Nebraska Aims for Conference Crown

By NU Athletic Communications
Robert Sanders and the Huskers host the 2009 Big 12 Championship in the NU Coliseum on Saturday.
Robert Sanders and the Huskers host the 2009 Big 12 Championship in the NU Coliseum on Saturday.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Conference Championship
Nebraska (17-3-1) at 2009 Big 12 Championship

: Saturday, March 7
Time: 11 a.m.
Location: NU Coliseum, Lincoln, Neb.
Live Stats:
Live Video:
Television: Finals live on FSN (channel 37 in Lincoln) at 7 p.m.

Lincoln - The fourth-ranked Nebraska wrestling team begins postseason action by hosting the 2009 Big 12 Championship in the NU Coliseum on Saturday. The pigtail round begins at 11 a.m., with semifinals at noon. The second session commences at 4 p.m. with consolation matches, while the finals start at 7 p.m. Tickets to the event can be purchased by calling the Nebraska Ticket Office at (800) 8-BIGRED or online at

The Huskers finished the dual season with a 17-3-1 record after a 30-10 loss to Iowa State on Feb. 22 in Lincoln. NU’s record is the seventh-straight season and 19th time in the last 20 years that the Huskers have won at least 10 duals. Nebraska’s 17 team wins are the most since the Huskers recorded 19 in 2004-05. Jordan Burroughs claimed a major decision over Cyler Sanderson, while Vince Jones pinned Jerome Ward for the second time this season for NU’s two victories.

Burroughs will look to continue that momentum at the Big 12 Championship, as he is the only undefeated wrestler competing in the tournament. Burroughs claimed Outstanding Wrestler of the Meet honors last season to lead three Huskers to titles. Senior Brandon Browne will also look to defend his title from last season, as he likely enters as a two seed. Burroughs, along with Jones, will be one seeds. Final seedings will be announced after the coaches’ meeting on Friday night.

With the installation of a new qualifying system for the NCAA Championships, the Big 12 tournament takes on a new meaning this year. The NCAA announced on Feb. 26 that the Big 12 had earned 37 qualifiers, including all five wrestlers at 197 and heavyweight. The final 52 at-large bids to NCAAs will be awarded on March 11.

Live coverage of the tournament will be available through or, while FSN will air the finals live at 7 p.m.

Husker History at the Big 12 Championship
While Nebraska has not won a conference championship since securing the Big Eight crown in 1995, the Huskers have been in the thick of the conference title chase. Last year, Nebraska finished in second after racking up 62.5 team points. NU finished in the top three from 2004-2006, including a runner-up finish in 2004 and a pair of third-place finishes.

Individually, Husker wrestlers have earned 53 conference championships over the years, including 13 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, but was the last Husker to win a conference championship until 197-pound wrestler B.J. Padden broke the NU drought with championships in 2005 and 2006.

Last Year at the Big 12 Championship: Burroughs Leads NU to Second at Big 12s
The Nebraska wrestling team claimed 62.5 points and second place at the 2008 Big 12 Championship, thanks in large part to the Outstanding Wrestler of the Meet performance of sophomore Jordan Burroughs. The Huskers earned three individual championships and two second-place finishes, but the spotlight shined the brightest on Burroughs at the Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla.

Burroughs entered the tournament seeded first and lived up to his billing with two bonus-point victories on his way to the title. Burroughs earned 10 takedowns in his first match, a 24-9 technical fall over Oklahoma’s Will Rowe, and followed up with a 15-6 major decision over Iowa State’s Mitch Mueller. Burroughs was one of only two Huskers to score a bonus-point victory.

Two juniors joined Burroughs atop the awards stand as Paul Donahoe captured the title at 125 pounds and Brandon Browne earned first at 174 pounds. Donahoe gave up a takedown 30 seconds into his finals match against Tyler Shinn of Oklahoma State, but held Shinn to two escapes the rest of the way to win 7-4 and earn his first Big 12 crown. Browne entered the third period of his finals match down by two, but scored a takedown with nine seconds left to come from behind for the win.

Sophomores Stephen Dwyer and Craig Brester opened the day with upsets of higher seeds in their respective classes, but both were unable to capitalize on the momentum as both lost their finals match to finish second. Dwyer dropped a tight 3-2 decision to Missouri’s Nick Marable while Missouri’s Max Askren defeated NU’s Craig Brester 8-3.

The five Husker wrestlers in the finals earned automatic bids to the NCAA Championships, while Jon May (285), Vince Jones (184) and Kenny Jordan (133) earned wild card selections to allow NU to send eight wrestlers to St. Louis.

