Reigning All-Americans James Green (157) and Robert Kokesh (174) each won their weight class titles at the Big Ten Championships to lead Nebraska to a fifth-place finish on Sunday at the Kohl Center.
Green and Kokesh become the first two Big Ten champions for Nebraska since the Huskers joined the conference in 2011. The Huskers earned 79 points for the tournament as Penn State (140.5) won the team title.
Green, the No. 2 seed at 157 pounds, battled fourth-seeded Derek St. John of Iowa in the Big Ten Finals. Like their first matchup of the season, Green emerged with a victory as the Husker junior notched a 7-4 decision over the defending national champion. Green, a two-time All-American, struck first with an early takedown in the opening stanza before riding out St. John for the remainder of the period.
In the second frame, St. John started down before earning an escape to cut the lead to 2-1. Green tacked on another takedown before a St. John escape at the buzzer to take a 4-2 lead into the third period. Green escaped from the down position to build a 5-2 lead before giving up a takedown. Clinging to a 5-4 lead, Green escaped from St. John and earned an additional point for riding time en route to his first conference crown.
Green improves to 29-1 this season following his performance at the Big Ten Championships. He posted wins over Illinois’ Zac Brunson and Minnesota’s Dylan Ness on Saturday before topping St. John on Sunday. Green wins his fourth tournament title of the season, having already captured the Warren Williamson/Daktronics Open, Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and Reno Tournament of Champions titles.
Kokesh, the top seed at 174 pounds, squared off with Iowa’s Mike Evans, the No. 3 seed, and topped the Hawkeye for the second time this season. In the first period, Kokesh managed a takedown before an Evans escape made the score 2-1. Kokesh started the second period in the down position and earned an escape before adding a takedown to build a 5-1 advantage heading to the third period.
Evans started down and escaped to cut the lead to 5-2. The Hawkeye earned a takedown to make the score 5-4 before Kokesh earned an escape. The 6-4 score at the time stood as the final margin as Kokesh picked up his 100th career victory. He becomes Nebraska’s 22nd member of the 100-win club and improves to 32-1 this season, earning victories against Michigan’s Collin Zeerip and Minnesota’s Logan Storley at the Big Ten Championships.
Fellow junior Jake Sueflohn (149) also advanced to the Big Ten Finals but dropped a 6-2 decision to third-seeded Jason Tsirtsis of Northwestern. Tsirtsis earned two takedowns in the match and added a point for riding time to knock off the Husker. Sueflohn heads into the NCAA Championships with a 29-4 record and takes runner-up honors at the Big Ten Championships for the second consecutive year.
Redshirt freshman Tim Lambert (125) finished his first appearance in the Big Ten Championships with a fifth-place result. In Session III, he fell to No. 4 seed Ryan Taylor of Wisconsin, 5-3, before pinning eighth-seeded Nick Roberts of Ohio State in the fifth-place match in 4:24. Lambert is 22-11 on the season after a 4-2 showing in Madison.
Sophomore Austin Wilson managed a sixth-place finish at the conference tournament. He lost a pair of decisions on Sunday to Danny Zilverberg of Minnesota and Jackson Morse of Illinois. Wilson is 22-14 on the season.
Caleb Kolb (197), Shawn Nagel (133) and Collin Jensen (HWT) also wrestled on Sunday, each making appearances in the ninth-place match of their respective weight class. Kolb emerged with a 3-1 sudden victory over Michigan State’s Nick McDiarmid. Nagel and Jensen each fell in their matches to finish 10th.
The Huskers conclude their season in two weeks at the NCAA Championships, March 20-22, at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla.