After dropping three straight Big Ten duals, Nebraska looks primed to grab its first conference win of the season against an overmatched Spartan outfit.
The seventh-ranked Nebraska wrestling team (5-3, 0-3 Big Ten) plays host to Michigan State (6-5, 1-3) Sunday afternoon at the Bob Devaney Sports Center at 2 p.m. with the action streaming online on BTN+ (subscription required).
Michigan State is coming off back-to-back wins over Maryland and Clarion, but the Spartans face easily their toughest test of the season when they travel to take on the Huskers. Nebraska has started its conference slate by taking on three of the top teams in Wisconsin, Iowa and Penn State. Despite losing all three duals, the Huskers showed well in all three contests but couldn’t come up with the wins. Against the Spartans, Nebraska figures to be favorites in all 10 weight classes.
Nebraska redshirt freshman Alex Thomsen looks to pick up his second conference win of the season after securing his first with a 3-1 sudden-victory win against Penn State on Friday night. Thomsen sports a 7-9 record on the year, but looks can be deceiving. The freshman has faced a combined eight ranked opponents on the year, the second most on the team. Unfortunately, he’s 0-8 in those matchups. This week, Thomsen takes on Michigan State senior Logan Griffin (16-8). Despite Griffin coming in unranked, he’ll still push the young Husker, as he sports a two-match win streak. Griffin has only faced one ranked opponent on the year, so I expect the battle-tested Thomsen to grab the win. Nebraska’s chances: 65%
Nebraska true freshman Ridge Lovett (8-6) just finished facing the top three wrestlers in the country in succession and went 0-3 during that stretch. The talented freshman looks to get back into the win column when he faces off against Michigan State senior Garrett Pepple (15-9). The Spartan is riding a three-match win streak but is 0-4 against ranked opponents. Lovett’s been fairly solid against top competition and expects to grab his first career conference victory. Nebraska’s chances: 90%
Nebraska’s eighth-ranked junior Chad Red Jr. (11-5) has had an up-and-down season. After beating then-No. 5 Max Murin of Iowa, Red was dominated by second-ranked Nick Lee on Friday. On Sunday, Red welcomes unranked Matt Santos (12-8) to the mat in what should be a fairly easy win for the two-time All-American Husker. Nebraska’s chances: 95%
Nebraska’s 14th-ranked senior Collin Purinton (11-5) returns to action after scoring a big win by pinfall on Friday against Penn State. Purinton is the heavy favorite over Michigan State’s Alex Hrisopoulos (10-9), but the Spartan has proven to be capable of knocking off ranked wrestlers. Hrisopoulos beat then-No. 20 Juran Jensen of Wyoming earlier this season, so this match shouldn’t be taken for granted. However, the Spartan junior has lost four of his last five matches, so I expect Purinton to get his hand raised in the end. Nebraska’s chances: 95%
No. 11 Peyton Robb (13-3) is in search of his second straight win after picking up a win against Penn State on Friday, but the Husker freshman will face the first ranked Spartan of the day in No. 20 Jake Tucker (20-5). Tucker holds an 8-3 dual record while Robb is 6-1 in duals, so this is certainly one of the day’s top matchups. Nebraska’s chances: 65%
Fifth-ranked Isaiah White (12-3) has dropped three straight matches after starting the season 12-0. However, those three losses have come to top-five competition, including a 5-1 loss to two-time national champion Vincenzo Joseph on Friday. White will face Michigan State’s Drew Hughes (12-7) who is a two-time NCAA qualifier, but the senior Husker will prove to be too much for Hughes to handle. Nebraska’s chances: 95%
Nebraska sophomore Mikey Labriola (13-5) looks to bounce back after being thoroughly dominated by top-ranked Mark Hall of Penn State. The sixth-ranked Husker will face off against Michigan State’s Layne Malczewski (18-8), a talented redshirt freshman. I expect Labriola to come out ready to make a statement after a lackluster performance on Friday. Nebraska’s chances: 80%
Nebraska’s eighth-ranked Taylor Venz (12-5) got back on track with a 9-5 win over Penn State’s sixth-ranked Aaron Brooks. The Husker All-American handed the talented freshman Nittany Lion his first career loss. Venz, who has faced a team-high 10 ranked foes on the year (he’s 5-5 in those matches), will face his 11th when he takes the mat against Michigan State’s 17th-ranked Cam Caffey (18-6) Sunday afternoon. Caffey has had a solid season, going 9-2 in duals and 2-3 against ranked opponents, but the experienced Venz looks to be a heavy favorite. Nebraska’s chances: 75%
Eric Schultz (16-2) has easily been Nebraska’s best wrestler this season, as he carries a perfect 8-0 dual record into this tilt against Michigan State’s Nick May (11-12). The eighth-ranked Husker is expected to add another win to his season tally. Nebraska’s chances: 98%
Nebraska’s 15th-ranked Christian Lance (9-6) has struggled mightily lately, as he’s lost six of his last seven matches. In what looks to be Michigan State’s best chance at a victory, junior Christian Rebottaro (14-9), who is 7-4 in duals, looks to beat the senior Husker and help avoid the shutout. Although, Rebottaro is coming off a loss and holds a 0-3 record against ranked opponents, so Lance figures to be a slight favorite in this one, even if that’s based solely on the fact he’s faced a tougher schedule up until this point of the year. Nebraska’s chances: 55%