Another week in the Big Ten, another ranked opponent awaiting the Huskers.
Although things begin to ease up a bit after facing the four best conference foes, the No. 4 Nebraska wrestling team travels Friday to take on No. 14 Purdue at 6 p.m. before heading to Indiana to face the Hoosiers Sunday at noon.
Nebraska (7-3, 2-3 Big Ten) is riding high coming off a victory to knock off then-No. 3 Ohio State, and with the Huskers’ schedule easing up a bit toward the end, they figure to be favored in all of their remaining duals before heading into the Big Ten tournament.
Scouting the Boilermakers
Purdue (11-4, 4-3) is reeling after taking losses to No. 14 Minnesota and No. 9 Wisconsin. The Boilermakers’ four losses on the year come against teams all currently ranked 1st, 5th, 9th and 13th. With wins against ranked conference opponents Rutgers and Northwestern, Purdue possesses the ability to spoil the Huskers’ season and get the big win they’ve been looking for.
Scouting the Hoosiers
With Indiana, Nebraska is going to face a team that’s had a disappointing season up until this point. The Hoosiers are 1-8 on the year with a 1-7 record in Big Ten duals. They’re winless at home. They only have one wrestler that’s ranked nationally, and compared to Nebraska’s nine ranked guys, it would be a tall order for the Hoosiers to pull off an upset.
Does Nebraska rest some guys?
I see it completely probable that Nebraska rests a couple guys for at least one dual this weekend, as the last three weeks has been a brutal grind and a few guys are either banged up or just not wrestling like themselves. A little time off to heal up and get right might be a good thing for this team. That and you get some backups and young guys a chance to take the mat in a Big Ten dual. Win-win.
How to Watch
Nebraska travels Friday West Laffayette, Indiana to face Purdue at 6 p.m. before traveling to Bloomington, Indiana to take on Indiana at noon. Both matches will stream on BTN+ (subscription required)
*Individual rankings according to InterMat
Redshirt Freshman Alex Thomsen (9-9) has a tall order on Friday night at Purdue, as he’s taking on No. 6 Devin Schroder (22-4). Two of Schroder’s four losses are to No. 1 and No. 2. But he’s also lost to a pair of unranked guys, and with Thomsen coming off three straight wins, the young Husker has been feeling himself lately. One of those losses by Schroder was against Indiana’s Liam Cronin, who will be Thomsen’s opponent on Sunday. Nebraska’s chances: 35%
Thomsen and Liam Cronin of Indiana are having similar seasons. After a tough first half, Liam has turned things around with five straight wins, including the aforementioned win over Schroder, a 3-1 victory. Liam is 11-11 with a five-match streak and Thomsen is 9-9 with a three-match streak, so this one could be a coinflip kind of match, and home-mat advantage could be the deciding factor. Nebraska’s chances: 45%
Nebraska’s 14th-ranked Ridge Lovett (10-6) is another Husker freshman who’s seeming to find his groove after a brutal stretch. Lovett has won two straight, including a win over No. 19 Jordan Decatur of Ohio State. Purdue’s Travis Ford-Melton (13-10) comes in having lost five of his last six matches. The Freshman has been serviceable this season, even recording Purdue’s fastest pin of the season (12 seconds), but Lovett might be too much for Ford-Melton. Nebraska’s chances: 65%
Against Indiana, Lovett will face Cayden Rooks (19-10), who took over the starting spot after Purdue got demolished 41-0 by No. 1 Iowa. He’s gone 4-3 in dual meets since that time, so that means Lovett will face his second beatable, yet solid wrestler of the road trip. Nebraska’s chances: 60%
Nebraska’s No. 8 Chad Red Jr. (12-6) has gone through a gauntlet as of late with matches against four of the top-11 ranked wrestlers in the country. He’s gone 1-4 in those matches with a win over then-No. 5 Max Murin of Iowa. Against Purdue, Red will face Parker Filius (15-7). Coming in with a two-match losing streak to top wrestlers, Filius continues his run of top-10 opponents against Red. Filius is 0-5 against ranked competition, and Red has proven to be a top-10 guy this season, so Red shouldn’t have much trouble here. Nebraska’s chances: 95%
Against the Hoosiers, Red will face Eddie Bolivar (6-10). Bolivar is coming off a loss and is 0-2 against ranked opponents, but up until last week’s setback, Bolivar had won three straight. Again, Red is too good for Bolivar and will probably score bonus points here. Nebraska’s chances: 99%
Sophomore Christian Miller (12-2) of Plainview, Nebraska could theoretically step in for Red in either of these duals. If it happens, it figures to happen against Indiana. Miller is a former 4-time Class D State Champion in high school and had a 169-2 record.
Nebraska’s No. 16 Collin Purinton (12-6) will face a pair of ranked opponents this weekend after falling to then-No. 2 Sammy Sasso last weekend. First, Purinton will take on Purdue’s No. 18 Griffin Parriott (13-7). Parriott has been on a slide lately, losing five straight matches. Three of those losses were to unranked wrestlers, so this matchup is definitely a win Purinton should get. Nebraska’s chances: 65%
Against Indiana, Purinton will take on the lone ranked Hoosier in No. 14 Graham Rooks (11-6). The freshman from Purdue just fell in a close 5-2 decision to No. 4 Brayton Lee of Minnesota, but he also beat Purdue’s Parriott 9-3 this season. This match figures to be closer than Friday’s. Nebraska’s chances: 55%
Caleb Licking (16-5) has put together a pretty solid season so far. The junior from Norfolk, Neb. was a two-time Class A State Champion in high school and had a 161-22 record.
