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Posted 05 Dec 2001   For week ended November 23, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 01Dec01

By Kent Larsen

RM Looks for Personal Best Despite Wrestling Program Turmoil

LINCOLN, NEBRASKA -- Returning from an LDS mission to Chile, Justin Ruiz started wrestling competition Monday in the Nebraska-Omaha Open as Nebraska's starter at 197 pounds. But in addition to getting back into wrestling after two years, Ruiz finds he must also face the remaining turmoil in the 9th-ranked team after a scandal forced the resignation of coach Tom Neuman while Ruiz was on his mission and fans who are looking for a replacement for Brad Vering, the 2000 National Champion at 197 pounds.

Ruiz' record suggests that he is up to the challenge. A native of Murray, Utah, Ruiz captured three Utah State championships at Taylorsville, High School and was named the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Wrestler of the Year for 1998. He was also Junior National Greco-Roman champion. When he was recruited by Nebraska, Ruiz was one of the top high school prospects in the U.S.

During the year before his mission, Ruiz competed as a redshirt, earning a 12-3 record in open tournaments. He then left on his mission in September 1999 and mostly ignored wrestling for the duration.

But his family tried to keep him appraised of changes to Nebraska's program. Early in 2000 allegations of misconduct by coach Neuman led him to resign, and opened Nebraska to sanctions for his alleged violations of the NCAA extra-benefit rules. Nebraska is still waiting for the sanctions to be applied.

But the turmoil wasn't enough to make Ruiz consider another program "I knew it would still be a good environment for me," he said. New coach Mark Manning says Ruiz seems to have actually benefitted from his mission, suggesting that he is "really mature" and now understands the importance of listening, "When he hears coaches say things in the wrestling room, he seems to have a great understanding," Manning said. Ruiz agrees, "I think it helped me mature mentally, as far as goal-setting and figuring out where I want to go in life."

Manning says Ruiz seemed very prepared for Monday's match, the first of the season. "I think he's excited to see where he's at," Manning said.

And apparently Ruiz was in very good shape. He finished the match by claiming the 197-pound title. As for the rest of the season, Ruiz says he will do his best, "I just want to wrestle hard, wrestle smart, and wrestle my style." But he says that "It's really not a competition against other people. It's mostly about performing the best I can."

As for replacing former National Champion Vering, Ruiz isn't measuring success that way, "I haven't even thought about that," Ruiz said. "I figure if I do the best I can, everything will work out fine."


NU WRESTLING: Talented 22-year-old freshman starts at 197
Lincoln NE Journal-Star 18Nov01 S2
By Steven M. Sipple: Lincoln Journal Star

Nebraska strength proves mighty at UNO open
Excite News (U Nebraska Daily Nebraskan) 19Nov01 S2
By Patrick Smith: Daily Nebraskan


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