Qwest Center Omaha - In another tight tussle between two of the top competitors in college wrestling, Nebraska senior Craig Brester (197) came up just short of a national title as he fell to No. 1 Jake Varner (Iowa State), 5-2, in the finals of the 2010 NCAA Championships at Qwest Center Omaha. Brester finishes a spectacular career with his third All-America honor, while leading Nebraska to a tie for 12th-place in the team standings with 39.5 points.
After a scoreless first period, Varner escaped for the first point of the match three seconds into the second, but could not extend the one-point lead. With 1 minute, 35 seconds left in the third period, Brester escaped to tie the match at 1-1, before Varner added a crucial takedown to take a 3-1 lead with 58 seconds left. Brester escaped, but a last-second takedown attempt was unsuccessful and resulted in Varner's final takedown of the match.
"Craig is a special guy - a three-time All-American," head coach Mark Manning said. "He made one little mistake, otherwise he would have been a national champion after being a walk-on. He's a two-time national finalist that scored a lot of points for us. That's what we are going to miss as far as the wrestling point. There are big shoes to fill."
Brester finished his NU career with a 109-21 record, including a 30-3 mark in 2009-10. He leaves his name in the school record books with the eighth-best winning percentage (.838) and is one of only 18 Huskers to reach 100 wins. Along with teammate Stephen Dwyer, who finished fourth at the 2010 nationals, the senior duo earned the 87th and 88th All-America awards in program history, and the 28th and 29th under head coach Mark Manning. Brester is the 12th Husker to earn three All-America awards.
"It's been nice," Brester said. "I've had so many supporters here. I made it to the finals twice which is an accomplishment in itself. You have to be happy with that, but it just stinks the way it ended. It definitely had some ups and downs, but I've just been able to keep working. I started on the bottom and made finals and got in the top five."
In four victories leading up to the semifinals, Brester was as impressive as any wrestler at the tournament. The senior began the week with a pin and followed with three consecutive shutouts, including two major decisions. He had only allowed one takedown prior to Saturday night's finals match.
Nebraska's 12th-place team finish marked the 11th time in the past 15 years that the Huskers have finished in the top 15.
2010 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships
March 20, 2010
Qwest Center Omaha
Finals: #2 Craig Brester (Nebraska) vs. #1 Jake Varner (Iowa State)
First Period...Second Period...Varner chooses down...1:57, Varner escape, 0-1...Third Period...Brester chooses down...1:35, Brester escape, 1-1...0:58, Varner takedown, 1-3...0:42, Brester escape, 2-3...0:08, Varner takedown, 2-5
#1 Jake Varner (Iowa State) wins by decision over #2 Craig Brester (Nebraska), 5-2
Head Coach Mark Manning Quotes
On Brester vs. Varner
"They aren't scoring a lot of takedowns on each other. They are both strong-willed physical kids so there weren't a lot of openings. Craig took Varner down in our dual meet in the end of February. Now they have learned to counter that and attack. There just wasn't much out there for Craig. It's a tough way to lose, but Jake Varner is a great competitor. He's a great wrestler and Craig is too, but someone has to win."
On the end of the match
"We really tried to open him up and score there at the end, but Varner is just so hard. Once he gets ahead he makes you come to him and that plays right in his alley. Our game plan was to get ahead of him, but he did a better job tonight."
On Craig Brester's future
"Hopefully he is going to be around for awhile. He is one of the building blocks of our program. We didn't have the finish we wanted but you look at it and he has been part of a Big 12 championship team and two top four (national) finishes. He has done a lot. He has been a leader on our team. He was a silent killer on our team. Obviously very humble and a man of few words and a lot of actions."
On if Craig Brester will be an example for future wrestlers he will coach
"We use him as an example already, but most definitely. He is a great competitor and a class act. A great student-athlete. I want guys like that on my team. You want those types of guys that are winners. He is a winner."