Iowa State claimed the team title for a second consecutive year, but Nebraska’s 62.5 team points are the most the Huskers have ever accrued at the Big 12 Championship. NU matches its best finish ever as a team, as the Huskers also claimed runner-up honors in 2004 and went on to place fifth at the NCAA Championships. Nebraska’s three individual champions are the most since 1995.

New NCAA Qualifying System
With the installation of a new NCAA qualifying system this season, the procedure at the Big 12 Championship has changed. Wrestlers earn bids for each weight class of each conference tournament during the year, and Big 12 wrestlers earned 37 bids for the conference. Below is a breakdown of the allocation of bids to each weight class.

- 125 pounds - 3
- 133 pounds - 3
- 141 pounds - 3
- 149 pounds - 2
- 157 pounds - 4
- 165 pounds - 5
- 174 poudns - 3
- 184 pounds - 4
- 197 pounds - 5
- 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 11. A more detailed explanation of the new qualifying standards will be available in the Big 12 Championship program on March 7.

Undefeated Dual Season
Jordan Burroughs continued his assault on the Nebraska record book at the Huskers’ dual with Iowa State on Feb. 22. With a 12-3 major decision over the Cyclones Cyler Sanderson, Burroughs claimed a 19-0 dual record during the 2008-09 season. The mark tied him for fifth on NU’s top 20 season dual victories list and put him atop the top 10 season dual winning percentage list. Fourteen other Huskers have completed the dual season undefeated (10-match minimum), but Burroughs racked up the most wins.

Scouting Iowa State (15-3, 3-1 Big 12)
Iowa State will be looking for its third team title in as many years when the Cyclones take to the mat for this year’s Big 12 Championship in Lincoln. Under the direction of Head Coach Cael Sanderson, five ISU wrestlers will be looking to return to the top of the awards stand this season. ISU’s Nick Fanthorpe (133), Nick Gallick (141), Cyler Sanderson (157) and Jake Varner (184) were conference champions last year, while David Zabriskie was the heavyweight champion as a freshman in 2007.

The Cyclones wrestled to a 15-3 overall dual record and finished 3-1 in Big 12 action during the 2008-09 season. ISU beat then-No. 3 Nebraska in the NU Coliseum, 30-10, on Feb. 22 to end the regular season. The Cyclones topped Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, 23-15 and 24-12, respectively, in a span of three days, after defeating the Huskers 20-19 for third-place at the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals on Jan. 10-11. At the Midlands Championships in late December, the Cyclones took second place with 153.5 points.

Individually, Zabriskie leads Iowa State in victories, racking up a 28-2 record during his junior campaign to be ranked first in the nation by the NWCA. Varner is also a top-ranked Cyclone, earning the nod at 197 pounds after spending the last two seasons at 184. The junior is 25-1 this season, including a perfect 17-0 in duals. Iowa State has six individuals ranked in the top 10 of their respective classes and all 10 wrestlers are ranked within the top 20 by the NWCA.

Scouting Missouri (18-4, 3-1 Big 12)
Fifth-ranked Missouri closed out the regular season with an 18-4 record, marking just the third time in program history that the Tigers have reached a program-high 18 wins in a single season. In Big 12 competition, MU wrapped up the year with a 3-1 mark, a feat last accomplished in 2006-07.

Throughout the season, the Tigers met 11 opponents ranked among the top-20 in the nation. Missouri, who started the season ranked fifth, managed two upset victories, besting then-No. 2 Cornell, 18-14, before ending the dual schedule with an 18-15 home win over second-ranked Iowa State. Tiger Head Coach Brian Smith, in his 11th year at the helm, became MU’s winningest wrestling coach in program history after recording win No. 126 at the Northeast Duals on Nov. 29.

Missouri boasts several of the nation’s top-ranked wrestlers including six ranked among the top 10 of their respective weight class by the NWCA. Junior heavyweight Mark Ellis owns the highest individual ranking of his teammates at second and enters the Big 12 tournament with a 2-1 record against league foes.

Seniors Marcus Hoehn (141) and Raymond Jordan (174) along with junior Nicholas Marable (165) enter the tournament with spotless league records. Jordan, last year’s 184-pound Big 12 Champion ranks fifth in the nation at 174 pounds according to the NWCA and is one of three Missouri wrestlers looking to defend their 2008 Big 12 titles. Marable and 197-pounder Maxwell Askren also won at the conference tournament last season, as all three went on to collect All-America accolades at the 2008 NCAA Championships.

