Four Huskers are ranked in the top 10 in their respective weight classes, according to InterMat’s ratings. Those four — Jake Sueflohn, James Green, Robert Kokesh and Josh Ihnen — have combined for an 88-13 record this season.
Yet when pre-tournament seedings were released for this weekend’s Big Ten championships in Champaign, Ill., none of those four was seeded higher than third.
Such is life in the Big Ten, which has eight teams ranked in the top 20 in the coaches poll.
Take the 157-pound weight class for example. Green is 18-3 and ranked sixth nationally, but he’s seeded fourth in the Big Ten meet.
“It’s a good setup for a number of our guys, especially James. He knows if he can win Big Ten, he can win nationals,” Nebraska coach Mark Manning said.
The top two seeds at 157 are ranked one and two in the country — Derek St. John of Iowa and Northwestern’s Jason Welch. Green lost a 6-4 decision to St. John last month. Welch defeated Green 2-1 at the national meet last season, but in January, Green won a 9-8 decision, handing Welch his only loss of this season.
“He needed to be more aggressive on his feet, which he was,” Manning said of Green. “He’s wrestling with a lot of confidence. He’s in a great place mentally.”
Kokesh, another Nebraska sophomore, also has been in a good place all season. Kokesh is 29-2 and ranked fourth nationally, but he’s seeded third at 174 this weekend.
The only two wrestlers to beat Kokesh are seeded ahead of him: Minnesota’s Logan Storley and Iowa’s Mike Evans. Kokesh lost a 3-1 decision to Storley in November before he won 22 matches in a row. That streak ended with a 9-6 loss to Evans in Iowa a month ago.
Evans has handed Kokesh three of his nine losses during his first two seasons with the Huskers.
“Hopefully the fourth time is the charm,” Manning said.
The 174-pound weight class certainly will be a preview of the NCAA championships as eight Big Ten wrestlers are ranked in the top 11 nationally. The NCAA championships are in two weeks in Des Moines.
Among the other Huskers ranked in the top 10, Ihnen is seeded third at 184 and Sueflohn is fourth at 149.
It’s been three weeks since the Huskers have competed, but Manning said that allowed his team to get healthy and focus on this weekend.
“Our team has really prepared well,” Manning said. “We had some short, intense practices. Now it’s a matter of going out there and doing it Saturday and Sunday.”
>> NOTES: The two-day Big Ten championships begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, with a second session taking place at 5 p.m. On Sunday, semifinals begin at 11:30 a.m. with the finals to follow at 1:30 p.m. The finals will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network. ... Nebraska finished eighth at its first Big Ten meet last season. Ihnen was NU’s top individual as he placed second at 184. ... Penn State won the conference meet last season on its way to the national title. Iowa won the Big Ten regular season this winter, going 8-0. Minnesota and Penn State were 7-1.
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