Randy York's N-Sider
Somehow, it’s appropriate that the last intercollegiate competition that will count as a win or a loss in the history of the NU Coliseum will be Nebraska's 7 o’clock Friday night wrestling match against Michigan State. Is there anything more worthy than giving the oldest recorded sport in the nation’s oldest athletic conference the honor of bringing down the curtain in celebration of one of this state’s most historic structures?
Friday Night at the Coliseum will be one wrestler’s will pitted against another’s in primal combat. And that, in its own inimitable way, will salute all Husker wrestlers from the past, whether they competed inside the Coliseum or the Devaney Center. As the Huskers prepare to host the last competitive event that counts inside this once dimly lit facility, we share 10 celebratory facts for wrestling to exit stage left, while Nebraska’s volleyball team, the building’s longest anchored tenant, waits to bid its own farewell with three spring exhibition matches against Creighton, Iowa State and South Dakota:
1) It doesn’t get any better than having Jordan Burroughs, the world’s hottest wrestler, in Lincoln so he can be honored between Friday night’s fifth and sixth matches. America’s highly celebrated and widely publicized Olympic gold medalist also is set to answer questions beginning at 6 p.m. on Youth Wrestling Night. The Coliseum doors will open at 5:30 p.m. to accommodate this uniquely timed Q&A.
2) Nebraska Wrestling Coach Mark Manning will honor NU Athletic Director Emeritus Tom Osborne with a guest coaching spot on the bench. It's Manning's own special tribute to a life skills mentor who also has spearheaded the transformation of the program’s facilities. With a giant-sized wrestling room, four new mats and 40 custom-made, backlit lockers, the Huskers now have what it takes to recruit in the Big Ten.
3) Friday is Senior Night for starters Josh Ihnen, Ridge Kiley and Tyler Koehn. Ross Grande and Michael Klinginsmith also will be honored. Grande, a three-time letterwinner from Palatine, Ill., is a 2012 Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and, through a relative, has become a role model for supporting a young Alabama wrestler with cerebral palsy. Klinginsmith, a two-time letterwinner and 4.0 student from Kearney, Neb., will bypass his final year of eligibility to attend med school at UNMC in Omaha this fall.
4) Nebraska's 2012-13 wrestling motto is Tough ... Together, so it's only fitting to acknowledge Rulon Gardner, the Huskers’ other Olympic gold medalist and permanent fixture on the Olympic highlight reel. In a shocking upset of three-time Russian Olympic champion Aleksandr Karelin, Gardner won the Greco-Roman heavyweight title in 2000, handing Karelin his first loss in 13 years of international competition.
5) Through the years, Nebraska has produced five other Olympians in addition to Burroughs and Gardner, who also won an Olympic bronze. They are: Dan Brand (fifth, lightweight & bronze middleweight in 1960 and ’64); Jim Scherr (fifth at 198 in ‘88), Bill Scherr (bronze at 220 in ’88); Matt Lindland (silver at 167 in 2000); and Brad Vering (eleventh at 185 in 2004 and an Olympic Team spot at 185 in 2008).
6) The Huskers claim three world champion wrestlers – Bill Scherr (90 kg Freestyle in 1985); Gardner (130 kg Greco-Roman in 2001) and Burroughs (74 kg Freestyle in 2011). NU also has four world runners-up – Bill Scherr (100 kg Freestyle, 1986); Jim Scherr, 90 kg Freestyle, 1987 and 1989); Lindland (85 kg Greco-Roman, 2001); and Vering (84 kg, Greco-Roman, 2007).
7) NU has 11 individual NCAA national champions with Burroughs winning two following unbeaten regular seasons (35-0 at 157 in 2009 and 36-0 at 165 in 2011). The other nine: Mike Nissen (123, 1963); Jim Scherr (177, 1984); Bill Scherr (190, 1984); Jason Kelber (126, 1991); Tony Purler (126, 1993); Tolly Thompson (Hwt., 1995); Brad Vering (197, 2000); Jason Powell (125, 2004) and Paul Donahoe (125, 2007).
8) If wrestling teaches such valuable lessons as self-discipline and perseverance, no wonder the Scherr twins – natives of Mobridge, S.D. – have succeeded in life. Jim, once the CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, is now CEO of a marketing firm and Bill is the vice president of a global investment firm. Former Husker John Myers is the founder of a digital design and effects studio and Judd Norman owns an investment firm.
9) After coaching Nebraska to a share of the 2009 Big 12 Conference Championship at the Coliseum, Manning is on a solid 13-year run as head coach. His Husker teams have an overall record of 173-65-3, including a 27-20 mark at home against ranked teams. The Huskers have finished in the Top Eight at five NCAA Championships and accumulated 32 All-America honors, including five individual national titles.
10) Beginning next fall, Nebraska wrestling will compete in a $20 million remodeled Devaney Center that will be home to NU volleyball and men’s and women’s gymnastics. Here are wrestling’s highlights: 91 All-America honors; 45 NWCA All-Academic selections; 18 Top Ten NCAA team finishes; 15 USA World Championship medals; 11 individual national champions; 10 Olympians; and six CoSIDA Academic All-Americans.
(The N-Sider will take readers on a nostalgic Coliseum journey on Monday).
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