Scouting Oklahoma (16-4, 1-4 Big 12)
The Oklahoma wrestling team experienced its most success in seven seasons, as the 2008-09 squad finished with a 16-4 overall record to claim its most wins since the 2001-02 campaign. The Sooners bounced two top 25 opponents along the way, including its in-state rival Oklahoma State on Dec. 7, marking the second consecutive victory against the Cowboys. With identical regular-season records, the prestigious OU and OSU programs tied for fourth place in the Big 12 Conference during the regular season.

OU climbed to No. 10 in the NWCA poll on Jan. 6, its highest team ranking since the 2006-07 season. The Sooners finished the regular season with three wrestlers ranked in the top 10 in their respective weight classes, and seven total in the top 20.

OU went an impressive 15-0 against non-conference foes this season, including a dominant 3-0 performance at the Big 12/Pac-10 Challenge. The Sooners also posted a 4-0 record at the Lonestar Duals and earned a first place crown over a talented field at the Brockport/Oklahoma Gold Classic.

In his 16th season at OU, head coach Jack Spates leads a young and talented group of Sooners into Lincoln for the Big 12 Championship. Junior Kyle Terry has won 24 straight matches for a team-leading 26-1 overall record, including 5-0 in the conference.

Oklahoma looks to add to its impressive postseason resume that includes 23 conference team titles, including two in the Big 12 era, and 171 individual conference champions.

Scouting Oklahoma State (15-7, 1-4 Big 12)
Highlighted by a team title at the Reno Tournament of Champions and six dual wins over teams ranked in the top 25, the 2008-09 Oklahoma State regular season came to an end with the Cowboys compiling a 15-7 overall record.

Senior 165-pounder Brandon Mason became only the 32nd person in the storied history of Oklahoma State wrestling to hit the 100-win mark for his career when he accomplished the feat at the Virginia Duals in January. Other notable highlights were provided by junior heavyweight Jared Rosholt, who earned Outstanding Wrestler honors at the Virginia Duals and was a Big 12 Wrestler of the Week. Junior 133-pounder Chris Notte stepped into the lineup in mid-December and rattled off a 15-2 dual match record that included two wins over ranked opponents.

Oklahoma State endured its share of setbacks during the regular season, losing seven duals for the first time since 1993. Of those seven losses, six were to teams ranked in the top eight in the nation. The seventh was an 18-15 loss to Oklahoma in which OSU’s Tyler Shinn, ranked No. 12 in the nation at the time, was forced to take an injury default after breaking his collarbone during his match against an unranked Sooner.

OSU comes into the Big 12 Championship with some momentum, as the Cowboys dominated each of their final three dual match opponents and claimed a 27-6 win over Oklahoma to cap the regular season.

Last Time Out: Huskers Drop 30-10 Dual to Cyclones
Jordan Burroughs and Vince Jones posted bonus-point victories against fourth-ranked Iowa State, but No. 3 Nebraska came up short in a 30-10 dual in front of more than 1,670 fans at the NU Coliseum on Feb. 22. The Huskers finish the regular season at 17-3-1, while ISU moved to 15-3. Both teams went 3-1 in Big 12 duals.

Burroughs picked up his 12th win of the season over a ranked opponent with a 12-3 major decision over No. 8 Cyler Sanderson. Burroughs nearly pinned the Cyclone a minute into the first period, picking up a two-point nearfall, and did the same in the third en route to claiming the win. The junior also earned a major decision against Sanderson in their previous meeting at National Duals.

Likewise, Vince Jones pinned ISU’s Jerome Ward at National Duals in their first matchup, and accomplished the feat again Sunday. Ward had a cradle locked in early in the bout, but neither wrestler could score a takedown in the scramble. After a restart the two scrambled again with Jones earning the upper hand to post the pin in 1:31. The senior has 11 falls this season, and a team-leading 29 overall wins.

Iowa State won close matches at 165, 197 and heavyweight, claiming each match by less than three points. Another decision at 149 and major decisions at 133, 141 and 174 helped the Cyclones pull away before earning a forfeit at 125 for the final margin.

Taking Down Records
With his two technical falls in NU dual wins over UNC Greensboro and North Carolina on Feb. 14, Jordan Burroughs set Nebraska’s single-season dual takedown record. Burroughs set the record last season with 98, but after racking up 21 against the Spartans and Tar Heels, the native of Sicklerville, N.J., moved to 114 this season. He picked up three more against Iowa State in the final dual of the season to finish with 117 dual takedowns in 2008-09.

