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Senior Craig Brester (197) and the Huskers compete at the 2010 Big 12 Championship this Saturday.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Huskers Travel to Norman for 2010 Big 12 Championship

By NU Athletic Communications

2010 Big 12 Championship
McCasland Field House (4,640) • Norman, Okla. • Saturday, March 6, 2010 • 11 a.m.
Last Year: Tied-First Place (70 points)
Big 12 Championship History: Five top-three finishes in last six years
Television: Fox Sports Net (Tape delay on Thursday, March 11 at 12:30 p.m. CST and Wednesday, March 17 at 8 p.m.)
Live Video: Fox Sports Net (finals only)
Live Video: Big12sports.com
Live Stats: Soonersports.com
Live Blog: Huskers.com

Next: at 2010 NCAA Championships, March 18-20 in Omaha, Neb.
*Fox Sports Net will web stream the finals only, while the Big 12 Conference will stream the rest of the day's action. Both links are posted above.

The goals and aspirations of reaching the national stage begin this Saturday, as the Nebraska wrestling team enters postseason competition at the 2010 Big 12 Championship in Norman, Okla. The conference tournament will largely determine which Huskers will qualify for this month's NCAA Championships at Qwest Center Omaha.

The 2010 Big 12 Championship begins with the pigtail round at 11 a.m., followed by semifinals at Noon. The second session starts at 4 p.m. with consolation matches, followed by finals at 7 p.m. A live webcast will be provided free on Big12sports.com and Fox Sports Net will broadcast the finals on a tape-delay basis (date to be determined). Huskers. com will also feature with a live blog to track all of Nebraska's progress, while Oklahoma - the host school for the 2010 Big 12 Championship - will have live stats on Soonersports.com.

Nebraska's season has been partly marred by injuries in its 149- and 157-pound weight classes. However, head coach Mark Manning's squad has overcome the injury bug to feature a lineup that will give the Huskers a solid chance to qualify numerous wrestlers for the national tournament. Four Huskers are currently ranked in InterMat's lastest poll, with three (Craig Brester, 197; Stephen Dwyer, 174; Tucker Lane, HWT) already claiming automatic-qualifying spots for the 2010 NCAA Championships.

Brester, ranked No. 2 nationally at 197 pounds, is the defending Big 12 champion following his 4-3 decision over Jake Varner (Iowa State) at last year's conference tournament. Varner has come back to defeat Brester in their last two meetings and given the Husker his only loss in a 25-1 regular season. Earlier this year, Brester reached 100 wins after he defeated Oregon State's Chad Hanke by a 10-2 major decision, becoming NU's first 100-win club member since Travis Pascoe hit the century mark at the end of the 2004-05 season.

In Nebraska's last match Feb. 21 at Iowa State, Dwyer joined Brester in the 100-win club, marking the first season the Huskers have had two wrestlers reach 100 wins in the same year since 2000-01 when Bryan Snyder and Brad Vering both accomplished the feat. Dwyer is ranked No. 4 at 174 pounds with a 22-3 record. He holds a 4-0 mark against Big 12 opponents and will aim for his first conference title this Saturday.

Lane has also claimed an automatic-qualifying spot at the national tournament following a 20-9 sophomore season. He finished third at the 2009 Big 12 Championships and is currently ranked No. 13 in the nation. Junior Mike Koehnlein (141) will be among seven other Huskers vying for a spot at nationals. The junior college transfer is ranked No. 20 in InterMat's latest poll after his 4-2 upset of No. 18 Dalton Jenson (Iowa State) and is 18-13 in his first season with the Huskers.

Husker History at the Big 12 Championship
Nebraska and Iowa State tied for the 2009 Big 12 Championship last March in Lincoln, giving the Huskers their first conference championship since securing the Big Eight crown in 1995. Four NU wrestlers were crowned champions in Vince Jones (184), Jordan Burroughs (157), Brandon Browne (174) and Craig Brester (197).

Prior to last year's title, the Huskers were in the thick of the conference championship chase with four top-three finishes in a five-year span from 2004 to 2008.

Individually, Husker wrestlers have earned 57 conference championships over the years, including 17 since the Big 12 Conference was formed in 1997. The list of recent conference champions is led by four-time Big 12 champion Bryan Snyder at 157 pounds. The four-time All-American brought home the conference gold for Nebraska from 1999-2002.

Last Year at the Big 12 Championship: NU Ties for Conference Crown
The fourth-ranked Nebraska wrestling team earned a co-championship at the Big 12 Wrestling Championship on March 7, 2009 in Lincoln, with four Huskers capturing individual titles. Nebraska finished the meet at the NU Coliseum with 70 points to tie No. 3 Iowa State.

The crown was the first Big 12 Championship for Nebraska and the first conference wrestling crown for the Huskers since winning the 1995 Big Eight title. Iowa State's tie for the title marked the third straight Big 12 crown for the Cyclones. The championship was also the first Big 12 title for a Nebraska men's team in any sport since the Huskers shared the 2007 Big 12 indoor track and field title.

Nebraska entered the finals six points behind Iowa State, but went 4-1 in the championship round, while ISU won just two of seven championship bouts, resulting in the team tie. Juniors Jordan Burroughs (157) and Craig Brester (197), along with seniors Brandon Browne (174) and Vince Jones (184) captured individual titles for Nebraska. The titles for Burroughs and Browne marked the second straight Big 12 crowns for each. The four conference champions ties for the most in school history. NU also had four champions in 1949 and 1995.

The second-ranked Brester supplied the crucial points for Nebraska with a 4-3 decision over top-ranked Jake Varner of Iowa State. Brester scored a takedown with nine seconds remaining in the second period for a 3-1 lead. Varner tied the match with a third-period takedown before Brester scored an escape with 52 seconds left in the final period to supply the winning margin.

Brester's performance earned him Outstanding Wrestler honors at the meet. He began the day with a dominant 15-5 major decision over Missouri's Max Askren in the semifinals. Brester's honor marked the second straight year Nebraska captured OW honors after Burroughs won the award in 2008.

Burroughs earned his title with a hard-fought 6-4 victory over Missouri's Michael Chandler. The Tiger wrestler jumped to a 2-0 first-period lead, but Burroughs scored takedowns in the final 10 seconds of both the first and second periods to key the victory.

Browne captured his second conference crown with a last-second 3-1 decision over Missouri's Raymond Jordan. The wrestlers battled to a 1-1 tie, before Browne scored a takedown with three seconds remaining in the match to secure the title.

Jones controlled throughout a 3-0 decision over Iowa State's Jerome Ward in the 184-pound title. Jones scored a takedown near the end of the second period to take a 2-0 advantage, then added a third-period escape, while controlling the tempo to keep Ward off the scoreboard.

Overall, the four Nebraska titlists scored five takedowns in the final 10 seconds of periods, including two by Burroughs and one each by Browne, Jones and Brester.

Scouting No. 2 Iowa State (13-2)
Kevin Jackson is in his first year as Iowa State's head wrestling coach, leading to the Cyclones to a 13-2 record with a 4-0 mark in Big 12 duals. Jackson replaced former Cyclone great Cael Sanderson as head coach in the offseason when Sanderson accepted the same position at Penn State University. Jackson has Iowa State roots as well, captaining the school's last national championship team in 1987. That was Jackson's only year wrestling for the Cyclones, transferring to ISU after Louisiana State dropped its program following his junior season. Jackson quickly worked his way up the coaching ranks after college, most recently serving as the National Freestyle Coach for USA Wrestling from 2001 to 2008.

Individually, the Cyclones are ranked in nine weight classes. Of those, six are in the top 10. ISU is led by three-time NCAA finalist and 2009 NCAA champion Jake Varner at 197 pounds, who is 24-0 this season. Classmate David Zabriskie has been nearly as impressive, ranking No. 5 at Heavyweight with a 19-2 record. Zabriskie finished fifth at the 2009 NCAA Championships to earn his second straight All-America honor. Junior Jon Reader expects to contend for a national championship at 165 pounds, currently holding a No. 2 national ranking with a 21-3 record. The Cyclones also return an All-American at 133 pounds, as senior Nick Fanthorpe enters this weekend with a 15-6 record and ranked No 9.

