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Nebraska Official of the Year has Loper roots

Former Loper wrestler Bryce Abbey named NFHS Nebraska Wrestling Official of the Year
Courtesy Photo

When it was announced that Bryce Abbey won the National Federation of High School Nebraska Wrestling Official of the Year, it would be a surprise to some that his first officiating wasn’t on the mats.

Instead, it was the baseball diamond that sparked the officiating passion for the exercise science associate professor, who also serves as the employee health and wellness director.

“I officiated some youth baseball for parks and rec back home during high school and enjoyed it,” Abbey said. “But I never stayed with the baseball side of things.”

Instead, it was college that he started officiating wrestling. Abbey started at the youth level, officiating youth tournament fundraisers sponsored by the UNK wrestling team. 

Abbey wrestled from 2002-05, winning four straight RMAC/West Region team titles, the 2003 National Duals, and breaking UNK’s all time career wins record, with 134. That record stood for over a decade before Tervel Dlagnev would best it with 167 wins. Abbey would be inducted into the UNK Athletics Hall of Fame in 2017.

Since 2005, he’s been a ref at the high school level, and has officiated the NSAA State Championship for 14 years. He didn’t ref this year’s state tournament, since his son Kade qualified for state at Class A 144 pounds for Kearney High.

Abbey said that he found his niche.

“I never saw myself as a coach,” Abbey said. “I was approached after college about coaching various teams at various times, and I just never felt the passion in the coaching side of things. But when I was on the wrestling mat officiating, it’s what I love to do.”

Abbey has also worked to grow the number of wrestling officials in the state, mentoring students who want to give back and referee. He has offered courses in previous years, but teaching loads between officiating courses and his exercise science courses within the Kinesiology and Sports Sciences Department. He’s also worked with the Nebraska High School Officials Association to build clinics and an officiating summit in the summer to help train new referees.

Abbey said that officiating any sport is one of the perfect side jobs for college students, with a time commitment of only a few hours a week, the opportunity to help keep you in shape, and stay connected to the sport.

Bryce Abbey’s Nebraska Official of the Year plaque on display with one of his singlets from his Hall of Fame career. Photo by Alex Hammeke / Antelope Staff
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Alex Hammake
Alex Hammake, Reporter
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    Lonnie NewellMar 5, 2024 at 6:38 pm

    Awesome Bryce. Very proud of you
    With love from Grandpa and Grandma Newell