Well, No. 7 Nebraska is predictably 1-1 to start the season. The Huskers beat a very solid No. 13 Minnesota team before falling to No. 1 Iowa.
Now with the Hawkeyes in the rear view, Nebraska will be favored to win every remaining dual on the schedule, including this weekend’s triangular against Maryland and No. 25 Northwestern Saturday afternoon at the Devaney Sports Center.
Northwestern has a solid team, but many of its heavy hitters didn’t wrestle in the season opener last weekend, while Maryland has been thoroughly dominated in three duals this season.
If Nebraska wants to prove it belongs in the conversation at the national level, it needs to take care of business against lower ranked foes like these.
The Wildcats struggled as a whole in a 28-8 loss to then-No. 16 Purdue to open the season. Northwestern elected to sit a number of expected starters, which makes this end result all the more meaningless.
Unlike Nebraska, Northwestern doesn’t have almost an entire lineup of ranked wrestlers, but it does have some top-tier guys that could make things interesting if they hit the mat.
Maryland has struggled to start the season, going 0-3 as a team with two shutout losses. The Terps started the season with a 38-3 loss to No. 3 Michigan before falling to both No. 25 Michigan State (42-0) and No. 14 Minnesota (48-0).
Maryland’s lone individual win was a 3-2 decision by Kyle Cochran against Michigan. Cochran, who wrestled at 165 pounds last season, is now Maryland’s starter at 184 pounds.
How to Watch
Nebraska hosts the triangular Saturday with its match against Northwestern scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and its dual with Maryland at 3 p.m. Action will air on BTN plus.
*Individual rankings according to FloWrestling
Nebraska’s No. 8 Liam Cronin goes into this triangular with a 1-1 record with a win over a ranked Patrick McKee of Minnesota before getting pinned by top-ranked Spencer Lee of Iowa. Cronin’s 8-1 win over McKee looks much better now after McKee upset then-No. 2 Rayvon Foley of Michigan State this past weekend.
Against Northwestern, Cronin could face either No. 7 Michael DeAugustino or Matt Vinci. In the sophomore DeAugustino, you have an impressive youngster who went 21-8 as a redshirt freshman and beat Cronin twice when Cronin was at Indiana. First was an 8-6 loss by Cronin in a dual before losing 3-2 in the consolation semifinal round at the 2020 Big Ten Championships.
However, DeAugustino wasn’t in the lineup against Purdue, so it’s possible Northwestern could send out Matt Vinci, a junior who was in the lineup against the Boilermakers. Vinci lost to No. 3 Devin Schroder 16-0 by tech fall.
Against Maryland, Cronin will face King Sandoval. Sandoval is 0-3 on the year with all three losses by major decision or tech fall. Against common opponent McKee of Minnesota, Sandoval fell to the Gopher 19-6 by major decision. Despite the winless start, Sandoval has gone against some hammers in currently No. 9 McKee, No. 10 Foley and freshman phenom Dylan Ragusin of Michigan (he’s now ranked No. 15). Things don’t get much easier for Sandoval against Nebraska and Northwestern (if they wrestle DeAugustino).
If Northwestern wrestles DeAugustino, this match will likely be too close to call. If it’s Vinci, Cronin wins easily. Cronin also should enjoy a dominant performance against Sandoval.
Nebraska has been struggling at 133 pounds, with starter Alex Thomsen starting the season 0-2 and backup Tucker Sjomeling going 1-1 in extra matches. Nebraska does have true freshman Dominick Serrano, who came in as a very highly touted recruit. To me, it makes sense to give him a chance in a dual at this point.
Against Northwestern, Thomsen will face No. 23 Chris Cannon, a redshirt freshman with a lot of promise. After going 19-2 during his redshirt season with some very solid wins, Cannon opened the season with an 11-3 major decision win over Purdue’s Nate Cummings.
Against Maryland, Thomsen will face Jackson Cockrell who’s 0-3 on the year. Cockrell held No. 13 Jack Medley to a major decision but was pinned by No. 24 Boo Dryden.
I have no idea what happens here. It’ll be tough to beat Cannon, but Cockrell could deliver Nebraska its first win at this weight in a dual.
Nebraska’s No. 6 Chad Red is 1-1 on the season and is coming off an 8-4 loss to No. 2 Jaydin Eierman of Iowa. Nebraska also has sophomore Ridge Lovett (1-0) at this weight and with the lower level of competition this weekend, you could see Lovett and Red split matches.
For Northwestern, there’s Frankie Tal Shahar, a former top recruit who’s started his true freshman season 0-1 after a 6-5 loss against Purdue. He’ll be a tough out, but either Red or Lovett are more than capable.
Against Maryland, Nebraska will face Danny Bertoni, who’s off to a rough start to his season. He’s 0-3 with two losses by pinfall and another by tech fall. Easy Husker win here.
