Huskers Sign Five to 2008-09 Wrestling Squad

By NU Athletic Communications
Mark Manning has signed five recruits to next year's squad.
Mark Manning has signed five recruits to next year's squad.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Lincoln Nebraska head coach Mark Manning has announced the signing of five recruits that will join the Husker wrestling squad in the 2008-09 academic year.


The five signees, Riley Essay of Alliance, Neb., Jon Burns of Railegh, N.C.,  Romero Cotton of Hutchinson, Kan., Tyler Koehn of Pittsburg, Kan., and Josh Ihnen of Sheldon, Iowa, will add look to add depth to a talent-filled Nebraska squad.


“The important thing is these kids bring the work ethic and attitude that we want in our kids,” Assistant coach Tony Ersland said. “We feel all these guys are on the same page and we can hit the ground running. They have talent, but more importantly they have the correct attitude and work ethic.”


Burns joins the Huskers after a standout career at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh, N.C. In his freshman year at Cary High School, Burns finished third at the state tournament, and took home the 140-pound title in the Jim King/Orange Invitational. Burns sat out his sophomore year after transferring, but rebounded with a phenomenal junior campaign. Burns completed a 65-0 season and won the state championship. He capped his year by winning the 140-pound title at the National High School Coaches Association Junior National Wrestling Championships in Virginia Beach, Va. Ranked as the ninth-best junior in the nation last year, Burns will compete at 141 pounds for the Huskers.


“He is an accomplished athlete that has a lot of untapped potential,” Ersland said. “We see his upside as tremendous. Hopefully he will continue to grow and be a top kid for us.”


The Huskers again signed one of the top recruits in the state with Essay, who will look to cap his high school career with a fourth consecutive top-five finish at the state tournament this season. Essay earned a fourth-place finish his freshman year at 103 pounds and finished fifth at 112 his sophomore year. Last season saw Essay claim third at 125. Essay is projected to wrestle at 133 for NU.


“He is going to fit in well because he is a hard working, dedicated kid,” Ersland said. “We know he has a lot of desire and will bring his great work habits to our room.”


NU adds two more talented athletes with Kansas natives Cotton and Koehn. Wrestling at 152 pounds, Koehn captured a state championship last season for Pittsburg High School. He earned All-American honors last summer in the freestyle division at the USA Wrestling Nationals. Koehn works hard off the mat also, earning a 3.8 GPA at his high school. Koehn will wrestle at 174 for NU.


“Koehn is another fundamentally-sound wrestler who knows how to win,” Ersland said.


Cotton also has his share of state championships. He will attempt to become a four-time state champion this winter, after winning titles in 2004 at 145, in 2006 at 160 and in 2007 at 171. One of the top recruits in the nation at 189 pounds, Cotton’s athleticism has transferred to other sports as well. A running back for the three-time defending state champion Hutchinson High School, Cotton rushed for 1,398 yards and 22 touchdowns his junior season. Cotton is expected to wrestle 184 pounds in college.


Kansas as a state has done an excellent job with their kids,” Ersland said. “Their organization has provided their kids an opportunity to wrestle at all sorts of levels.”


Rounding out the early signings is Ihnen. After a runner-up finish at 171 pounds at the state tournament last season, Ihnen competed this summer at the USA Wrestling nationals, where he earned All-America honors in the freestyle division. Ihnen has shown abilities in the classroom also, touting a 3.99 GPA and a 30 ACT score. Ihnen will wrestle at 197 pounds for the Huskers.


“He is a smart wrestler who has been around our program a lot,” Ersland said. “He has been to our camps and we have seen him wrestle quit a bit. He will fit in well with our philosophy as a team.”


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