The Huskers are riding a four-match win streak heading into their final home dual of the season against the Wolverines of Michigan.
The No. 4 Nebraska wrestling team (9-3, 4-3 Big Ten) has overcome a slow start to conference play with four straight wins in the conference, including two wins over ranked teams. The Huskers welcome No. 22 Michigan (6-4, 5-2) on Friday night to the Devaney Sports Center.
Sporting nine ranked wrestlers, the Huskers have proven to be one of the country’s top dual teams, while the Wolverines have been strong throughout league play. Michigan sits in fourth place in the Big Ten standings, while Nebraska currently comes in fifth. Nebraska has already faced five of the toughest conference foes in Iowa, Penn State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Purdue, winning two of those duals.
The Wolverines own wins over then-No. 23 Rutgers, then-No. 15 Northwestern and then-No. 11 Minnesota, along with Maryland, Michigan State and Central Michigan. Michigan has lost against top-ranked Iowa, No. 23 Illinois, No. 8 North Carolina and Oregon State.
Nebraska and Michigan share three common opponents, as both schools defeated Michigan State and fell to the Hawkeyes by similar margins. On the other hand, Nebraska dismantled Oregon State 32-3 while the Wolverines dropped their match to the Beavers 21-15.
Michigan boasts five ranked wrestlers, highlighted by second-ranked heavyweight Mason Parris. The undefeated sophomore is an impressive 23-0 on the season and is coming off a dominant win by pinfall over Iowa’s previously undefeated and third-ranked Tony Cassioppi. Parris has a legitimate shot at coming away with the Hodge Trophy, awarded annually to the nation’s best college wrestler.
How to Watch
Nebraska hosts Michigan Friday at 8 p.m. at the Devaney Sports Center with the action scheduled to be televised on BTN.
*Individual rankings according to InterMat
Nebraska’s Alex Thomsen (9-11) has lost two straight matches after a three-match win streak. The redshirt freshman is 5-6 in duals and will take on Michigan’s No. 19 Jack Medley (13-10). The first year starter for the Wolverines has been solid all season and is coming off an 8-1 decision loss to Iowa’s top-ranked Spencer Lee. That may not sound impressive, but Medley put an end to Lee’s season-long bonus point streak. Before defeating Medley by decision, Lee had defeated every wrestler he had faced this season via major decision, tech fall or by pinfall. It was only the second match that Lee was forced to wrestle the entire seven minutes. Nebraska’s chances: 10%
Nebraska’s No. 14 Ridge Lovett (12-6) is riding high with a four-match win streak, including a decision over then-No. 19 Jordan Decatur of Ohio State. The Husker freshman will face Michigan redshirt freshman Joey Silva (4-0). Silva is coming off a 7-5 win over Iowa’s Paul Glynn, who took over the weight class after an injury to No. 3-ranked Austin Desanto. Silva may be undefeated, but he hasn’t faced an opponent of Lovett’s caliber yet. I see Lovett running his win streak to five in this one. Nebraska’s chances: 75%
Nebraska’s No. 8 Chad Red Jr. (13-6), who is 3-3 in his last six duals with four of those matches against ranked wrestlers. Red has been inconsistent all season, but he’s coming off a win by pinfall against Indiana’s Eddie Bolivar in under a minute. Red will face Michigan’s Cole Mattin (13-9), who is coming off a 7-4 win over Iowa’s Carter Happel who took over the weight class after an injury to No. 9 Max Murin. The sophomore Murin is 10-1 on the season with his lone setback a 6-2 decision to Red. Red, an All-American, will be too much for Mattin. Nebraska’s chances: 85%
Nebraska’s No. 16 Collin Purinton (13-7) has faced three straight ranked opponents (1-2 in those matches) and will face his fourth in a row against Michigan’s No. 10 Kanen Storr (16-4). While Purinton has been solid this season, Storr has been on a tear the second half of the year. Storr is coming off a narrow 2-1 loss to No. 2 Pat Lugo of Iowa, but the junior won nine straight matches up until that loss to one of the best wrestlers in the nation. Purinton will probably keep this one close but I don’t see him pulling it off. Nebraska’s chances: 30%
Nebraska’s Peyton Robb (16-4) will take part in the second matchup between ranked opponents when he takes on Michigan’s No. 9 Will Lewan (15-5). Robb, a redshirt freshman, has been one of Nebraska’s best wrestlers this season with a 9-2 record in duals. He comes in on a three-match win streak, including a win by injury default over No. 7 Kendall Coleman of Purdue, a match that Robb was leading 3-1 at the time of stoppage. Lewan is coming off a 7-3 loss to Iowa’s No. 5 Kaleb Young, who beat Robb 6-4 earlier in the season. Don’t let the difference in ranking fool you, Robb has every chance to come out with a top-10 win here, but this matchup is a true coinflip. Nebraska’s chances: 48%
Nebraska’s No. 5 Isaiah White (14-3) is coming off back-to-back wins by pinfall, including a last-second pin of Ohio State’s No. 14 Ethan Smith. After suffering an ankle injury in the first period, White gutted out the win to give the Huskers the win over the Buckeyes. The Husker senior All-American will take on Michigan’s Reece Hughes (2-6) Friday night. The Wolverine comes in a serious underdog, and I expect White to make quick work of him. The only question is whether White can improve his pin streak to three. Nebraska’s chances: 99%
Nebraska’s No. 6 Mikey Labriola (16-6) has won three of his last four matches with the lone setback a 5-2 loss to Purdue’s No. 4 Dylan Lydy. Last time out, Labriola made quick work of Indiana’s Diego Lemley with a pin in under a minute. The sophomore All-American for the Huskers will face Max Maylor (3-12) in the dual’s second-straight match that heavily favors the Cornhuskers. Labriola adds another win to his tally in this one. Nebraska’s chances: 99%
Nebraska’s No. 11 Taylor Venz (14-7) comes in after winning two straight matches and will take the mat against Michigan’s No. 20 Jelani Embree (15-8). Embree has lost four straight matches and faces a tough one against Nebraska’s junior All-American. I see Venz getting the win by decision. Nebraska’s chances: 75%
Nebraska’s No. 5 Eric Schultz (19-3) continues to be Nebraska’s best and most consistent wrestler. The junior All-American has won eight of his last nine matches with the lone setback being a 5-2 loss to No. 1 Kollin Moore of Ohio State. Schultz carries a 11-1 dual record into his tilt Friday against Michigan’s Jackson Striggow (14-7). Striggow is coming off a 4-1 loss to Iowa’s No. 6 Jacob Warner. Schultz defeated Warner earlier this year 3-1, and based off his body of work, the Husker should be able to hand Striggow his third straight loss. Nebraska’s chances: 85%
At heavyweight, Nebraska benefits from having two quality options. Both No. 16 Christian Lance (10-6) and fellow senior David Jensen (13-3) have wrestled like top-20 caliber guys for the Huskers. Despite not being ranked, I’d argue Jensen is Nebraska’s top option. Last year’s starter, he’s 3-0 in duals since being put back into the starting lineup this season. Lance did pick up a 12-4 win by major decision against Indiana last time out, but Jensen wrestled the three previous duals and looks to be Nebraska’s 285-pounder going forward. But it’ll be interesting who Nebraska trots out there on Friday night, as that guy figures to be Nebraska’s representative in the postseason. Especially with the final two matches of the season coming against the top two heavyweights in the country, who sport a combined 33-0. With a season finale matchup against No. 1 Gable Steveson (10-0) looming, Nebraska takes the mat Friday against Michigan’s No. 2 Mason Parris (23-0). I would argue that the sophomore Wolverine should be ranked No. 1 after pinning Iowa’s Cassioppi, especially considering Steveson limited work on the season and the fact he hasn’t faced many of the top guys in the weight class. In a much-anticipated matchup between Steveson and Parris in a dual earlier this year, Steveson wasn’t in the starting lineup for the Gophers. Parris has been a pinning machine this year, having won eight matches by pinfall. He’s added five major decisions and a tech fall on the year for bonus-point wins. Whoever Nebraska goes with to finish the season at heavyweight, I don’t expect them to get another win before the conference tournament. Nebraska’s chances: 1%
Nebraska figures to be favored in six of the eight matchups with winnable tilts in a few others. The only match where Nebraska pretty much has no shot is at 285, while Nebraska will be heavily favored in four. If Nebraska can score a few bonus points, it will win this matchup comfortably, but if Parris and a few other Wolverines secure bonus-point wins things might get interesting. In the end, I see the Huskers racking up another ranked win heading into their season-ending clash with No. 13 Minnesota. Score Prediction: 25-15 Husker win