Since he was a kid Ridge Lovett dreamed of being an NCAA wrestling champion.
Last year Lovett was one victory away from achieving that goal. He lost to Cornell’s Yanni Diakomihalis 11-5, in the NCAA 149-pound final.
Lovett, who has been in the program four years, finished the 2021 season with a record of 24-4, his best year at UNL. Lovett says he always learns from experience, especially last season.
“I learned to be confident. When you wrestle to not lose you start making mistakes,” Lovett said. “When you wrestle to win you perform better, you’re not scared, you’re more confident.”
Lovett has a great support system. Coaches Mark Manning, Bryan Snyder and Robert Kokesh have all helped develop Lovett.
“Coach Snyder has really helped me while at UNL, he tells me to muddy the waters and make wrestling happen,” Lovett said.
Ridge Lovett works hard and he says he looks for opportunities to make himself better on and off the mat. Before he committed to UNL, Manning said he saw something special.
“He was focused when we recruited him out of high school, he wasn’t afraid to work hard,” Manning said.
Lovett did not qualify for the national tournament in his freshman year, after taking 7th at the Big Ten tournament. His sophomore year he was second at the Big Ten tournament, but didn’t place in the national tournament.
“He’s matured since he started wrestling for us at 133, to compete the way he did [as as freshman] showed us the potential he had for his career,” Manning said.
Lovett is from Post Falls, Idaho, where he wrestled at Post Falls High School. At Post Falls he was a four-time 5A state champion, finishing with a 169-0 career record. He was the Idaho wrestler of the year and a candidate for the Dave Schultz Award, for national wrestler of the year, in 2019.
Lovett has been wrestling since he was three years old. He would like to keep wrestling part of his life even after graduation as he looks to continue wrestling at the world level and then become a coach.
“I want to win world and Olympic titles. Then after that I would like to coach,” Lovett said. “I’m not picky on where I would like to coach, preferably the highest level.”
Lovett’s goal is to become Nebraska’s 12th national NCAA Champion. Nebraska hasn’t had an NCAA individual champion since Jordan Burroughs in 2011. Lovett’s other goals include earning more bonus points, more pin falls, and to win a national title as a team.
UNL has never taken first place at the NCAA tournament. The Huskers have finished in the top ten every year since the 2014-2015 season. Last year, UNL finished fifth, their best showing since they finished fourth in the 2009 season.
“We’re a young team, but our young guys have a huge upside to their wrestling,” Lovett said, “I think we’re in a good spot to win a trophy and maybe even a team title.”
Lovett did not appear in the Huskers first dual meet Friday, November 4, which the Huskers lost to North Dakota State, 20-16.