Mark Manning would love to see senior Shawn Nagel go out on a high note.
“Shawn’s wrestled a lot of matches for us in his career,” the Nebraska coach said, “and Shawn wants to go out as an All-American.”
And he has a good opportunity, Manning said, after beating a wrestler like Purdue’s Cashe Quiroga and giving Ohio State’s Johnni DiJulius “everything he wanted.”
Quiroga was ranked 14th nationally going into last Sunday’s 133-pound match with Nagel. Quiroga took a 4-1 lead in the first period, but Nagel was able to record a pin midway through the second period for the victory.
Two days earlier in Columbus, fifth-ranked DiJulius held on for a 2-1 decision over the Husker veteran from Kimball, Neb..
“He’s built some confidence,” Manning said. “He’s got some big matches coming up.”
Nagel’s opponent Saturday will be freshman Zane Richards, who is 14-2 and ranked 11th, as the Huskers face Illinois in a 4 p.m. dual in Champaign, Ill.
Nagel has 48 career wins at NU. But earlier this month, he was on track to redshirt this season. He had wrestled unattached in two tournaments in November, compiling a 7-3 record. Freshman Colton McCrystal had been Nebraska’s starter at 133, but Manning said he wanted to move McCrystal up to 141, opening a spot that Nagel has filled the past three weekends.
In his return to the lineup Jan. 11, Nagel decisioned Penn’s Ken Bade 6-3 — it was Nagel’s first match in seven weeks. Nagel lost to third-ranked Tony Ramos of Iowa the next weekend before splitting last weekend’s matches.
“Shawn’s always done what we’ve asked, and he wants to do what’s best for the team,” Manning said. “He’s responded really well.”
On Saturday, Nagel will square off with one of Illinois’ six ranked wrestlers. The most anticipated match will likely be at 125 as NU’s Tim Lambert, ranked ninth, will face third-ranked Jesse Delgado. Delgado is the defending national champion at 125.
Manning is hoping to see another effort from his team like last weekend when the Huskers easily won both duals.
“Our focus is on just getting our guys better,” Manning said. “The Big Ten’s are going to be tough, so we’re just preparing for the end of the year.”
Notes: NU and Illinois squared off in Lincoln last January, with Nebraska winning 18-15. ... Illinois had been 0-4 in Big Ten duals before rolling past Michigan State 29-6 last weekend. ... Nebraska (No. 8) and Illinois (No. 17) are two of nine Big Ten teams ranked in the top 20 in this week’s coaches poll. The others are Penn State (No. 1), Minnesota (No. 2), Iowa (No. 3), Michigan (No. 11), Ohio State (No. 12), Wisconsin (No. 15) and Northwestern (No. 19). ... After this weekend, Nebraska has two more duals before the Big Ten championships. Next Friday’s dual with Michigan will be NU’s final home date this season.