Nebraska’s No. 18 Peyton Robb (14-4) has been up and down the last few weeks, but he looks to get back to his winning ways this weekend. First up, Robb has a golden opportunity in front of him in Purdue’s seventh-ranked Kendall Coleman. The fellow redshirt freshman has won five straight. Coleman is coming off a 26-11 tech fall victory in which he tallied 12 takedowns. He leads Purdue with 89 takedowns on the season. This one will be tough for Robb, but he’s shown the ability to be dominant at times this season. Nebraska’s chances: 40%
Against Indiana, Robb faces a struggling Fernando Silva. The Junior has lost nine of his last 10 matches. Robb should win big, piling up bonus points. Nebraska’s chances: 95%
Junior Johnny Blankenship (15-4) is 1-0 in duals this year. He holds a 50-17 career record at Nebraska and he was a solid recruit, ranked 13th nationally at 160 pounds.
Nebraska’s No. 5 Isaiah White (13-3) could quite possibly miss the entire weekend. After re-injuring his ankle in a match against No. 14 Ethan Smith, White won by pinfall with two seconds left. But that injury looked painful, so White may just sit this weekend out. But, just in case White suits up, he’ll face a pair of undermatched opponents. Against Purdue, sophomore Tanner Webster is 3-10 on the year and he’s riding a four-match losing streak. Last week, he was pinned by Wisconsin’s Evan Wick (No. 4). Nebraska’s chances: 99%
Indiana will field about the same level of opposition in junior Dillon Hoey (4-10), who has lost two straight by pinfall to both Wick and Minnesota’s Bailee O’Reilly. Nebraska’s chances: 99%
Junior Dalton Peters (5-4) has already filled in for White off the bench once this year against Michigan State, so it appears he’s the next man up for the Huskers. After dominating in the first period over the Spartans’ Drew Hughes, Peters lost by pinfall in the second. I anticipate Peters getting the nod on both Friday and Sunday.
No. 6 Mikey Labriola (15-5) takes part in Nebraska’s biggest individual matchup of the weekend when he faces off against Purdue’s No. 4 Dylan Lydy (26-1). Labriola is coming off a win over No. 7 Kaleb Romero of Ohio State, but Lydy has been a wrecking ball all year. His lone loss of the year was a 8-4 setback against Iowa’s Michael Kemerer, who is currently ranked No. 1 after defeating NCAA champion Mark Hall of Penn State. Labriola wrestled Kemerer closer though, a 3-1 decision, and these two have already faced each other this season. Lydy beat Labriola 3-1 in sudden victory at the Cliff Keen Invite. I see this one coming down to something late or more overtime. Too close to call. Nebraska’s chances: 48%
Against Indiana, Nebraska will face the other extreme, as in an extremely overmatched opponent. Diego Lemley (0-3) was thrust into the lineup following the loss of Jacob Covaciu to injury. In his two duals since taking the starting spot, Lemley has fallen by pinfall and tech fall. Despite the lopsided matchup, I see Nebraska still using Labriola, as the only other wrestler at 174 for Nebraska is a freshman who is redshirting. It’s possible someone moves up to wrestle on Sunday, but I doubt it. Nebraska’s chances: 99%
Nebraska’s No. 11 Taylor Venz (12-7) has lost two straight matches, both upsets. The junior All-American will face Purdue’s Max Lyon (15-11) who has lost three in a row. These two already faced each other at the Cliff Keen Invite with Venz taking an 8-4 decision. Venz should put Lyon away to get back to winning. Nebraska’s chances: 75%
Against Indiana, Venz will face Jake Hinz (6-17). The Hoosier is 1-8 in duals and has lost 10 of his last 11 matches. Venz should rack up bonus points if Nebraska puts him out there. Nebraska’s chances: 99%
Sophomore Colton Wolfe (13-8) is 1-0 for Nebraska in duals this year. Wolfe is a Columbus, Neb. native who won three Class A State Championships as a Discoverer. He racked up a 170-2 record with 107 career pins.
Nebraska’s No. 5 Eric Schultz (17-3) will face Jared Florell (4-3) of Purdue on Friday. Florell, coming off a win against Wisconsin’s Taylor Watkins, was put into the starting lineup when Purdue’s ninth-ranked Christian Brunner (22-5) was injured against Rutgers. Schultz should win easily, with bonus points. Nebraska’s chances: 99%
Against Indiana, Schultz will take on Nick Willham (15-16). Willham has lost his last nine matches and holds a 0-8 dual record. Another bonus point win for Schultz. Nebraska’s chances: 99%
Junior Cade Svoboda (5-5) is a native of Ord, Neb. and went 124-34 in high school. He holds a career 11-18 record at Nebraska.
Nebraska’s David Jensen (12-3) has been the starter the past two duals and he’s rewarded head coach Mark Manning for giving him the chance, going 2-0 since taking the starting job back. Christian Lance (9-6) is still somehow ranked No. 16, but this job seems to be Jensen’s to lose. Against Purdue, Jensen will face Thomas Penola (18-11). He is coming off of back-to-back losses to No. 1 Gable Steveson and No. 5 Trent Hilger. The redshirt freshman moved up to 285 pounds from 197 in November so figures to be undersized. Nebraska’s chances: 70%
Against Indiana, Nebraska will face Rudy Streck (3-15) or Jake Kleimola (10-12). Kleimola moved up from 197 pounds and the two have seemingly been taking turns the past few weeks. Streck has lost eight of his last nine matches, while Kleimola has lost three straight. Nebraska’s chances: 90%