Burroughs could also approach the career dual takedown record before his time is up at NU. The current record holder is Travis Pascoe, who posted 328 from 2001 to 2005. Pascoe earned 65, 93, 81 and 89 dual takedowns in his career. Burroughs had nine as a freshman, 98 as a sophomore and 117 this season for 224 total.

Undefeated Streak
Nebraska posted a 9-0-1 mark from Jan. 23 to Feb. 14, its longest unbeaten streak since notching the same mark to start the 1995-96 season. The Huskers went on to finish second in the Big 12 and fifth at NCAAs that season, with four NU wrestlers earning All-America accolades and two Big 12 titles.

Minus One?
Nebraska posted a 43 to -1 victory over UNC Greensboro on Feb. 14, and while a negative team score is fairly odd, it wasn’t the first time an NU opponent has gone under zero. The Huskers also beat Arizona State 37 to -1 on Jan. 10, 2004, at the Virginia Duals in Hampton, Va., a tournament NU went on to win. Teams can be deducted team points for unsportsmanlike conduct by the wrestlers or coaches.

Hanging in There
Nebraska has wrestled in some high-pressure situations during duals this year, but has performed well under pressure. The Huskers are 7-1-1 in duals decided in the final match, with their only loss coming to second-ranked Iowa State at the National Duals. In fact, NU has won three Big 12 duals by a combined five points.

Facing the Ranked
Above 157 pounds, the Huskers’ starters have found a fair amount of success against ranked foes. Nebraska is 39-20 in those six weight classes against ranked opponents, including an impressive 8-0 mark by Jordan Burroughs against the top 10. Below 157 pounds, NU is 0-36 against the top 20.

Measuring the Majors
Jordan Burroughs added to his long list of accolades on Jan. 25, as he notched his 10th major decision of the season and became the first known NU wrestler to post back-to-back seasons with at least 10 major decisions. Statistics are incomplete prior to the 1982 season. Burroughs notched 12 last season at 149 pounds and has earned 12 through 28 matches this year at 157.

Pinning Down Vince
Vince Jones collected his 11th pin of the season on Feb. 22, his second pin of the season of ISU’s Jerome Ward. Jones is the first Nebraska wrestler since Tolly Thompson to record at least 10 pins in each season he competed. Jones posted 14 pins in 2005-06 as a true freshman, sat out his sophomore year and notched 10 last season. Thompson accomplished the same feat at heavyweight from 1994-97, racking up 53 total pins.

Fit to be Tied
NU’s 17-17 tie at Central Michigan on Jan. 25 was just the third tie in Head Coach Mark Manning’s 169 duals at Nebraska. Nebraska also knotted Penn at 17 on Feb. 17, 2007, in the final dual of the 2006-07 season and dualed Wisconsin to a 19-19 tie on Jan. 8, 2005, at the Lone Star Duals. All three of NU’s ties under Manning have come on the road.

Totaling 20
Seven varsity Nebraska wrestlers have moved above the 20-win mark this season, including Vince Jones (184) who lead the team with 29 victories. Jordan Burroughs (157) has earned 28 wins, while Craig Brester (197) has 27. Brandon Browne (174), Tucker Lane (Hwt), Robert Sanders (149) and Stephen Dwyer (165) have each notched 24 victories.

Last season, eight Huskers eclipsed the 20-win mark, including three (Burroughs, Dwyer and Browne) that topped 30 wins on the season.

Big Time at the Big Weights
Nebraska has posted an impressive mark so far this season in the upper weights. In 21 duals, Nebraska has a 102-22 record from 157 pounds to heavyweight, including three wrestlers holding at least 16 dual wins in that weight range. Below 157, Nebraska is 32-51.

Lane Garners Big 12 Honor
Nebraska heavyweight Tucker Lane was selected as the Big 12 Wrestler of the Week, the conference announced on Jan. 13. Lane, a redshirt freshman from Redvale, Colo., shared the weekly honor with Iowa State’s Jake Varner.

Lane was a key component in the Huskers fourth-place finish at the NWCA National Duals, finishing with a 3-1 record at the tournament. He posted an 8-5 decision over Ben Kuhar to give the Huskers a 19-18 victory over No. 20 Northwestern in the opening round, and followed with a 4-2 decision over Cameron Wade to solidify a come-from-behind 20-16 win versus No. 14 Penn State. Against No. 2 Iowa State, Lane scored an early takedown over No. 3 Dave Zabriskie and added a three-point nearfall in the second period to take a 7-6 victory and nearly lead the Huskers to an upset of the Cyclones.