Scouting No. 3 Oklahoma State (14-2-1)
John Smith has had an incredible amount of success in his 19 seasons as head coach at Oklahoma State, racking up five NCAA team championships and 23 individual championships on his way to a 295-44-5 record. The Cowboys had a rebuilding year last season, finishing fourth at the Big 12 Championships and crowning only one All-American (Jared Rosholt). This year, Smith has coached a more experienced Cowboy squad to a 14-2-1 record and returned to the top of the polls with a No. 3 national ranking.

Individually, the Cowboys are led by returning All-American Jared Rosholt. The senior finished third at the 2009 NCAA Championships after a fourth-place finish as a sophomore. He is 29-1 this season, with the only loss coming to Oklahoma's Nathan Fernandez, 9-7. Rosholt is ranked No. 1 and has won 27 straight matches since that point on the strength of nine pins and three major decisions.

Redshirt freshman Jordan Oliver is ranked No. 5 at 133 pounds in his first year of varsity competition. Oliver is 26-2, losing only to No. 2 Jayson Ness (Minnesota) and No. 10 Boris Novachkov (Cal Poly). Junior Neil Erisman is the third returning starter at 157 pounds, recording a 26-7 mark this season to go along with his No. 11 national ranking. In addition to Rosholt and Oliver, five more Cowboys are ranked in the top 10 in sophomore Mike Benefiel (No. 6, 174, 30-3), sophomore Jamal Parks (No. 7, 141, 26-5), , junior Clayton Foster (No. 7, 184, 17-3), redshirt freshman Alex Meade (No. 8, 165, 27-6) and senior Chris Notte (No. 10, 125, 21-7). Sophomore Alan Gelogaev (197) is also ranked No. 11 with a 25-5 record.

Scouting No. 9 Oklahoma (16-3-1)
Oklahoma head coach Jack Spates is in his 17th season with the Sooners, leading his squad to a 230-95-12 record during that time. In 2006, Spates was named the NWCA Coach of the Year after leading Oklahoma to a third-place finish at the NCAA Championships, but the last three years have not been as successful, including last year's fifth-place finish at the Big 12 Championships. However, the Sooners are one of college wrestling's most improved teams and have risen to a No. 9 national ranking following a 16-3-1 dual season.

Despite not returning any All-Americans and losing four starters, the OU lineup is strong from top to bottom. Nine Sooners are ranked in InterMat's top 20, led by third-ranked wrestlers Zack Bailey (141) and Kyle Terry (149). Terry holds the team's best record at 24-2 in his first season at 149 pounds. Last year at 141, he was crowned the Big 12 champion. Bailey moved into the 141-pound slot and has produced an 23-5 record. The junior qualified for the NCAA Championships as a freshman but suffered a season-ending injury last year.

Oklahoma's third and final wrestler ranked in the top 10 is sixth-ranked senior Eric Lapotsky. A two-time NCAA qualifier, Lapotsky is 22-5 overall with a pair of losses to Nebraska's Craig Brester.

Junior heavyweight Nathan Fernandez is ranked No. 14 with a 24-10 record. Senior Shane Vernon (No. 12, 157), freshman Jarrod Patterson (No. 13, 125), freshman Tyler Caldwell (No. 15, 165), junior Jeff James (No. 17, 174) and freshman Kendric Maple (No. 19, 133) are also ranked.

Scouting No. 17 Missouri (7-7)
The Missouri Tigers have five projected starters in the latest InterMat top 20 rankings. The Tigers are strongest up top, with four of five wrestlers from 165 to Heavyweight ranked in the top 10. Two-time All-American Max Askren is No. 3 at 184 pounds with a 19-1 record. Missouri's other two-time All-American is 165-pounder Nicholas Marable. The senior is ranked No. 5 with a 31-3 overall record. Marable's only losses this season have come to No. 1 Andrew Howe (Wisconsin), No. 2 Jon Reader (Iowa State) and No. 5 Ryan Morningstar (Iowa).

Although not as dominant as expected, defending national champion Mark Ellis is ranked No. 7 at Heavyweight with a 18-8 record. The senior was the preseason No. 1 pick, but lost twice to teammate Dominque Bradley in open competition while wrestling to a 7-4 start in the first month of the season.

Redshirt freshman Brent Haynes (197) is ranked No. 10, while junior Todd Schavrien is No. 16 at 141 pounds.

