Lincoln – Several wrestlers with ties to the Nebraska program fared well in the freestyle divisions of the U.S. Nationals and FILA Junior Nationals at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas on Saturday.
NU club coaches Trent and Travis Paulson claimed titles in the open division at 66 (145.5 lbs) and 74 kilograms (163 lbs), respectively, while redshirt freshman Josh Ihnen claimed fourth at 84 kg (185 lbs) in the junior division. The performances qualified the Paulsons for the U.S. World Team Trials on May 30-31 in their hometown of Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Ihnen for the FILA Junior World Team Trials on May 23-24 in Colorado Springs, Colo.
By virtue of entering the tournament as the top seed, both Paulsons skipped Friday’s qualifying tournament and went on to post 4-0 records with one technical fall on Saturday. Travis opened with a technical fall over Hadley Harrison, and claimed decisions against current Iowa State wrestler Jon Reader and former Michigan wrestler Ryan Churella to advance. In the final, Travis dropped a 1-0 decision to former Pittsburgh star Keith Gavin, but scored consecutive 1-0 wins to earn the come-from-behind victory.
Likewise, Trent claimed a decision over Kyle Ruschell in the first round, before posting a technical fall against Joe Johnston. A decision over Doug Schwab advanced Trent to the final where he also lost the first set 1-0, but rebounded with consecutive 3-0 wins against 2008 Hodge Trophy winner Brent Metcalf for the victory. The Paulsons will be the No. 1 seed at the U.S. World Team Trials.
The only current Husker to wrestle in the open division, junior Levi Wofford narrowly missed joining the Paulsons in Council Bluffs at 84 kg. In Friday’s qualifying rounds, Wofford lost his opening match by decision, but rebounded with three pins and a technical fall to advance to Saturday. Wofford lost a decision to eventual champion Jake Herbert in first round, and lost a decision to Alex Clemsen to miss placing. Former Husker All-American Travis Pascoe finished seventh at the weight.
Competing in the FILA Junior division, which consists of wrestlers age 17-20 and includes many of the nation’s top collegiate underclassmen and high school seniors, Ihnen posted a 4-2 record to place fourth and pace five redshirt freshmen from the Husker program in the division. The Sheldon, Iowa, native advanced with a technical fall, decision and pin, but fell to eventual champion Chris Perry in the semifinals. Ihnen rebounded with a decision over Erich Schmidtke to finish Friday with a 4-1 mark, but lost to last year’s champion Dustin Kilgore in the consolation final on Saturday night.
Wrestling in the same weight class, Romero Cotton went 2-2, while Ridge Kiley went 1-2 at 60 kg (132.25 lbs). Ross Grande and Tyler Koehn went 0-2 at 66 (145.5 lbs) and 74 kg (163 lbs), respectively.