Shawn Nagel was searching for a much-needed boost of confidence.
He got it at an opportune time for the Nebraska wrestling team.
Nagel, a junior who has started at 133 pounds all season, had lost four of his previous five matches going into last weekend. That’s when he pinned Michigan’s Rossi Bruno in the first round — his first pin this season — and followed that with a 14-6 major-decision win over Northwestern’s Garrison White.
“I think he’s starting to believe in himself,” NU coach Mark Manning said. “That’s the biggest thing in our sport. He understands he needs to be a little tougher and wrestle a little bit harder than the other guy.”
Nagel’s win over Bruno propelled the Huskers to their first Big Ten dual win this season.
Michigan led the dual 16-11 with three matches left when Nagel and Bruno stepped on the mat. Nagel’s pin moved NU in front at 17-16, and when the teams split decisions in the last two matches, the Huskers earned a 20-19 victory.
“I kind of knew (the team score), but I wasn’t really thinking about it,” Nagel said. “I was just thinking about going out there and wrestling.”
Considering the circumstances, Nagel said that was probably his biggest collegiate win.
Before college, Nagel was an extremely successful high school wrestler at Kimball, Neb., amassing a 147-3 record and winning three Class C state titles. But as a Husker, he went 0-7 in duals as a freshman and was 6-21 last season at 125 pounds.
“It’s way tough,” Nagel said of making the transition from high school to Division I wrestling. “I mean, I knew it was going to be, but it’s an eye-opener. Last year I struggled a little bit. I was cutting some weight and just had a rough stretch. This year I moved up a class and I was hungry.”
Nagel has been getting better results this season. He’s 12-9 overall and 6-5 in duals.
“Last year I didn’t seem to have the energy. I would go out and wrestle good for a while and then it seemed like I’d slow down. This year I go out for seven minutes and lay it on the line,” Nagel said.
Nagel and the Huskers will look to improve to 3-2 in Big Ten duals when they square off with Illinois at 7 p.m. Friday at the NU Coliseum.
Nagel will face senior Daryl Thomas, who is 16-3 and ranked 11th in the country by InterMat. Thomas is one of six Illini wrestlers ranked in the top 11 nationally. As a team, Illinois is ranked fifth and Nebraska is 14th.
“Last weekend helps the momentum,” Manning said. “Anytime you can get positive results, it can be really beneficial.”
Ľ Notes: Seven Illinois wrestlers and five Huskers are ranked in the top 20 by InterMat. Ranked wrestlers will meet in three of Friday’s 10 matches, including a matchup between Nebraska’s Robert Kokesh, fourth at 174, and No. 8 Jordan Blanton. Blanton is 16-2 this season and twice has finished in the top five at the NCAA championships. Kokesh has won his past 19 matches. ... NU’s James Green climbed three spots in the individual rankings at 157 pounds, moving up to fourth. Green got a boost after his 9-8 decision over previously unbeaten Jason Welch of Northwestern, who remained second in the poll.
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