Nebraska has No. 18 Brock Hardy at 149 pounds, and he’s gotten off to a 1-1 start against a pair of ranked opponents to start his career. This week, Hardy faces another ranked opponent in Northwestern’s No. 11 Yahya Thomas. Thomas started his season with a 16-4 major decision victory against Purdue.
Maryland’s Michael North was the starter through the first three duals, but he injury defaulted his last match, so his availability is unknown. He is currently 0-3 on the year. If he’s not in the lineup, Maryland will wrestle Hunter Bolen (1-2 this year) who went 6-22 a year ago as the starter at 141 pounds.
Hardy has a tough test in Thomas, but after a couple impressive performances I anticipate Hardy to get a pair of wins.
Nebraska’s Caleb Licking has struggled to open the year, but he has faced back to back Top-10 guys. After losing to then-No. 6 Brayton Lee 10-5, Licking fell to then-No. 9 Kaleb Young of Iowa 17-5 by major decision.
Against Northwestern, it’s possible Licking will step up his competition even farther if the Wildcats send out No. 1 Ryan Deakin. Deakin, who didn’t wrestle a week ago, went 21-0 last year and won the Big Ten Championship. He was a finalist for the Hodge Trophy. If Deakin wrestles, it’ll be a long day for Licking.
Against Maryland, Licking will face Lucas Cordio, who has faced a tough road but has lost three matches by pinfall or tech fall. Licking could pick up his first win of the year.
Also to note, it’s possible that we could see Kevon Davenport in a dual this weekend, as 157 is a weakness so far this season for this team along with 133.
Nebraska’s No. 18 Peyton Robb has taken some lumps to start the year at a new weight class, starting the year 0-2. After losing to freshman Andrew Sparks of Minnesota, Robb fell to No. 2 Alex Marinelli of Iowa 9-3. Robb had his moments, but it wasn’t enough.
Robb will get two good shots at his first win of the year when he faces Northwestern’s Ankhaa Enkhmandakh and Maryland’s Jonathan Spadafora. Enkhmandakh is 0-1 on the year, while Spadafora is 0-3. Neither will offer much resistance to Robb.
Nebraska’s No. 3 Mikey Labriola has been on a tear to start the year, winning his first match by pinfall before downing an upstart freshman at Iowa.
Against Northwestern, Labriola will face Troy Fisher (0-1) who lost a close decision to No. 25 Emil Soehnlen of Purdue a week ago. Maryland’s Phil Spadafora is 0-2 on the year.
Neither wrestler has a chance against Labriola, who looks much improved in his control as he starts his junior year.
Nebraska has a situation at 184 pounds. Starter No. 11 Taylor Venz was stunned in a 13-5 major decision loss to unranked Nelson Brands of Iowa. Against Minnesota, Venz didn’t wrestle so freshman Nathan Haas took the mat and downed then-No. 15 Owen Webster 5-2. Haas then lost via major decision in the extra matches against Iowa, so that throws more uncertainty into this weight class. I anticipate Venz getting things together this weekend against a pair of unranked opponents.
Northwestern’s Jack Jessen is coming off a loss against Purdue, while Maryland’s Kyle Cochran is 1-2 on the year. After starting at 165 a year ago, Cochran moved to 184 this season.
Venz should handle both Jessen and Cochran.
Nebraska’s most consistent wrestler again is No. 3 Eric Schultz. Schultz is 2-0 with a major decision against Minnesota and a 3-2 decision win over No. 4 Jacob Warner of Iowa. This weekend, Schultz could face another highly-ranked test.
Northwestern’s No. 6 Lucas Davison didn’t wrestle against Purdue, but the sophomore finished fifth at the Big Ten Championships a year ago. He’ll have his hands full starting his season with Schultz.
Maryland’s Jaron Smith and Kevin Makosy have each wrestled for the Terps this season, going a combined 0-5. Schultz will be bonus hunting here.
Nebraska’s No. 13 Christian Lance gets somewhat of a break here. After facing No. 1 Gable Steveson and No. 3 Tony Cassioppi to start the season, Lance gets a pair of matches against unranked opponents.
Northwestern wrestled Brendan Devine against Purdue. Devine is listed as a 184-pounder and lost an 8-1 decision. Maryland’s Connor Bowes has struggled to start the year, going 0-3 with all three losses by pinfall, although two of those were against Steveson (in 13 seconds!) and No. 2 Mason Parris
Lance should even his record to 2-2 after this weekend.
A lot of this prediction will depend on who Northwestern has in their lineup. If the Wildcats wrestle their best lineup, the dual could be really close. If they send out the lineup they did last week against Purdue, the Huskers will cruise to victory.
Against Maryland, I’d be shocked if the Huskers dropped a single match. The Huskers do have a solid lineup, but the Terps are also just that bad.