FEATURE: Huskers Remember Black History Month

DATE: 2/28/2008 4:00:00 PM
By Amil Anderson
Nebraska Sports Information

After a record-setting regular season, the Nebraska wrestling team hopes to have several wrestlers climb the podium at the NCAA Championships this March. Returning national champion Paul Donahoe will attempt to defend his title after an 18-3 start to his season, while fellow junior Brandon Browne leads NU with 29 wins against just two losses.

Finishing as an All-American would mean a little more to several Huskers, though. Jordan Burroughs, Vince Jones and Chris Oliver have a shot at doubling the number of African-American All-Americans in Nebraska history. Three black wrestlers have earned the honor for the Huskers. Johnnie Selmon became the first in 1982 with his fifth-place finish at 142 pounds, while Ray Oliver earned fourth in 1983 at 167 pounds, and Temoer Terry was a three-time All-American in 1995, 1996 and 1998.

In celebration of Black History Month, recently sat down with Burroughs, Jones and Oliver to get their impressions about wrestling as African-Americans in a predominantly white sport.

Chris Oliver ? Junior ? 157 Pounds ? Omaha, Neb.
Chris is looking to follow in his father Ray?s footsteps and become an All-American. They could also become the first father-son combo to earn All-America honors in Nebraska history. Chris was one of six Huskers to qualify for the NCAA Championships last season and is 15-9 this season.

On his favorite part of Black History Month
?I like Black History Month because sometimes you can forget and take for granted the things that you do have. I like watching the documentaries with Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, Jessie Owens and people like that. The things they had to go through with all those adversities and then still compete. It is tough enough being an athlete as it is, but then you have the difficulties they had back then. Just to see those guys kind of makes me sit back and realize what people had to do for me to be here.?

On black icons he respects
?Of course Martin Luther King, Jr. When you think of Black History Month, he is the one that comes up, but there are so many people. You can name so many people who have gone before us. Basically that whole generation to stand up and fight for what they did is something that I admire. I try not to take for granted what I have now.?

On black wrestlers he admires
?Obviously my dad and Roye Oliver. [Roye, Chris? uncle, was a three time All-American for Arizona State.] They are big influences on me as a wrestler. Everyone knows wrestlers like Kenny Monday and Kevin Jackson, who have really high credentials. When you think of black wrestlers, that is who you think of. Guys like that are definitely great examples and heroes of mine.?

On wrestling at the Division I level as a minority
?As an athlete and being an African-American, to be able to compete at this level is something I am happy I am able to do because in years past, others haven?t been able to. All the opportunities we have available to us now is a great to have.?

On his father being one of the first black All-Americans at Nebraska
?Especially after competing and being an athlete here at Nebraska and knowing what it takes and how tough it is, I have gained so much more respect for my dad. He brags about being an All-American all the time, but I never understood it. I just thought he was just bragging, but it is hard. To have that in my family, I am definitely proud of my dad that he was able to do that. It is definitely something that he should be proud of because it is no easy feat.?

On what it would mean to him to become an All-American after his father
?I think it would be a great accomplishment with just the extra fact that there are so few minorities who have done it on the Nebraska wrestling team and the fact that my dad was an All-American as well. It would be a great accomplishment and something to be proud of.?

Jordan Burroughs ? Sophomore ? 149 Pounds ? Sicklerville, N.J.
Burroughs burst on the conference wrestling scene with a third-place finish at last year?s Big 12 Championships, which qualified him for the NCAA Championships as a freshman. Burroughs has established himself even more this season after a 27-5 regular season, including 6-0 against Big 12 foes. Burroughs currently leads the Huskers in major decisions (11) and technical falls (6).

On what comes to his mind first about Black History Month
?I think about all the accomplishments that black people have completed for this country. It makes me proud because we have done a lot of things and overcome a lot of hardships in this country.?

On a black icon that represents Black History Month
?I think about all of them. It takes a lot to get to that level of popularity in this country. Any person that is in that position in society has done pretty well for themselves.?

On coming to Nebraska after growing up in New Jersey
?It was different. On my high school team, we had all black wrestlers on the team. It was different coming out here. Wrestling is a predominately white sport, so I have always wrestled against a lot of white guys, so the wrestling wasn?t that big of a change. It was more of a social change outside of wrestling and school.?

On a black person he admires
?I am proud that Barack Obama is running for President this year because he is actually a viable candidate. He will actually have people vote for him.?

On becoming one of the few black wrestling All-Americans in Husker history
?It would be a pretty good feat for me to become an All-American period and to become a black All-American in a predominantly white sport would be a great accomplishment.?

Vince Jones ? Junior ? 184 Pounds ? Sicklerville, N.J.
Jones went 2-2 in his first trip to nationals in 2006, but sat out the 2007 season. Jones looks to be well on his way to another NCAA appearance after amassing a 21-11 record this season. Jones leads the Huskers in pins with 10 on the season.

On what Black History Month means to him
?It shows the progression that blacks have made over the years. It is a celebration of how far we have come together as a country. It shows us working together.?

On black wrestlers he admires
?A black wrestler that I look up to is Greg Jones from West Virginia. He was a three-time national champion for West Virginia and was originally from Pennsylvania. In my eyes, I think he is the best wrestler ever. He was so athletic and worked so hard. He just looked determined every time he went out there wrestling. I have met him a couple times, but I used to watch him when I was in high school.?

On wrestling in Nebraska after growing up in New Jersey
?I went to an all-black school in high school, but the college level is mostly white wrestlers. I never looked at it as different, though. I socialize with everyone, so I never really look at it like race.?

On becoming one of the few black wrestling All-Americans in Husker history
?That would a big accomplishment in my life. I would be the first All-American ever in any sport period in my family. That would be something big.?