Isaiah Alford has his sights set on leaving Lincoln High as a two-time state champion.
But Alford won’t be leaving Lincoln when he graduates in May. He signed to wrestle for the Huskers next season.
“Virginia offered, but Nebraska just felt like home,” said Alford after he advanced Thursday to the Class A 170-pound semifinals. “I wanted to stay somewhere close to my parents.”
Alford, who will likely wrestle at 165 pounds for NU, also had a goal of being a two-time undefeated champ.
After placing sixth at state as a sophomore, Alford went 44-0 as a junior, capping his season with a 10-5 win over Columbus’ Carson Zwingman in the state final. But an out-of-state loss three weeks ago has been the only thing standing in Alford’s way of another unbeaten season.
Alford’s defeat came during a tournament in Liberty, Missouri. Alford, ranked 22nd nationally in his weight class by WIN Magazine, faced 11th-ranked Greyden Penner of Liberty in the final.
Alford trailed 5-3 before getting a takedown with seven seconds left. But Penner was able to escape before the period ended to eke out a 6-5 win.
“That loss was especially tough,” Alford said. “The goal was to go undefeated, but it happens when you wrestle a good kid. I consider losses as a teaching moment and a step stool to get to the next level. You lost because you didn’t do something right.”
Those lessons have been far and few between for Alford, no matter the sport. In the fall, he rushed for 1,442 yards and 23 touchdowns as the Links went 7-3 in football.
But Alford will focus on wrestling in college, and looked like the favorite in his weight class during his two matches Thursday.
After pinning Lincoln Southwest’s Henry Lynch in 1:43 in the first round, Alford squared off with Lincoln East junior Grant Lyman for the fifth time this season.
Alford gradually built a lead. He was up 2-0 after one period, and a takedown late in the second period made it 6-1. Another takedown finished off an 11-3 major decision.
“After you’ve seen a kid twice, you know what he likes to do,” Alford said. “You have to execute everything to perfection and get into your offense.”
Alford will face Columbus sophomore Blayze Standley in Friday’s semifinals. Zwingman, Standley’s teammate whom Alford defeated in last year’s final, is in the semifinals at 182.
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