Brian Smith is in his 12th year as head coach of the Tigers and holds a 144-71-2 record. He has led Missouri to eight consecutive winning seasons and has coached two Tigers to three national championships. Smith's .680 winning percentage is the highest by a Missouri coach in school history. As a wrestler, the Michigan State alum was a three-time All-Big Ten selection for the Spartans. Smith began his collegiate coaching career at Syracuse.

Last Time Out: Dwyer Joins 100-Win Club as No. 2 Iowa State Downs Huskers
Senior Stephen Dwyer (174) defeated his ninth ranked opponent of the season to become the 18th Husker in school history to reach 100 wins, but it was one of only two victories on the day as Nebraska fell to No. 2 Iowa State, 34-7, on Sunday, Feb. 21 in Ames, Iowa.

Dwyer earned the historical victory in dominating fashion, defeating No. 20 Duke Burk by an 11-2 major decision. A native of Rockton, Ill., Dwyer is 100-33 during his Husker career with a 22-3 mark in the 2009-10 season. Dwyer put points on the board quickly with a takedown just 16 seconds into the match and raced to a 7-1 lead by the end of two periods. In control, the senior amassed nearly 4 1/2 minutes of riding time and gained four points in the third period to earn the bonus-point win, his 12th of the season.

In one of the most anticipated match-ups of the college wrestling season, the showdown between Nebraska's Craig Brester and Iowa State's Jake Varner at 197 pounds lived up to its hype. The top-ranked Varner came away with a 6-4 overtime victory, producing the winning points on a takedown with three seconds remaining in the extra period. Brester held the lead for the majority of the match after a first period takedown, but Varner came back to take a 4-3 edge with 36 seconds left in regulation. When Brester escaped with 29 seconds remaining, his 1:12 riding time advantage slipped to 59 seconds to prevent the Husker from gaining the one-point award. The match marks Brester's first loss of the season (25-1).

At 141 pounds, junior college transfer Mike Koehnlein (18-13) came up with the biggest victory of his young Husker career, upsetting No. 18 Dalton Jensen by a 4-2 decision. A native of Westminster, Calif., Koehnlein was facing his third ranked opponent in a row and used a late comeback to tally his 18th victory of the season. After falling behind on a reversal in the second period, Koehnlein escaped at the beginning of third frame to cut the deficit in half (2-1). He then earned the deciding points on a double-leg takedown with 1:23 remaining in the match and held on for the 4-2 win including his 1:00 riding time advantage.

Iowa State had a ranked wrestler at all 10 weight classes and built its team lead on the strength of five bonus-point wins in the first six matches.

Three Huskers Automatically Qualify for 2010 NCAA Championships
The Nebraska wrestling team is beginning its postseason this Saturday at the Big 12 Championships, but three Huskers have already learned they will be automatic qualifiers for the 2010 NCAA Championships this March 18-20 at Qwest Center Omaha.

The three qualifiers will be returning participants from the 2009 national meet, as senior Craig Brester (197), senior Stephen Dwyer (174) and sophomore Tucker Lane (HWT) are each among the Big 12's five automatic qualifiers in their respective weight classes.

Brester is the No. 2 ranked wrestler at 197 pounds with a 25-1 record. He finished runner-up at the 2009 NCAA Championships to Jake Varner (Iowa State), who edged Brester in a 6-4 overtime battle last Sunday in Ames. Dwyer is also looking for a return to All-America status after an eighth-place finish in 2008. He is 22-3 and ranked No. 4 at 174 pounds, while Lane is No. 13 at Heavyweight with a 20-9 record.

Each weight class was awarded qualifying spots based on Division I winning percentage, RPI and coaches ranking. The criteria has made up 284 of the 330 championship qualifiers, with the remaining 46-at large qualifiers determined March 10 by the NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee. There will be 33 wrestlers in each of the 10 weight classes at the 2010 NCAA Championships.

Big 12 Automatic Bids: 125 pounds (3), 133 pounds (2), 141 pounds (4), 149 pounds (2), 157 pounds (3), 165 pounds (4), 174 pounds (5), 184 pounds (4), 197 pounds (5) and Heavyweight (5)

Wrestlers who do not claim one of automatic bids will still have a chance to make it to the NCAA Championships, when the final at-large bids are announced on March 10.

