It’s not often that a two-time national champion gets pinned at the NCAA Tournament.
What’s even more rare is when it comes at the hands of an unseeded opponent.
Both of those events unfolded in the match to claim All-America honors at the 141-pound weight class last year.
Before getting to that match, Nebraska redshirt freshman Chad Red had been through the wringer.
The 183-0 high school wrestler from New Palestine High School in Indianapolis came to Nebraska with high expectations. Expectations of a medal at nationals, and even a national championship.
His first college loss came to his teammate Colton McCrystal at the Daktronics Open in Brookings, South Dakota, with Red wrestling unattached in his redshirt year.
“It definitely was a learning experience, but it was also just a little setback to let you know we ain’t in high school anymore,” Red said. “This is the big leagues, so we got to keep and maintain our focus. Now when I come back to the room, I have something to work more so towards.”
Fast forward one year and he was still putting his nose to the grindstone.
Red went 9-5 in Nebraska duals as a redshirt freshman but stumbled a little at the Big Ten Championships.
He took seventh place but qualified for nationals.
Mix it up! Chad Red stuns Dean Heil! pic.twitter.com/FJDHm2B5V5— FloWrestling (@FloWrestling) March 17, 2018
A 4-2 loss in the first round of nationals was rock bottom for Red.
His dad, whom Red said he talks to after every match, only had a few simple words of advice.
“‘You gotta battle.’ That was all he said to me, and I thought he would say more,” Red said. “I was still pretty down when I got back to our room.”
Another Husker wrestler, Isaiah White, saw this.
“Hey, man. Let’s go do it. I mean, you ain’t picked to do anything anyway. So go out there and just shock them all,” White said to Red.
What happened over the next two days is etched in Husker wrestling history now, but at the time it was a long shot.
Red beat three Big Ten opponents in a row, including Iowa’s Vince Turk, who he lost to at the Big Ten Championships, to get to the fourth-round consolation match.
“When he got in the wrestlebacks and he got a victory under his belt, his focus was good,” Nebraska coach Mark Manning said. “Before, it was a little deer in the headlights and wishing and hoping it would happen. You have to make it happen in our sport. You don’t have anyone to tag off, no one is coming in for reserve.”
Despite winning three matches in a row, Red still had more to do.
Oklahoma State’s two-time national champion Dean Heil lost in the quarterfinals of the winner’s bracket and would face the Husker freshman.
Once again, Red turned to White.
This time, the motivation was a little different.
“We just started freestyling about it,” Red said. “Just rapping about what I was going to do.”
Red said they rapped about looking for an opportunity and catching the champ back on his heels.
“We had to get that extra get-pumped music,” White said. “Get pumped and get 'turnt.'”
That’s exactly what happened 1 minute, 52 seconds into the match.
Red tossed Heil to his back and had plenty of time to work with.
Thirty seconds later, Red pinned the two-time champion. He saluted the crowd to add to the statement win that everyone around the Nebraska program said didn’t surprise them.
“It was perfect timing,” Manning said. “One guy had got beat and he wasn’t going to be a three-time national champion and he didn’t come out ready for (Red) and good things happen. He made it happen and that’s a big deal.”
Red went 1-1 after beating Heil and went on to get seventh place at nationals and build confidence that has led in to this year.
There are still expectations this year, but they are just a little different.
Manning isn’t afraid to talk big.
He said Red isn’t afraid to dream big, either.
“He’s a guy who now, it’s not about being an All-American,” Manning said. "It’s about being a national champion. Now the stakes go higher and your commitment and belief system go higher. Now he’s not thinking, ‘How do I get on the podium?’ he’s thinking, ‘How do I be a national champion? How do I get the golden egg?’”