Throughout a strange dual that involved some lineup issues on both sides, Nebraska still came away with a dominant win over a solid opponent.
The No. 4 Nebraska (11-3, 6-3 Big Ten) wrestling team went into Maturi Pavilion and took down the No. 13-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers (9-8, 4-5) in a 29-12 victory Friday night. Nebraska wrestled two backups with one seeming to be planned but the other certainly was not. However, the Huskers did benefit, collecting bonus points when the Gophers were forced to forfeit a weight class due to a failed skin check.
Nebraska won six of the nine matches on the night, excluding the forfeit at 133 pounds. In a dual with so many toss-up matches, the Huskers found a way to win, setting them up for some better seeds and a potential run at the conference tournament.
*InterMat individual rankings used
Senior All-American Isaiah White kicked things off for the Huskers against Minnesota’s Bailee O’Reilly. The fifth-ranked White used a first-period takedown and an escape in the second to head into the final period up 3-1. In the third, O’Reilly scrambled frantically trying to get away from White and he finally did, cutting White’s lead to 3-2. However, White largely held O’Reilly at bay for the remainder of the match, nearly securing another takedown near the end of the match but the action was out of bounds. With riding time factored in, White secured a 4-2 win.
Team Score: Nebraska 3, Minnesota 0
Nebraska’s sixth-ranked Mikey Labriola took on Minnesota’s No. 8 Devin Skatzka in their seventh career meeting. After a scoreless first period, Labriola gave up a quick escape to Skatzka but took the lead with a takedown of the senior Gopher. Another quick escape, however, tied the score at 2-2. In the final period, Labriola chose down position and needed just an escape to take the lead, but Skatzka put a hard ride on the Husker sophomore. Near the end of the match, Skatzka used a choking headlock to put Labriola on his back for four nearfall points, something that may be a point on contention going forward as the Husker coaches were livid that there wasn’t a call for a possibly dangerous hold. In the end, Skatzka easily rode out Labriola for the third period to grab a 7-2 win after accounting for riding time.
Team Score: Nebraska 3, Minnesota 3
Nebraska’s No. 11 Taylor Venz has been rounding into form lately and he put on another solid performance against Minnesota’s No. 20 Owen Webster. Venz didn’t score a lot of points in this one, but he was able to score on and control a very tough wrestler in Webster that doesn’t give up a lot of points. Venz secured a takedown in the first period and a reversal in the second to go up 4-2 heading into the third. Webster chose bottom looking for an escape point, but the Husker junior rode out Webster the entire final period for a 5-2 win.
Team Score: Nebraska 6, Minnesota 3
Another Husker that’s peaking at just the right time, No. 4 Eric Schultz continued his impressive run against Minnesota’s Garrett Joles. Schultz led 2-1 after the first period with Joles evening things up to start the second with a quick escape. The Husker secured another takedown to go up 4-2 before scrambling for another takedown which turned into Schultz throwing Joles over and putting him on his back for four nearfall points to go up 10-3. In a quest for bonus points, Schultz used a quick escape and takedown to go up 13-3 but only got one more takedown, falling short of the tech fall (win by 15 or more) yet securing the 17-5 major decision.
Team Score: Nebraska 10, Minnesota 3
In a somewhat surprising move, yet one that figured to be a possibility, Nebraska sent out senior Christian Lance to face No. 1 Gable Steveson of Minnesota. After fellow senior David Jensen was pinned by No. 2 Mason Parris of Michigan, it seems the coaching staff was giving each heavyweight a chance to break the season-long tie between themselves. I’m not quite sure Lance did enough in this one to sway the coaches one direction or another. To his credit, Lance wrestled Steveson to a 19-7 loss by major decision. But in a tight dual against this quality of opponent, it’s impressive he didn’t give up the tech fall or the pin.
After giving up four takedowns in the first period, Lance actually outscored Steveson in the second period 1-0. Going into the third period with an 8-4 lead, Steveson turned things on in search of bonus points, as he secured four takedowns and another point due to a stalling call on Lance. The Husker senior took the loss 19-7 but certainly made head coach Mark Manning’s call more difficult as they decide which heavyweight to send to the Big Ten tournament.
Team Score: Nebraska 10, Minnesota 7
In a weight class where nobody really knew what the Gophers were going to do, they sent out redshirt freshman Jake Gliva to face fellow redshirt freshman Alex Thomsen for Nebraska. After a scoreless first period that was full of high-speed scrambles and incredible defense by Thomsen, the Husker got on the board first in the second. Gliva chose bottom position to start the second period, but Thomsen was able to ride Gliva for the duration of the period, even turning him at one point for a two-point near fall as well as collecting another point on a stalling call to go up 3-0. Thomsen secured a quick escape to start the third before adding to his lead with a takedown. Another late takedown and a riding-time point gave Thomsen a 9-1 major decision victory.
Team Score: Nebraska 14, Minnesota 7
Nebraska’s No. 14 Ridge Lovett was awarded a win by forfeit when Minnesota’s Boo Dryden failed a skin check, a test that all college wrestlers must take throughout the season that checks for infections and lesions, among other things.
Team Score: Nebraska 20, Minnesota 7
There may not be a college wrestler in the country that’s on a hotter streak than Nebraska’s No. 9 Chad Red Jr. The junior All-American came into his matchup against Minnesota’s No. 6 Mitch McKee having pinned his last two opponents in under a minute each. However, McKee is an entirely different level of opponent. McKee scored a takedown with a vicious headlock on Red to start the match and took a 2-1 lead into the second. Facing a deficit, Red went on the offense as he often does. Less than a minute into the second period, Red was able to take down and lock up McKee in a cradle before putting him on his back for his third straight win by pinfall (this one at the 3:53 mark in the match) to end the dual season.
Team Score: Nebraska 26, Minnesota 7
In what seemed to be a strategic lineup change, Sophomore Christian Miller took the mat instead of usual starter No. 16-ranked Collin Purinton. The sophomore is 12-2 on the year with a 1-0 dual record, but he was put in against one of the best in the country in Minnesota’s No. 7-ranked Brayton Lee. The redshirt freshman Gopher put on a takedown clinic against Miller, normally a 141-pounder for the Huskers. Lee secured two takedowns in the first period, three in the second and four more plus a reversal in the third period on his way to a 23-8 win by tech fall.
Team Score: Nebraska 26, Minnesota 12
In a surprise turn of events, Nebraska’s 19th-ranked Peyton Robb was not allowed to wrestle after not making weight. The Huskers happened to have junior Caleb Licking along on the road trip, so the Norfolk native made weight and took the mat for the Huskers against Minnesota’s Ryan Thomas. Licking, normally a 149-pounder, came in with a 16-5 record and a 1-0 dual record on the year and looked up to the task of facing some Big Ten competition. The Husker secured a takedown in the first period before riding the period out on top, racking up nearly two minutes of riding time. Licking added an escape in the second to go up 3-0. Thomas chose neutral to start the final period, and Licking was able to take down the Gopher and ride out the match for a 6-0 win.
Team Score: Nebraska 29, Minnesota 12
What’s Next for Nebraska?
The Husker will travel to Piscataway, N.J. on March 7-8 to take part in the Big Ten Wrestling Championships. Action will start at 9 a.m. on Saturday, March 7 and can be streamed online via BTN+ (subscription required).