No fear and let it rip.
That’s the motto for coach Mark Manning and the Nebraska wrestling team this year.
With a new wave of young-but-talented wrestlers entering the lineup, that is the mentality the Huskers will need throughout the course of the 2017-18 season.
“That’s what I’m most excited about—is just their attitude and the intensity and the energy they’re going to bring,” Manning said earlier this week.
Nebraska lost six senior wrestlers from last year’s starting lineup who combined for six All-America honors during their careers in Lincoln.
Taking their place is a handful of highly touted recruits, and Manning feels his staff did a fine job of getting those athletes in the last couple of classes.
One of those young wrestlers is redshirt freshman Chad Red Jr. (141 pounds), who is ranked No. 17 in the InterMat preseason top 20. In high school, Red was a four-time state champion and ended his career with a perfect 183-0 record.
Another young, already-proven star is sophomore Isaiah White (165). White transferred from Notre Dame College, where he was a NCAA Division II National Champion in 2017. White is ranked No. 19 in the Intermat polls.
A few more young names Manning said will be called upon to make some noise are Eric Schultz (197), Taylor Venz (184) and Beau Breske (184). All three wrestlers are redshirt freshman.
Breske, a three-time state champion in Wisconsin, went 1-2 last season before sitting out the rest of the year with an injury.
The Huskers return two NCAA qualifiers from last season, including All-American Tyler Berger (157), who finished fifth at the 2017 NCAA Championships. Berger is Nebraska’s highest ranked wrestler at No. 4 in the InterMat rankings.
Nebraska’s other returning qualifier is Colton McCrystal (149), who is No. 9 in the InterMat rankings. McCrystal advanced to the Round of 12 at the NCAA Championships in the 141-pound class, falling one win shy of All-America honors.
McCrystal moved up in weight the season and said it’s the first time since high school that he hasn’t had to cut down.
“I feel good, strong and I think it will be the best thing for me,” McCrystal said.
Switching weights is not new to McCrystal. During his freshman and redshirt seasons in 2014 and 2015, McCrystal moved between 133 and 141 pounds.
Nebraska has finished inside the top 10 in team points at the NCAA Championship three consecutive years, placing ninth twice and eighth in 2016.
Manning said the Huskers want to get to the next level.
“We want to jump into the top five, jump in the conversation to be national champions,” Manning said. “That’s why a lot of young men are in this wrestling room right now. They wanna be the first group to elevate us there and just build off the past. We’re looking forward to the future.”
Manning said the attitude and maturity of the newcomers is different than what anyone else might expect.
“(They’re) not afraid of stepping out there and proving themselves,” Manning said.
The young squad will be tested throughout the season with six duals scheduled against teams ranked in the InterMat preseason dual rankings.
Those teams include No. 3 Michigan, No. 9 North Carolina State, No. 12 Rutgers, No. 16 Illinois, No. 20 Wisconsin, and No. 25 North Carolina.
The Huskers are ranked No. 11 in the dual rankings and No. 17 in the tournament rankings.
Nebraska will hold its annual intrasquad meet at the Devaney Center on Friday at 6 p.m. New this year is wrestle-offs.
Manning said the meet is a good opportunity to get the young guys down in weight and comfortable in front of the crowd.
Nov. 5 Daktronics Open at Brookings, S.D.
Nov. 17 Wyoming
Nov. 25 West Virginia at Morgantown, W.Va.
Dec. 1-2 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Collegiate Wrestling Invitational at Las Vegas
Dec. 15 North Carolina State
Dec. 17 North Carolina
Jan. 5 Illinois at Champaign, Ill.
Jan. 7 Maryland
Jan. 12 Purdue
Jan. 19 Northwestern at Evanston, Ill.
Jan. 21 Rutgers
Jan. 28 Indiana
Feb. 2 Michigan at Ann Arbor, Mich.
Feb. 4 Michigan State at East Lansing, Mich.
Feb. 9 Wisconsin at Madison, Wis.
Feb. 16 Stanford at Stanford, Calif.
March 3-4 Big Ten Championships at East Lansing, Mich.
March 15-17 NCAA Championships at Cleveland, Ohio