Taylor Venz (Photo/Nebraska Communications)
Taylor Venz has made an immediate impact in Nebraska's lineup. He has compiled a 14-3 record and is ranked in the top 10 at 184 pounds. Venz placed third at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, with his only loss in the tournament coming to 2016 NCAA champion Myles Martin of Ohio State.
InterMat recently caught up with Venz.
You're off to a strong start this season. Did you expect to have this kind of success this early in your freshman season?
Venz: I don't think I would have predicted it. I definitely thought I could be at this level pretty soon. But I guess I wouldn't have predicted it would happen this quickly.
Taylor Venz won the Most Falls Award in Las Vegas (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Your breakout performance was at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational where you finished third, won the most falls award and beat multiple NCAA qualifiers. What did you take away from Las Vegas?
Venz: That tournament gave me a lot of confidence. I proved to myself that I can beat those guys. Even though I knew I could, it's just a big confidence booster to go out there and beat some top 10 guys. All the hard work is paying off and I'm heading in the right direction.
Half your wins this season have come by pin. Is pinning something you think about going into matches?
Venz: I don't really think about pins too much before the match. It's just part of my style, something I'm always looking for. I guess I have always been that way.
Two world-class freestyle wrestlers are training in Lincoln: Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs and two-time world medalist James Green. What's it like having them in Lincoln training?
Venz: It's amazing having them around in Lincoln training. They are perfect examples of what to do during practice, on the mat and off the mat. They are great students of the sports and great role models to look up to. We can always look over to them and see what they're doing. They're the best in the world. That's something that not everybody gets to have, and something I'm really thankful for.
Do you work out with Jordan Burroughs much?
Venz: Yeah, I actually get to wrestle with him quite a bit. It's incredible. He's so good. He's always asking questions and learning, and always helping everyone out in the room. I've never wrestled anyone like him. It's incredible. That's an extremely valuable thing about being at Nebraska, being able to train with him one-on-one.
You grew up wrestling at the PINnacle School of Wrestling. What did PINnacle do for your development as a wrestler?
Venz: I think PINnacle played a really big role in my wrestling. It was a place that I could go to and have great partners and great coaches. I had great coaching as far as technique goes and great partners. A lot of times I got my butt kicked, so I was used to getting my butt kicked. But I knew I could wrestle with the best kids in the state. They also helped me a lot with the mental side. 'Love the fight' is their saying. They give a lot of good talks and speeches about loving the fight and living right. I think PINnacle has helped me with my lifestyle and believing in myself.
Earlier this season you wrestled and defeated Owen Webster of Minnesota, who also trained at PINnacle. What was it like wrestling one of your former club teammates in college?
Venz: I was excited to wrestle him because we both went to PINnacle and grew up in Minnesota. We used to wrestle when we were a lot younger. It's kind of cool that now we're both wearing Big Ten singlets and wrestling at this level. I was excited to wrestle him. I look forward to wrestling him more in the future.
Taylor Venz defeated Mitchell McKee at 106 pounds to win his first state title (Photo/Mark Beshey, The Guillotine)
You grew quite a bit in high school, going from a state champion as a freshman at 106 pounds to a state champion at 182 pounds as a senior. What challenges came with growing so much in high school?
Venz: Each year I had to get bigger and stronger. I was always working with Jared Lawrence at PINnacle about changing my style and keeping my feet moving because my body was changing. I had to stay athletic. I was in some awkward stages. Jared really helped me with that. There were some challenges. I think it was a good advantage to be able to have the experience of wrestling at such a light weight and now I'm bigger.
Taylor Venz battles Myles Martin in Las Vegas (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
What was the college recruiting process like for you in high school? And what eventually drew you to Nebraska?
Venz: It was a pretty good experience. There were a few different colleges I was really looking at … Minnesota, UNI and Nebraska. Those were my top three. Nebraska was my last visit. Once I came here I felt the coaching staff, team and everything about it fit me the best. It fit my personality, my wrestling style and was the best situation academically for me. I knew I made the right choice right after I started school.
Obviously, Mark Manning has established himself as one of the nation's top wrestling coaches. What's it like wrestling for Coach Manning?
Venz: He's great. He's an amazing guy. He's super intense. He's extremely passionate. He loves the sport. He can joke around, but when it comes time to practice he's extremely intense. He wants to be national champions as a team. He wants his wrestlers to national champions. We share the same vision. It's really special to wrestle for him. He's obviously a great coach. He has a lot of experience. I trust him. It's awesome wrestling for him.
Taylor Venz (Photo/Nebraska Communications)
The Big Ten is loaded with talent and your weight class is no exception. Seven of the nation's top 12 184-pounders are in the Big Ten. Is that exciting, knowing that virtually every week you're going to be facing a highly ranked opponent?
Venz: Yeah, that's definitely exciting. I would rather wrestle a ranked guy and be challenged every week than wrestle guys I should beat. I'm glad that we have this tough Big Ten schedule. The only way I'm going to get better is by challenging myself.
When you look at your wrestling, what aspect do you need to improve upon the most to accomplish your goals?
Venz: I definitely need to work on the bottom position. I'm wasting a lot of time on bottom, not getting away. That's probably my biggest weakness right now.
This story also appears in the Jan. 12 issue of The Guillotine. The Guillotine has been covering wrestling in Minnesota since 1971. Its mission is to report and promote wrestling at all levels -- from youth and high school wrestling to college and international level wrestling. Subscribe to The Guillotine.