When Nebraska travels to Wisconsin for its final wrestling dual this season, four freshmen are expected to be in the Husker lineup.
And NU coach Mark Manning is impressed with all of them.
“They all bring something a little different to the table,” Manning said.
Tim Lambert (125 pounds), Colton McCrystal (141), T.J. Dudley (184) and Collin Jensen (heavyweight) have a combined .705 winning percentage during their freshman year. Dudley and Lambert are rated ninth and 11th, respectively, in this week’s InterMat rankings.
They have helped the Huskers stay ranked in the top 10 all season — NU currently is eighth in the coaches’ poll.
“That’s why our team is where it is, because the freshmen have come in and done their job,” Manning said. “They haven’t won all the time, but they’ll win their share.”
Three of the four are redshirt freshmen. That redshirt year not only allowed them to get acclimated to college, but also to adjust to the kind of competition they would see.
For example, Manning said Jensen weighed about 216 pounds when he arrived in Lincoln. He’s been able to put on nearly 30 pounds of weight and muscle to prepare for the heavyweight division.
“The redshirt year helped a lot. I mean, it helps you gain a lot of experience and gives you a lot of time to get better,” said Jensen, who is from Mobridge, S.D. “It gets you used to what you need to do and how you need to do it.”
Jensen is 19-9 this season. And while he’s not ranked, he sees plenty of opponents who are.
Eight of the top 12 nationally ranked heavyweights are in the Big Ten, including the top five. Jensen, who will face No. 10 Connor Medbery on Friday, said he loves the competition.
“I think it’s great because the more you see them, the more you can adjust to what they do,” Jensen said.
McCrystal is the only one of the four who is a true freshman. He started the season at 133 pounds and moved up to 141 last month. McCrystal, who wrestled for Sergeant Bluff-Luton in Iowa last winter, has compiled a 13-10 record.
“If you use your redshirt right, you’re not only going to be technically better, but mentally better. Colton has learned on the fly,” Manning said. “He’s got a lot of gas in the gas tank. The season isn’t too long for him.”
Friday is Nebraska’s last competition before the Big Ten championships on March 8 and 9. The conference meet also is in Madison, Wis.
NOTES: Manning said Lambert had his knee scoped last week, but should be available on Friday. ... Wisconsin is 5-1 in Big Ten duals this season, with its lone loss coming last month against top-ranked Minnesota, 28-6. .... Wisconsin has five individuals ranked in InterMat’s top 20, just like the Huskers. The marquee matchup will come at 157 pounds where Nebraska’s James Green, unbeaten and ranked No. 1, will face freshman Isaac Jordan, ranked seventh.