It’s been three weeks since Nebraska has competed in a dual, but coach Mark Manning feels the Huskers have put that time to good use.
“They’ve been doing a lot of two-a-days, a lot of practice, a lot of good training,” said Manning, who added that his Huskers returned from their break on Dec. 26. “Our guys are in good shape. We’ve done a lot of preparation for the second half of the season. Our guys are in a good spot mentally, healthy. … We’re anxious for 2019.”
No. 11 Nebraska starts January with a home dual against Northwestern on Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Devaney Center.
The last time NU competed was in the middle of December when it defeated No. 12 North Carolina and lost on a criteria point to No. 7 North Carolina State.
“A number of our guys wrestled really well out there. But as a team, we’re still coming together,” Manning said. “We haven’t clicked on all cylinders yet. We’re working to get everyone on the same page.”
One Husker who did wrestle well in North Carolina was heavyweight David Jensen. Jensen missed the first month of the season with mononucleosis, but in his first dual action of the season, he went 2-0 in North Carolina, including a 5-2 decision over then-No. 14 Cory Daniel of the Tar Heels.
“David dominated (Daniel), who he lost to last year. And he wasn’t 100 percent as far as conditioning and training,” Manning said. “He put in a lot of work last spring and summer. I’m not surprised.”
Those wins moved Jensen into the InterMat rankings at No. 14, making him the seventh Husker ranked in the top 15. Leading the way for NU is Tyler Berger, who is fourth at 157 pounds — Berger earned his 100th career win at North Carolina. Taylor Venz (fifth at 184), Isaiah White (sixth at 165) and Mikey Labriola (ninth at 174) also are in the top 10.
Northwestern has three top-10 individuals, led by Sebastian Rivera (125) and Ryan Deakin (157). Both are undefeated, are ranked second nationally in their weight classes and won titles at last weekend’s Midlands Championships. Rivera defeated defending national champion Spencer Lee of Iowa 7-3 en route to his win. Jensen is expected to face senior Conan Jennings, who was the heavyweight runner-up at Midlands.
“We’re going to get a good test and we’re ready for the challenge,” Manning said.