The No. 6 Nebraska wrestling team traveled to Iowa City, Iowa to take on the best of the best in college wrestling. And the Huskers were served some humble pie thanks to the Hawkeyes.
Top-ranked Iowa beat Nebraska 31-6 after winning the first six matches to go up 24-0. Iowa showed why they’re at the top. And to be honest, the gap between them and the rest of the field is quite wide. I expect Iowa to do this to many of the top teams this dual season.
But that doesn’t change the fact that Nebraska faced the best and found out how far they really are from where they need to be to contend for titles. Nebraska has some weak spots and some strengths, but the Huskers were no match for an Iowa team that has a legitimate All-American contender at every weight class.
These Huskers also had some bright spots and found out a lot about themselves going forward. This is by far as tough as it’ll get until the Big Ten Championships in March, so look for Nebraska to rebound from this early-season drubbing.
On a positive note, in the extra matches Nebraska’s reserves went 5-1 against the Iowa reserves. More about those matches below.
*FloWrestling individual rankings used
Nebraska’s No. 12 Liam Cronin showed last week that he was a solid wrestler against No. 21 Patrick McKee, but the senior Indiana transfer ran into a buzz saw in top-ranked Spencer Lee. A two-time NCAA champion (would have been three if NCAAs weren’t cancelled) and the 2020 Hodge Trophy winner, Lee did what he does best. He ended things in the first period with a win by pinfall while he was already up 6-0. Lee is a beast and with this extra year he has the chance to become a four-time champion.
Team Score: Iowa 6, Nebraska 0
It’s been a rough start for Nebraska’s Alex Thomsen up at 133 pounds, as he fell to No. 4 Austin DeSanto of Iowa 21-6 by tech fall in the second period. DeSanto put on a takedown clinic with three in the first period followed by six more in the second on the way to the win. Thomsen showed some fight in the first period when he fought off DeSanto’s attempts at tilting him onto his back, but it’s readily apparent that the Huskers desperately miss the presence of Ridge Lovett in the starting lineup at 133, a weight he can no longer make.
Team Score: Iowa 11, Nebraska 0
In one of the most anticipated matches of the night, Nebraska’s No. 5 Chad Red Jr. took on No. 2 Jaydin Eierman of Iowa. Early in the first period, Red hit Eierman with a blast double-leg reminiscent of Jordan Burroughs for a two-point takedown. Eierman escaped, cutting the Red lead to 2-1 going into the second period.
Eierman quickly escaped in the second to tie things up at 2-all. With both wrestlers tied up together, Eierman was able to catch Red in a cradle, taking him down and putting him on his back for a two-point nearfall. Honestly, how Red avoided getting pinned is beyond me. Red escaped quickly and was able to fend off another Eierman single-leg attack as time expired.
In the third period, Red started on bottom and earned an escape, cutting the lead to 6-4. Red shot in on a leg and a scramble ensued, but Eierman came out of the exchange with the takedown and the 8-4 win.
Team Score: Iowa 14, Nebraska 0
In a much anticipated match, No. 18 Brock Hardy took on Iowa’s No. 6 Max Murin. The true freshman Husker impressed last week when he handled then-No. 18 Michael Blockhus of Minnesota, but Murin proved that he’s a contender after moving up from 141 pounds. Murin quickly snapped Hardy to the mat before securing a leg and a takedown, but Hardy scored one on a quick escape. Hardy then tied the match at 2-all with a quick escape to start the second, which would be the only score of the period.
In the third, Hardy gave up an escape to Murin to start the period. Holding a 3-2 lead, Murin secured another takedown with just under a minute left to go up 5-2, riding out Hardy to earn a riding-time point as well (accumulate a minute or more of top control) with 1:01 in riding time. Murin won with a 6-2 decision.
Team Score: Iowa 17, Nebraska 0
Nebraska’s No. 25 Caleb Licking was in trouble right away against No. 9 Kaleb Young of Iowa. Young went up 4-2 with two takedowns to Licking’s two escapes in the first period. Licking started the second period on top and gave up a reversal and four-point nearfall to Young. Young caught Licking in another cradle for a takedown late in the period to go up 12-3.
Young hit another reversal and a takedown in the third period while giving up two more escapes to Licking, and with the riding time Young secured a 17-5 major decision win.
Team Score: Iowa 21, Nebraska 0
Moving up in weight and then having to face “The Bull” is not an easy task, but that’s just what Nebraska’s No. 17 Peyton Robb had to do Friday night when he took on Iowa’s No. 2 Alex Marinelli.
Robb actually performed admirably against one of the mainstays of the weight class, as he appeared to have turned a Marinelli shot into a takedown of his own as they went out of bounds, but after official review no takedown was called. With under a minute left in the first period, Marinelli threw Robb aside for a takedown, but Robb secured a beautiful granby roll to secure a quick escape. Here’s a random video showing what a granby roll is.
