In front of a record-setting crowd, the Huskers put themselves in position to knock off the second-ranked Nittany Lions, but a trio of late bonus-point wins by Penn State sealed the Husker home loss.
The seventh-ranked Nebraska wrestling team dropped its dual 20-18 to Penn State (7-1, 4-0) in front of 5,960 Husker faithful, a record-breaking crowd at the Devaney Center on Friday night.
Nebraska falls to 5-3 in dual competition on the year and will have to wait to pick up its first conference victory of the season, falling to 0-3 in the conference after facing its third straight top-flight Big Ten team in what has been the toughest opening stretch any B1G team has faced.
*InterMat rankings used
Nebraska redshirt freshman Alex Thomsen picked up his first career conference win against fellow redshirt freshman Brandon Meredith. After losing his last four matches, Thomsen dug deep and found a way to win. Each wrestler scored an escape in regulation, tying the score at 1-1 and sending things to sudden victory. Twenty seconds into the overtime period, Thomsen shot a double-leg before transitioning into an upper-body throw, scoring a takedown to grab the 3-1 win. Nebraska 3, Penn State 0
Freshman Ridge Lovett (No. 13) continues to wrestle hard for the Huskers despite facing the top three 133-pounders in the country in consecutive duals. This time out, Lovett kept things close until the waning seconds against Penn State’s third-ranked sophomore Roman Bravo-Young. After a Lovett escape and a stalling call on Bravo-Young to begin the third period, the score was 4-3 in favor of the Nittany Lion, but with 15 seconds remaining, Lovett attempted a takedown only to be countered by Bravo-Young who scored a takedown and was able to put the Husker on his back for a four-point near fall. With a riding-time point and the last second flurry, Bravo-Young racked up seven extra points to give him the 11-3 major decision and an extra team point to boot. Penn State 4, Nebraska 3
In a much-anticipated rematch, Nebraska’s eighth-ranked Chad Red Jr. took the mat against No. 2 Nick Lee of Penn State. Lee took control early, going up 2-0 after the first period and 5-0 after the second. Unable to get away from Lee’s top game, Red was called for a second stalling call in the third period while Lee continued to rack up riding time. With 50 seconds left, Lee cut Red loose, yielding the escape point as he hunted for a bonus-point victory. With 20 seconds left, Lee secured another takedown and the 9-1 major decision after adding the point for riding time. Another late-match major decision gives the Nittany Lions another bonus point. Penn State 8, Nebraska 3
With the Huskers trailing and needing a shot of momentum, 14th-ranked Collin Purinton did his part in what was the most exciting match of the night for Nebraska. Facing unranked Jarod Verkleeren, Purinton built a 3-1 lead going into the third period. A quick escape from the Penn State sophomore cut Purinton’s lead to 3-2, but the Husker put NU in front in the team score when he came out on top in a scramble and put Verkleeren on his back to record the win by fall at the 5:50 mark in the match. Nebraska 9, Penn State 8
Looking to add to their lead, the Huskers’ 11th-ranked Peyton Robb continued his dual success against junior Bo Pipher of Penn State. The Husker freshman improved to 13-3 on the year and 6-1 in duals as he accumulated 4 minutes, 37 seconds of riding time en route to a 5-3 decision victory. Nebraska 12, Penn State 8
Nebraska’s fifth-ranked Isaiah White faced a tall task against top-ranked Vincenzo Joseph. The Penn State senior brought a 3-0 career record against White into the Devaney Center. Joseph secured a takedown and White an escape in the first period, giving the undefeated Nittany Lion a 2-1 lead going into the second. Joseph thoroughly dominated White in top position in the second period, riding out the Nebraska senior for the full two minutes. Joseph added to his lead in the third with an escape, a stalling call on White and another point for riding time to grab the 5-1 victory. Nebraska 12, Penn State 11
Top-ranked Mark Hall for Penn State has been nothing short of dominant this season and he continued this trend against Nebraska’s sixth-ranked Mikey Labriola. Hall built up a 4-0 lead heading into the final period and looked to be hunting for bonus points as he cut loose Labriola twice for escapes while adding a pair of takedowns of his own to push his lead to 8-2. With about 10 seconds left, Hall looked to be ceding another escape to the Husker sophomore only to lock him up in a cradle at the last second, securing the win by fall with just eight seconds remaining in the match. The former national champion from Penn State silenced the crowd as his 6-point win by fall pushed the Nittany Lions out in front. Penn State 17, Nebraska 12
With Nebraska trailing, former All-American Taylor Venz (No. 8) got set to face undefeated Penn State Freshman Aaron Brooks (No. 6). The two wrestlers traded takedowns and escapes in the first period to tie the match at 3-3, but Venz turned it on in the second by scoring a quick escape before adding a takedown midway through the period. The Husker junior rode out the freshman for the final minute of the second to take a 6-3 lead into the final period. Venz added another takedown in the third period while piling on more riding time. Despite a late reversal by Brooks, Venz accumulated 2:17 in riding time on the way to a 9-5 win. Penn State 17, Nebraska 15
Facing Penn State’s 19th-ranked Shakur Rasheed, Nebraska’s Eric Schultz (No. 8) looked to stay red hot, as he came in with an unblemished dual record on the year. After a scoreless first period, Schultz got on the board first with a quick escape to start the second. The Husker junior added to his lead with a takedown as time expired in the second period, going up 3-0 heading into the third. Rasheed secured a quick escape of his own to cut Schultz’s lead to two, but Schultz fended off the Penn State senior’s attacks to come out with a 3-1 win, improving his dual record to 8-0 on the year. Nebraska 18, Penn State 17
At heavyweight, Nebraska senior Christian Lance (No. 15) faced Penn State freshman Seth Nevills in a match that would decide the dual. Despite his best effort, Lance was no match for the talented newcomer. After two scoreless periods where Nevills racked up riding time, the Nittany Lion scored an escape and a late takedown to grab a 3-0 lead which improved to a 4-0 win with riding time factored in. Penn State 20, Nebraska 18
This dual was Nebraska’s to win, but for the second straight week, Nebraska made critical mistakes late in matches that turned out to be the difference in the final score. A week ago, Nebraska fell to top-ranked Iowa due to late-match struggles, while this week the Nittany Lions found ways to grab bonus-point wins late in matches at 133, 141, and 174 pounds. In a dual that came down to just two dual points, a pair of late major decisions (an extra team point a piece) and a late pin (an extra two points, considering Hall was on the way to scoring a major decision against Labriola at 174) turned out to be the difference between a two-point loss and a victory that could have knocked off the second-ranked team in the country who just so happens to be the four-time defending national champions.
In a game of inches, Nebraska fell short, but it again showed it belongs right up there with the nation’s elite. The Huskers just need to figure out how to do the little things to get over the hump.
Next up for the Huskers
Nebraska is back on the mat Sunday against Michigan State. The dual starts at 2 p.m. and will stream live on BTN+ (subscription required).