manning helped UNO earn a third-place team finish in 1983 and runner-up honors in 1985. While competing for the Mavericks, he was the leader of UNO’s chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes for four years. Manning was inducted into the NCAA Division II Hall of Fame for his accomplishments as a wrestler and coach in 1999.
Manning’s competitive career also extended beyond the collegiate ranks. He was a member of the U.S. freestyle team from 1986 to 1989. He won a silver medal at the 1989 Pan American Games.
The Vermillion, S.D., native received his bachelor’s degree in physical education from Nebraska-Omaha in 1985, with a specialization in exercise science. Manning was the recipient of an NCAA postgraduate scholarship following his graduation from UNO and earned his master’s degree in sports administration from North Carolina in 1989.
Manning and his wife, Carrie, were married in August of 2006. Mark has four sons, Matthew, Connor, Ryan and Will.