Brester Shining in Senior Season
Senior Craig Brester is solidifying his spot among the best wrestlers in school history, entering the Big 12 Championship with a 25-1 record. Brester's season has the 197-pounder climbing the record books, as he currently ranks No. 6 all-time in career win-loss percentage (.845) and recently became the 17th Husker ever to reach 100 wins (currently 104-19).

This season, Brester is winning by domination, pinning 10 opponents to go along with three technical falls and five major decisions. In addition to his 10 pins, he also leads the Huskers in wins (25), dual points (86) and has the second-fastest fall this season, pinning North Dakota State's Drew Ross in 41 seconds on Jan. 3.

In December, Brester was awarded for his outstanding performance as he was named Big 12 Wrestler of the Week by the league office for matches Dec. 7-Dec. 13. It was the second Big 12 weekly award of his career, earning the honor after pinning Minnesota's Joe Nord (1:10) Dec. 10 in Minneapolis before defeating his fourth ranked opponent in a two-week stretch with an 8-2 decision over No. 9 Tyler Sorenson of South Dakota State on Dec. 12. The week before, Brester claimed the 2009 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational championship and was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Wrestler.

Eighteen of Brester's 25 victories in 2009-10 have come in bonus-point fashion. He has seven wins over ranked opponents, including three-straight in Big 12 duals over No. 15 Brent Haynes (Missouri), No. 6 Eric Lapotsky (Oklahoma) and No. 8 Alan Gelegaev (Oklahoma State).

Currently ranked No. 2 in the nation at 197 pounds, Brester is a two-time All-American and was named Most Outstanding Wrestler of the 2009 Big 12 Championships.

Dwyer Pursues Conference Title
Senior Stephen Dywer put his name in the Husker record books two weeks ago when he come the 18th wrestler in NU history to reach 100 career wins. The 174-pounder is 100-33 since joining the Huskers in 2006 and is off to a 22-3 start this season with his only losses coming to No. 1 Mack Lewnes (Cornell), No. 2 Jay Borschel (Iowa) and No. 9 Colby Covington.

Dwyer was a 2008 All-American at 165 pounds, where he wrestled his first three seasons. This year, he moved up to 174 pounds and has not skipped up a beat, rising has high as No. 3 in the national rankings. Dywer is 18-2 in duals and is second on the team in dual points behind Craig Brester with 79. Dywer has eight pins this season, including back-to-back falls three weeks ago over No. 15 Dorian Henderson (Missouri) and Patrick Prentice (Northern Colorado). Six of Dwyer's pins have come in the first period. Prior to this season, the senior had just three falls in his entire career and none last season.

Dwyer has qualified for the NCAA Championships every year as a Husker, and will end his career at this year's national meet in Omaha. He will aim for All-America honors after missing out last season when he was eliminated from the tournament after four matches (2-2).

Although the Rockton, Ill., native is just a few weeks away from ending his NU career, Stephen's younger brother, Matt Dwyer, is part of Nebraska's incoming recruiting class and will begin his Husker career this August.

Howells, Neb., Boasts Two 100-Win Club Members
Although the small Nebraska community of Howells holds a population of just over 600 people, the town boasts two of Husker wrestling's 100-win club members in Brad Vering and Craig Brester.

Vering is one of Nebraska's 10 national champions, claiming the 2000 title at 197 pounds. He finished his career with an outstanding 124-26 record that included three All-America honors.

Brester is a two-time All-American and reached 100 wins following his victory over Oregon State's Chad Hanke on Jan. 24. His 104-10 record was built on a 34-4 mark last season, when the 197-pounder won the Big 12 title and finished second at the NCAA Championships.

The only other duo in Nebraska's 100-win club to hail from the same city is Bill and Jim Scherr (1981-84) of Mobridge, S.D.

Payne Steps Up at 149 Pounds
After forfeiting seven dual matches due to injuries, freshman walk-on Dustin Payne has taken on the role as Nebraska's 149-pound starter. Payne wrestled in his first collegiate match Feb. 12 at Oklahoma State, dropping a 12-2 decision to Luke Silver.

