The Nebraska wrestling team returns two All-Americans and adds world-class newcomers as the Huskers return to the Bob Devaney Sports Center in 2013-14.
Following top-eight finishes at last year’s NCAA Championships, juniors Robert Kokesh (174) and James Green (157) will provide the leadership for the Huskers in Head Coach Mark Manning’s 14th season at the helm.
“(I see Kokesh and Green) being able to compete for a national title,” Manning said. “We have yet to break through and win a Big Ten title. We’ve had guys in the finals. I see both of them being more vocal leaders, which Robert has already shown.”
As a team, Nebraska finished 13th at the NCAA Championships, with seven Huskers qualifying for the tournament. Kokesh capped a 38-4 campaign with a third-place finish, while Green notched his second consecutive seventh-place finish.
Junior Jake Sueflohn came up one win shy of All-America honors following a 24-7 season and will compete with freshman Destin McCauley for the starting spot at 149 pounds this season.
“I think (the competition) is good,” Manning said. “We have two guys that can win at the highest level with Destin McCauley and Jake Sueflohn. The good thing is they still have a redshirt year. We’re going to see who battles it out there.”
McCauley has experienced success on the national and world stage, spending the last two years at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. McCauley, a Junior National Freestyle champion and Junior World Team member, won five individual state titles in Minnesota at Apple Valley High School.
Pat Downey (184), Anthony Abidin (133/141), Eric Montoya (133) and Colton McCrystal (133) are also among the newcomers who could make an immediate impact for the Huskers.
Downey, a freshman, spent the last two years at the Olympic Training Center and won the three most prestigious national tournaments in addition to earning the silver medal at the 2012 FILA Junior World Championships. Downey will compete with two of NU’s top redshirts from 2012-13, TJ Dudley and Aaron Studebaker, for the starting spot at 184 pounds.
Abidin, Montoya and McCrystal will battle for the starting spots at 133 and 141 pounds. Abidin, a sophomore, won the NJCAA national title at 133 pounds at Nassau Community College last season. Montoya, a sophomore, qualified for the NCAA Championships at 125 pounds last season for Campbell University. McCrystal, a freshman, won back-to-back state titles at Sergeant Bluff-Luton in Iowa to finish his high school career.
2013 NCAA qualifiers Austin Wilson (165) and Caleb Kolb (197) return for the Huskers and will compete in their respective weight classes for time in the NU lineup.
Wilson, a sophomore, won 27 matches last season and will battle redshirt freshman Micah Barnes for the starting spot at 165 pounds.
Kolb, a senior, managed 17 wins in 2012-13 and will compete against junior Spencer Johnson for the starting spot at 197 pounds. Johnson wrestled at heavyweight last season, compiling a 4-4 dual record.
Senior Shawn Nagel appeared in 16 duals last season and will compete with redshirt freshman Tim Lambert at 125 pounds. Nagel notched 16 victories last season at 133 pounds, while Lambert put together a 19-3 record as a redshirt.
Redshirt freshman Collin Jensen is expected to start at heavyweight for the Huskers following a 22-9 redshirt season.
“I’d say a number of guys made strides,” Manning said. “Up and down the board. And we needed to. Our guys needed to.”
The Huskers open the 2013-14 campaign at the Warren Williamson/Daktronics Open on Nov. 3 in Brookings, S.D. Nebraska will host its annual Wrestle-Offs on Nov. 8 at the newly renovated Devaney Center as part of the Fall Coaches Clinic.
On Nov. 17, the Huskers make their return to the Devaney Center after competing at the NU Coliseum over the last decade. The 7,907-seat venue will play host to Nebraska’s matchup with Big Ten foe Northwestern at 1 p.m.
The following weekend, on Nov. 24, Nebraska returns to Brookings, S.D., for a dual against South Dakota State at 2 p.m. Last season the Huskers defeated the Jackrabbits, 32-7 in Lincoln, Neb.
On Nov. 30, NU will take part in the Stanford Duals in Palo Alto, Calif. The Huskers will compete against Stanford, Utah Valley and CSU-Bakersfield.
Nebraska opens December at the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas, Nev., Dec. 6-7, at 11 a.m. Last season the Huskers finished fifth as Kokesh and then-senior Josh Ihnen (184) claimed individual titles. On Dec. 22, NU travels to Reno, Nev., for the Reno Tournament of Champions.
The Huskers resume dual action on Jan. 3 at 7 p.m., as Wyoming visits the Devaney Center. Last season Nebraska took down the Cowboys, 22-15, in Laramie, Wyo.
The following weekend, Nebraska hosts a pair of teams at the Devaney Center. On Jan. 10, the Huskers resume their Big Ten schedule against Indiana at 7 p.m. Nebraska holds an 11-5 advantage all-time against the Hoosiers, winning the most recent matchup during the 2011-12 season by a score of 23-17 in Bloomington, Ind. The next day, the Huskers clash with the Pennsylvania Quakers for the first time since 2009.
On Jan. 18, NU looks to avenge last season’s loss to Iowa by hosting the Hawkeyes at 4:30 p.m., on the Big Ten Network. Last season Iowa defeated Nebraska, 31-7, on its home mat before going on to finish fourth at the NCAA Championships.
The Huskers’ first Big Ten road dual is slated for Jan. 24 at Ohio State. The Huskers and Buckeyes will grapple at 6 p.m., at St. John Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Two days later, on Jan. 26, Nebraska journeys to West Lafayette, Ind., to take on Purdue at noon. Nebraska leads the all-time series with the Boilermakers 6-1 following a 24-9 victory in 2012.
On Feb. 1, the Huskers hit the road to face Illinois at Huff Hall in Champaign, Ill. Last season Nebraska tied the all-time series 3-3 with a thrilling 18-15 upset of the Fighting Illini at the NU Coliseum.
Nebraska returns home for Senior Night at the Devaney Center on Feb. 7 against Michigan. The dual between the Huskers and Wolverines begins at 7 p.m. Last season Nebraska pulled out a 20-19 victory in Ann Arbor, Mich., to take a 6-3 lead in the all-time series.
After a two-week break from competition, the Huskers will take the mat against Wisconsin on Feb. 21 at 7 p.m., in Madison, Wis. Nebraska looks to bounce back from last season’s 19-17 loss at home against the Badgers in the Huskers’ final dual of the 2013-14 season.
NU will return to Madison, March 8-9, for the Big Ten Championships. Nebraska is making its third all-time appearance in the conference tournament and seeks its first individual weight class title. Last season the Huskers finished seventh in the team race with 61 points.
The season concludes at the NCAA Championships, March 20-22, at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla.