In a dual that lived up to the hype, the Huskers finally got things done against an elite team.
The sixth-ranked Nebraska wrestling team (7-3, 2-3 Big Ten) knocked off No. 3 Ohio State (9-3, 5-2) 19-14 Sunday afternoon at the Devaney Sports Center.
Much like Nebraska’s previous duals against top competition (Iowa and Penn State, namely), this dual came down to some late flourishes, but this time the Huskers came out on top in just enough of them to grab the narrow win.
Combined with the late-match heroics, Nebraska also used a gutty performance by hobbled senior Isaiah White to close the dual out, giving the Huskers a much-needed conference win heading into the season’s homestretch.
*InterMat individual rankings used
The dual started off at 174 pounds with a top-10 matchup between Nebraska’s Mikey Labriola (No. 6) and Ohio State’s seventh-ranked Kaleb Romero. In their second time facing each other this season (Labriola won 2-1 at the Cliff Keen Invite in December), the two Big Ten sophomores wrestled to another razor-thin margin. Not only did this match have huge season implications, but this duo looks to battle it out for years to come, as they are the only two non-seniors in the top 11 of the national rankings at the weight class. These two project to be at the top of the heap for the next two seasons.
But enough about the future, let’s get to the match at hand. After a scoreless first period, Romero earned an escape in the second period to take a 1-0 lead into the third. After tying the match at 1-1 with an escape, Labriola looked content to head to overtime, but Romero went for a shot on the edge of the mat near the end of the match. A scramble ensued with Labriola securing the takedown on the edge of the mat as time expired. In celebration, Labriola removed and spiked his headgear on the mat. Ohio State challenged the ruling of a takedown in bounds and before time expired. After official review, the takedown stood giving Labriola the critical 3-1 win to start the dual. However, the Huskers were docked a team point for unsportsmanlike conduct when Labriola spiked his headgear, so instead of a 3-0 lead the Huskers held a 2-0 advantage. Nebraska 2, Ohio State 0
You think @labriola138 liked this one?— Nebraska On BTN (@NebraskaOnBTN) February 2, 2020
With time expiring, @HuskerWrestling's Mikey Labriola secures an impressive takedown of No. 7 Kaleb Romero. @FloWrestling pic.twitter.com/iB3mm7BQaD
After a late loss against Michigan State, Nebraska’s eighth-ranked Taylor Venz took the mat trying to get back in the win column against upstart Buckeye freshman Rocky Jordan. After a scoreless first period, Jordan rode Venz on top and built up nearly a minute and a half of riding time, but a reversal from Venz with 40 seconds left in the period gave the Husker All-American a 2-0 lead. Venz rode out the rest of the period to cut Jordan’s ride time to under a minute. In the third period, Jordan secured a takedown to tie the match at 2-2 and was able to ride Venz out to finish the match, going over a minute on ride time to secure the extra point and a 3-2 upset victory. Ohio State 3, Nebraska 2
Ohio State sent out the first of its three legitimate national championship contenders in No. 1 Kollin Moore against Nebraska’s sixth-ranked Eric Schultz. In the fifth all-time meeting between these two, Moore showed just why he’s undefeated against the Husker junior. Moore took Schultz down twice in the first period with Schultz scoring two escapes to give the Buckeye senior a 4-2 lead. In the second period, Moore went to work on top, as he rode out Schultz for the entire period, not only amassing two minutes of riding time but also keeping Schultz from scoring the escape point. Moore started the third period on bottom and quickly grew his lead to 5-2 with an escape. Solid defense from the top-ranked wrestler kept Schultz from getting in on any of his offense. With the riding-time point, Moore walked away with the easy 6-2 decision. Ohio State 6, Nebraska 2
Senior David Jensen got the nod for the Huskers at heavyweight against Ohio State’s “Gas Tank” Gary Traub. Traub jumped out to a 2-1 lead after the first period, but with Jensen sporting a noticeable size advantage, the Husker took a 3-2 lead with a second-round takedown. Jensen outscored Traub 4-1 in the final period behind a pair of takedowns to give the senior two straight Big Ten wins after replacing fellow senior Christian Lance in the starting lineup against Michigan State a week ago. Ohio State 6, Nebraska 5
After a scoreless first period, Nebraska’s Alex Thomsen got on the board first with a quick escape to start the second. With just eight seconds left in the second, Ohio State’s Malik Heinselman took down Thomsen to go up 2-1, but the Husker freshman looked to score a reversal as time expired. After going to a video review, the officials awarded Thomsen the two points for a reversal, giving him an all-important 3-2 lead. In the third period, Thomsen displayed some defensive chops by fighting off some deep shots by the Buckeye sophomore. With 45 seconds left, Thomsen gave himself a 5-2 cushion with a takedown. The Husker was able to ride out Heinselman for the remainder of the period, including some emphatic mat returns along the way to grab his third straight conference win, putting the Huskers in the lead. Nebraska 8, Ohio State 6
Alex Thomsen gives the Huskers the lead after five bouts. pic.twitter.com/tl0a0romW7— FloWrestling (@FloWrestling) February 2, 2020
In a matchup between ranked freshmen, No. 13 Ridge Lovett of Nebraska and Jordan Decatur of Ohio State wrestled to a scoreless first period. Lovett chose bottom position to start the second period, but the Buckeye put on an impressive ride. Lovett did end up getting the escape to go up 1-0, but not until Decatur had amassed over a minute of riding time. In the final ten seconds of the second, Decatur took a 2-1 lead with an upper-body throw for a takedown. In the third, Decatur chose neutral rather than test Lovett’s dominant top game. Lovett took a lead early in the period with a takedown, but Decatur scored a quick reversal on the edge of the mat. The Husker coaches challenged the call and were looking for a locked-hands call. After review, the officials ruled that the reversal would stand but that Decatur would be called for locked hands (one point awarded to Lovett), tying the match at 4-4. With riding time locked up, Decatur essentially held a 5-4 lead and needed to keep Lovett from scoring an escape to get the win. Lovett tried everything, including a pair of rolls trying to break the Buckeye’s lock on top, but to no avail. Not until the waning seconds that is, when with five seconds left in the match Lovett secured a two-point reversal as time expired, giving the Husker freshman an emphatic 6-5 win. Nebraska 11, Ohio State 6
LAST-SECOND REVERSAL FOR THE WIN @RidgeLovett picks up the W at 133 in dramatic fashion. #Huskers lead 11-6.#ToughTogether #GBR pic.twitter.com/huqgSiEy7j— Husker Wrestling (@HuskerWrestling) February 2, 2020
With the Huskers sporting a lead, Ohio State sent out another top-ranked wrestler. This time the Buckeyes’ top-ranked Luke Pletcher took the mat against Nebraska’s eighth-ranked Chad Red Jr. The Buckeye senior controlled the center of the mat throughout the match, as he forced a stalling warning on Red in the first period before scoring a point in both the second and third periods due to stall calls against Red. Pletcher secured three takedowns, an escape and a riding time point on top of the stall calls in a dominant 10-1 major decision over Red to cut the Husker lead to one. Nebraska 11, Ohio State 10
Nebraska’s No. 14 Collin Purinton faced a tough test in second-ranked Sammy Sasso. The Ohio State freshman is arguably the hottest wrestler in the country, coming off of wins over No. 1 and No. 4 last weekend, and he continued his hot streak against the Husker senior. Sasso scored two takedowns to go up 4-1 in the first period before increasing his lead to 5-1 in the second. In the final period, Purinton put up a fight with a quick escape and takedown to cut the Buckeye’s lead to 5-4. In the final 30 seconds, Sasso scored seven points with a takedown and four nearfall points in addition to securing another point via riding time. Sasso gave Ohio State its second bonus-point victory with the 13-4 major decision. Ohio State 14, Nebraska 11
With the outcome of the dual in the balance, Husker freshman Peyton Robb took on Ohio State’s Quinn Kinner. The 16th-ranked Husker started things off in a hurry with a big upper-body throw, nearly winning the match by pinfall. Kinner fended off the pin, but found himself in a quick 6-0 hole. A Kinner escape made it 6-1, but Robb added a reversal in the second round to go up 8-1. Another pair of Kinner escapes in the second and to start the third cut Robb’s lead to 8-3, but the Husker held on to secure the win and tie the dual going into the final match. Nebraska 14, Ohio State 14
Two ranked opponents took the mat to end things, and they delivered one of the best matches you’ll ever watch. Nebraska’s fourth-ranked Isaiah White started the scoring with an early takedown of Ohio State’s Ethan Smith (No. 14) in the first period. After building up over a minute of riding time, White fell awkwardly out of bounds during a scramble and stayed there, taking the air out of the Devaney Center crowd. After injuring his ankle against Penn State 10 days ago, White missed the Michigan State dual but seemed to have re-aggravated the injury. After a quick tape job by the trainers, White got up to gut out the match, obviously favoring the ankle and appearing to have trouble at times simply walking to the center of the mat on restarts. Smith cut White’s lead to 2-1 with an escape shortly after the restart. Smith tied the match at 2-2 in the second period with a quick escape before taking White down as time expired to go up 4-2. With White hobbled and trailing, things didn’t look good for Nebraska, but the senior leader dug deep in the final period. After securing an escape early on and keeping his riding time over a minute, White trailed 4-3 (essentially a 4-4 tie when factoring in a riding time point). With the match seemingly destined for overtime, White was able to take Smith down, cradle him up and put him on his back to record the win by pinfall with just two seconds left. Nebraska was again docked a team point in the ensuing celebration for losing control of the mat. Nebraska 19, Ohio State 14
PIN FOR THE WIN.— Husker Wrestling (@HuskerWrestling) February 2, 2020
Isaiah White gets the fall with 0:02 left to close out the dual with a 19-14 win for the Huskers. #ToughTogether #GBR pic.twitter.com/LxbDhpNaim
What’s Next for Nebraska
Nebraska gets set to for a weekend road trip, traveling to face No. 13 Purdue on Friday before taking on Indiana on Feb. 9.