A graduate of East Butler High School (Brainard, Neb.), Payne was a four-time Class D Nebraska state qualifier, winning the 2008 135-pound championship with a 32-2 record. He finished his high school career with a 127-16 record and reached the semifinals of the state tournament every year, claiming third in 2007 (135) and 2009 (145).

Tough Tasks
Head Coach Mark Manning was not shy as the NU staff put together the 2009-10 schedule. When the preseason rankings were released in October, Nebraska saw nine future opponents in the top 20, including four in the top 10. The Huskers' added more schedule strength at the 2010 NWCA National Duals, drawing No. 1 Iowa in the first round.

Nebraska defeated its first ranked opponent of the season, downing No. 11 Wisconsin, 26-17, on Nov. 15, but struggled to win duals since injuries began to plague the lineup in Decemeber. Each of Nebraska's last three opponents were ranked in the top 10 (No. 9 Oklahoma, No. 3 Oklahoma State and No. 2 Iowa State) and a total of 10 ranked opponents were on Nebraska's schedule in the 2009-10 season.

Last year, Nebraska faced 11 ranked opponents in 21 duals, posting a 7-3-1 mark against those teams.

Non-Varsity Notes
Freshman Caleb Kolb (174) has been the non-varsity's top performer with a 27-5 overall record that includes tournament titles at the UNK Loper Open and Quality Hotel Open.Thirteen of Colb's 27 victories have come in bonus-point fashion, including eight major decision wins.

Freshman Kyle Waldo (125) has also reached 20 wins this season, as he holds a 21-5 record with four pins and four major decisions. Waldo also claimed first at the UNK Loper Open and Quality Hotel Open.

Four Husker Wrestlers Named to 2010 Academic All-Big 12 First Team
The Big 12 Conference has announced its 2010 Academic All-Big 12 Wrestling Team, naming four Huskers to the squad, including three who have already qualified for this year's NCAA Championships at Qwest Center Omaha.

For the fourth consecutive season, senior Craig Brester claimed a first-team selection to lead Nebraska's honorees. A native of Howells, Neb., Brester has been an academic and athletic standout at UNL while pursuing a degree in Mechanized Systems Management. Fellow senior Stephen Dwyer, a business administration major from Rockton, Ill., earned a spot on the team for the third time.

Following a second-team selection in 2009, sophomore Tucker Lane improved his standing to first-team status, while redshirt freshman Josh Ihnen rounded out the cast of talented Huskers.

First team members consist of those who have maintained a 3.20 or better GPA, and the second team are those who have a 3.00 to 3.19 GPA. To qualify, student-athletes must maintain a 3.00 GPA or higher either cumulative or the two previous semesters and must have participated in 60 percent of his team's scheduled contests. Freshmen and transfers are not eligible in their first year of academic residence. Senior student-athletes who have participated for a minimum of two years and meet all the criteria except percent of participation are also eligible.

Huskers Launch Twitter Page
The Nebraska Wrestling program has a home on Twitter at "www.twitter.com/HuskerWrestling". Follow everything surrounding the Huskers throughout the season with more news, notes and quotes on one of the world's fastest-growing social networks.

Huskers.com Features NU Wrestling Blog
Huskers.com has added the NU Wrestling Blog, another place to visit when looking to stay up-to-date and follow everything surrounding Husker wrestling. On the blog, you will find some interesting news, notes and tidbits surrounding the team throughout the calendar year. Simply click the "NU Wrestling Blog" link on the right side of the wrestling page on Huskers.com.

E-mail bgries@huskers.com if you have any questions or suggestions.

Next Up: Huskers Co-Host 2010 NCAA Championships
The University of Nebraska and the Omaha Sports Commission will team up to host the 2010 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships from March 18-20 at Qwest Center Omaha.

Action will begin Thursday, March 18 with sessions at 11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Friday will be featured by the semifinals at 6 p.m., following the morning session at 9:30 a.m. Saturday ends the event with consolation matches at 10 a.m., preceding the finals at 6:30 p.m. ESPN and ESPNU will provide television coverage on Friday and Saturday.

This spring will mark the fifth time the University of Nebraska has hosted an NCAA Championship at Qwest Center Omaha since it opened in 2003. The Huskers also hosted the 2005 Big 12 Wrestling Championships at Qwest Center Omaha.


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