When asked how he would describe the four seniors on the 2017-18 Nebraska wrestling team, assistant coach Bryan Snyder had two words: grit and resiliency.
“These guys have all been in and out of the lineup,” he said. “Tough, hard-nosed kids—work their butts off. A lot of guys look up to all four of these guys.”
Justin Arthur, Eric Engler, Mitchell Maginnis and Colton McCrystal will all be honored during Senior Day when the sixteenth-ranked Huskers battle Indiana on Sunday at 2 p.m. inside the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
Snyder, an assistant at Nebraska for eight seasons, thinks of this particular class of seniors as journeymen, especially McCrystal.
McCrystal, a native of Sergeant Bluff, Iowa, took an unconventional route during his collegiate career, competing in the varsity lineup as a true freshman and sitting out for a majority of the next two years. During this period, he flipped back-and-forth from a 133-pound wrestler to a 141-pounder.
Back in the starting lineup last season, McCrystal advanced to the Round of 12 at the NCAA Championships as Nebraska’s 141-pound starter. This season, he switched weight classes, again, this time bumping up to 149 pounds, where he currently ranks No. 11 in the InterMat rankings.
Arthur, a native of Huntington, West Virginia, also took a different route than his wrestling counterparts.
Prior to the 2014-15 season, Arthur transferred to Nebraska from Clarion University in Pennsylvania, where he qualified for the NCAA Championships at 149 pounds in 2014.
He immediately saw time in the Huskers’ starting lineup as a sophomore, before redshirting the following season when former Nebraska wrestler and member of the program’s 100-win club Jake Sueflohn returned from an injury.
Last season, Arthur finished with a 20-8 overall record, going 2-3 in five dual matches at 165 and 174 pounds. He has not wrestled this season, but Arthur possesses a number of gains from his time in Lincoln.
“I grew up,” Arthur said. “I learned about life outside of your parents’ house, and what it means to become independent. I don’t think I could have experienced these life lessons if it weren’t for being in Nebraska.”
Regardless of records or accolades, Arthur hopes he encouraged future wrestlers who aren’t being heavily recruited, that wrestling at a perennial top-25 program like Nebraska is possible.
“It’s every kid's dream to wrestle in the Big Ten Conference,” Arthur said. “It can be accomplished through lots of hard work.”
Arthur, a criminology and criminal justice major, plans to get a job in law enforcement at the federal level, a dream he said he’s always had.
Unlike his fellow seniors, Maginnis had to wait for his chance in the varsity lineup. The Grand Island native finally got his shot this season at 125 pounds, but it didn’t come easy.
“I think the thing I have gained most from my time here at Nebraska is commitment,” Maginnis said. “I have learned that if you want to succeed at something, you need to commit yourself to that task 100 percent.”
Maginnis had plenty of success in the classroom, making the Nebraska Scholar-Athlete Honor Roll a total of eight semesters and earned a perfect 4.0 GPA twice.
“I have shown that you can have success both on the mat and in the classroom,” Maginnis said.
After this season, Maginnis will attend The Ohio State University School of Optometry.
Engler, a Beatrice native, excelled off the mat as well, conquering an incredibly difficult course-load in the master of architecture program. Engler made the Nebraska Scholar-Athlete Honor Roll a total of five semesters.
During his four non-redshirt seasons, Engler didn’t wrestle often, totaling just 38 matches, but just like his fellow seniors, he also got an opportunity to compete in the varsity lineup. During the past two seasons, Engler wrestled four dual matches.
Snyder said even though Engler hasn’t seen as much time on that mat as the rest of the team, he’s still an excellent teammate.
“A guy like Eric Engler, who was never in the varsity lineup for a significant amount of time, but yet he’s one of the guys that most people look to on the team as a leader,” Snyder said. “He makes the guys around him a lot better.”
Together, these four seniors will always be Huskers.
“They’ll all stay close to our hearts,” Snyder said. “We’d love to have them back for duals and any sort of social function. So on a number of levels, they’ll continue to be a Husker.”