Marinelli quickly escaped to start the second to go up 3-1. After another Marinelli takedown, Robb secured another granby roll for another escape, cutting the lead to 5-2 going into the third. Robb escaped to start the third period. Down 5-3, Robb was hit with stalling and gave up another late takedown, fall to Marinelli 8-3.
Team Score: Iowa 24, Nebraska 0
In what was supposed to be one of the night’s marquee matchups, Iowa didn’t wrestle No. 1 Michael Kemerer against Nebraska’s No. 3 Mikey Labriola. Instead, Iowa sent out the very highly recruited Patrick Kennedy. The true freshman was a four-time Minnesota state champion and once went an incredible 73 straight matches without giving up a point. In folkstyle, that’s just absurd.
The first period started with a single-leg attack by Labriola that led to a takedown. Labriola’s 2-0 lead was Nebraska’s first individual lead of the entire match. Kennedy then earned an escape. The second period saw more action, as Labriola secured a quick escape to go up 3-1. Then Kennedy shot in on Labriola’s leg but Labriola showed great defense and scrambling ability as the two jockeyed for position for what seemed like an eternity. Labriola eventually came out with a leg and secured a takedown to improve his lead to 5-1 before cutting Kennedy loose.
.@labriola138 is simply a takedown machine.— Nebraska On BTN (@NebraskaOnBTN) January 16, 2021
The junior records one in each period to secure a 7-4 match win for @HuskerWrestling. pic.twitter.com/FI8tMTPfPI
In the final period, Labriola gave up a quick escape before another extended scramble that saw the veteran Labriola coming out on top. Kennedy added an escape but Labriola secured a 7-4 decision and helped the Huskers avert the shutout.
Team Score: Iowa 24, Nebraska 3
Nebraska All-American No. 6 Taylor Venz made his season debut Friday night against Nelson Brands, who beat out last year’s starter Abe Assad for the starting spot. Brands, the son of associate head coach Terry Brands and nephew of head coach Tom Brands, was seriously impressive against Venz.
Brands secured two takedowns in the first period before getting another in the second then smothering Venz on top to rack up almost two minutes of riding time going into the final period. Down 6-3, Venz started the third period on top but gave up a reversal to Brands who then cut Venz loose and blew through the Husker for another takedown. Another escape by Venz and another go-behind takedown for Brands, and the Hawkeye secured a major decision win 13-5 with riding time.
Team Score: Iowa 28, Nebraska 3
Against the ropes, Nebraska needed No. 3 Eric Schultz to step up and help the team save some face, and the senior championship hopeful did just that. Against No. 4 Jacob Warner, Schultz was his usual methodical self. After a scoreless first period, Schultz started the second period on the bottom and earned an escape to go up 1-0. Schultz then surrendered an escape to start the third period. With the match tied at 1-all, Warner shot at Shultz’s leg but the Husker defended well. Each wrestler circled around trying to run the corner on one another but Schultz came out on top with the takedown. Warner got a late escape, but Schultz earned a big 3-2 win.
Team Score: Iowa 28, Nebraska 6
Nebraska’s No. 12 Christian Lance faced another monster on Friday night in Iowa’s No. 3 Tony Cassioppi. Cassioppi went up 2-0 in the first with a nice trip takedown before riding Lance out in the second. In the third period, Lance chose to cut the Hawkeye, giving Cassioppi a 3-0 lead. He then turned it into a 4-0 win with riding time. Lance has been an absolute warrior out there against the best of the best.
Team Score: Iowa 31, Nebraska 6
Nebraska won five of the six extra matches Friday night, highlighted by true freshman Silas Allred’s 12-2 major decision win over Iowa sophomore Connor Corbin at 197 pounds. At 133, Nebraska’s Tucker Sjomeling downed true freshman Cullan Schriever 6-2. Schriever comes highly decorated and was highly sought-after. This was a pretty impressive win for Sjomeling. Ridge Lovett got his first match of the year with his 4-2 win over Carter Happel, a senior with a 23-16 career record for the Hawkeyes.
At 149, Jevon Parrish beat Iowa’s Zach Axmear 5-3. Junior Cale Davidson beat Iowa heavyweight Aaron Costello 3-2, while freshman Nathan Haas fell to Iowa’s Myles Wilson 15-6 by major decision. Haas’ loss is surprising considering he beat a ranked Owen Webster a week ago as he filled in for Venz.
What’s Next for Nebraska?
The Huskers will play host to both No. 22 Northwestern and Maryland in a tri-meet on Saturday Jan. 23 at the Devaney Center. Start time is TBA.