The strides Husker wrestler Austin Wilson made during his redshirt freshman year could be seen at the end of last season.
After qualifying for the NCAA championships, Wilson won three matches at nationals. He also was given the team's most improved award.
“I want to build on that success,” Wilson said. “I want to build on the gains that I made last year.”
Now as a sophomore, Wilson has made gains by solidifying his spot in Nebraska's lineup as he brings a 15-5 record into a pair of home weekend duals. Nebraska hosts Indiana at 7 p.m. Friday and then Penn at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Devaney Center.
Nebraska coach Mark Manning said he's seeing more improvement from Wilson, who was a three-time Class C high school state champion while at Hastings St. Cecilia.
“He's more confident as a wrestler and a competitor. His technique and wrestling skills are better,” Manning said. “He's a really smart kid and a hard worker. You combine those two elements and you're going to get good.”
What also has helped Wilson improve is practicing daily with All-America teammates James Green and Robert Kokesh. Wilson, who wrestles at 165 pounds, is between Green (157) and Kokesh (174) in NU's lineup.
“They both have different styles. James is quick and explosive. That's good for me to work on positions,” Wilson said. “And Robert is a goer. He never gets tired, he's always coming after you. It's good to get different looks because people around the country are going to wrestle differently.”
All five of Wilson's losses this season have been to nationally ranked opponents. He avenged a November loss to Stanford's Jim Wilson by edging him 2-1 in the Reno Tournament of Champions semifinals on Dec. 22. Wilson then lost to seventh-ranked Corey Mock of Chattanooga in the final.
Still, that kind of result has helped Wilson move up to 14th in the InterMat national rankings at 165 pounds.
“It's all about staying in good position and staying smart,” Wilson said. “Anyone who's ranked can beat anyone on a given day. It's all about who makes the least amount of mistakes and who is able to capitalize on the other person's mistakes.”
Wilson's weekend will begin with a match against Indiana's Ryan LeBlanc. LeBlanc isn't currently ranked, but he leads Indiana in victories with his 27-7 record.
Wilson was eliminated from the Big Ten tournament last March by LeBlanc. LeBlanc controlled that match before eventually earning a 9-2 decision.
“The biggest thing (against LeBlanc) is not giving up big points,” Wilson said. “Last year I got down by a lot in the first period. Getting down early changes your mindset in a match. It shouldn't, but it does. I just need to stay in good position and not give up those big points.”
On Saturday, Wilson will face Penn's Casey Kent — Wilson won a 6-3 decision over Kent last season.
Ľ Notes: Indiana has three nationally ranked individuals, including Taylor Walsh (26-1) at 157. He'll square off with Green, who is unbeaten and ranked third. ... Manning said Anthony Abidin, who was NU's starter at 141 in November and December, will be out for a while with an injury. Senior Adam Joseph will fill that spot for the Huskers this weekend. ... Prior to Friday's NU-Indiana dual, there will be a high school dual between Grand Island, the defending Class A state champion, and Blue Springs, Mo. That dual will start at 5. And on Saturday, the Penn dual is part of the Tumble and Rumble event, in which an NU women's gymnastics meet will take place at the same time as the wrestling dual on the Devaney floor.