At the time, Lane was 19-5 on the season, including 8-2 in duals, with three pins. It was his first career honor, and he was the second Husker to earn recognition from the Big 12 this season, after Jordan Burroughs earned the honor earlier in the season.

Ruling the Rankings
The Huskers remained fourth in the latest NWCA dual rankings after having last weekend off. NU moved up to as high as third after winning the Las Vegas Inviational. Nebraska started the season ranked sixth in the nation and has been ranked in the top 25 ever since the NWCA and InterMat polls combined in 2004, including 23 straight polls in the top 10.

Bonus-Point Brester
Craig Brester has been a bonus-point machine for the Huskers this season. A junior from Howells, Neb., Brester has posted a 27-3 record, including 18-3 in duals. Twenty of his 27 wins have come by bonus points, including eight pins, three technical falls and nine major decisions. Brester notched five pins in his first six matches, and has rolled from there. In early December, he went 5-0 at the Las Vegas Invitational to claim the title at 197 pounds. He started the tournament with a fall, posted his first technicall fall of the season in the second round, and finished with three straight major decisions.

Quickest Pin
The award for quickest pin so far this season goes to freshman Josh Ihnen at 184 pounds. Ihnen notched a 28-second fall of Morningside’s Joe Lockett at the UNK Loper Open on Dec. 13 to earn the honor. Ihnen has four pins on the year, while the Huskers as a whole have notched 86 so far.

The Pin King
Vince Jones, Nebraska’s resident pin king, is back at it again this season. He led the Huskers in falls with 12 in 2005-06 and accomplished the feat again with 10 in 2007-08. The senior is well on his way again this season with 11 pins in 35 matches, including three straight to start the year.

Jones has some competition this season from junior Craig Brester, the Huskers’ 197-pounder. Brester is 27-3 on the year with eight pins and three technical falls and nine major decisions. All of Brester’s falls have come in the first period, including one against No. 14 Andrew Anderson of Northern Iowa at the Kaufman-Brand Open on Nov. 22.

Best Start Since
The Huskers rushed to an 8-0 start to this season, before falling to No. 1 Iowa at National Duals. The mark was NU’s best start since 2004-05, a season in which Nebraska finished third at the Big 12 Championships and 19th at the NCAA Championships.

The Wrestler Formerly Known as Jordan
Nebraska’s Jordan Burroughs is quickly earning a new nickname - OW. The junior from Winslow Township, N.J. has claimed four Oustanding Wrestler honors at four tournaments. He started last season with an OW honor at the Cowboy Open. He posted a technical fall and major decision en route to being named the Outstanding Wrestler at last year’s Big 12 Championships, while also earning the title at the Kaufman-Brand Open with a 5-0 record on the day and a defeat of former NCAA champion Dustin Schlatter of Minnesota. Burroughs picked up his third OW honor in early December at the Las Vegas Invitational when he posted another five wins, including two over All-Americans and another against a former NCAA champion in Cornell’s Jorden Leen.

Topping Off National Duals
NU’s fourth-place finish at National Duals this season was the 11th time the Huskers have finished in the top five since the inception of the event in 1989. The Huskers improved their all-time record to 48-29 in the 16 appearances at National Duals.

4-0 for National Duals
Two Huskers posted a perfect 4-0 record at National Duals, leading the Huskers to a fourth-place team finish. Jordan Burroughs was the most impressive, earning victories over three ranked foes and two All-Americans. The junior opened with a decision over No. 17 Jason Welch of Northwestern, before adding another decision against eighth-ranked Dan Vallimont of Penn State, an All-American last season. Burroughs added a 22-7 technical fall over Iowa’s Matt Ballweg and ended with a 12-4 major decision over No. 5 Cyler Sanderson of Iowa State, also an All-American last season.

Senior Brandon Browne also contributed four victories to the Huskers’ cause, winning all his matches by decision. He posted a 14-7 decision against Northwestern’s Robert Kellogg and defeated No. 14 Quentin Wright of Penn State, 3-1, on the first day. Browne got a measure of revenge with a 5-4 decison over No. 5 Jay Borschel of Iowa, who defeated him in the consolation finals of last year’s NCAA Championships, and capped the tournament with a 7-4 win over Iowa State’s Andrew Sorenson.

Next up: Nebraska Travels to NCAA Championships
The Huskers will head to the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo., for a second consecutive year for the 2009 NCAA Championships on March 19-21. Fans can purchase tickets through or by calling (866) 646-8849. will have a full preview of the tournament next week.


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