The No. 5 Nebraska wrestling team hosted No. 13 Minnesota to open the season and won six of 10 matches on the way to a 22-14 team win Friday night at the Devaney Sports Center.
Nebraska saw some big performances from some known commodities, but it were the newcomers that made the difference for the Huskers, as three of Nebraska’s wins came from wrestlers making their debuts in Husker singlets.
*FloWrestling individual rankings used
Nebraska’s new 125-pounder, No. 15 Liam Cronin, showed why the Husker staff brought him aboard. the senior Indiana transfer was dominant in a 8-1 decision victory over No. 21 Patrick McKee. Cronin went up 2-0 with a first-period takedown before scoring four more points in the second to go up 6-0. In the final period, Cronin was able to get McKee to his back for two nearfall points before giving up a late escape, securing the 8-1 win.
Team Score: Nebraska 3, Minnesota 0
Making his debut at 133 pounds, Alex Thomsen took on Minnesota’s Boo Dryden. The senior Gopher stands 6-feet tall at 133 pounds and easily had five inches over Thomsen. Dryden used his significant length advantage to down the Husker 9-2 with the help of a 6-0 first period.
Team Score: Nebraska 3, Minnesota 3
Nebraska’s No. 5 Chad Red Jr. took the mat against Minnesota’s Marcos Polanco to start the season. Red looked dominant to begin the match as he secured an early takedown and 2 minutes, 48 seconds of riding time in the first period. In the second period, Red gave up an escape before the two collided heads, leaving Red visibly shaken from the impact. The match went on and Red scored a third-period escape and a 4-1 win once the riding-time point was added.
Team Score: Nebraska 6, Minnesota 3
Making his collegiate debut, true freshman Brock Hardy got the nod to start for the Huskers against No. 18 Michael Blockhus. The two wrestled an action-packed first period that ended up scoreless. To start the second period, Blockhus chose the bottom position but Hardy was able to turn him to his back for four nearfall points on the way to a full period ride-out. Hardy went up 5-0 with a quick third-period escape, but Blockhus earned a takedown on a single-leg attack to cut the Hardy lead to 5-2. Hardy then added a point on an escape before working through for another takedown at the end of the match to earn a 9-2 decision victory after adding in the riding-time point.
Team Score: Nebraska 9, Minnesota 3
At 157 pounds, Nebraska sent out No. 25 Caleb Licking to face No. 6 Brayton Lee. After a scoreless first period, Licking scored on two escapes while Lee scored a takedown in the second period, going into the third period tied 2-all. In the third period, Lee used four takedowns to earn a 10-5 win .
Team Score: Nebraska 9, Minnesota 6
As I suspected all summer, Robb moved up to 165 pounds and took on Minnesota true freshman Andrew Sparks. Sparks was a 2020 California state champion, and he showed why he was a highly-touted prospect against Robb. Robb took a 2-1 lead into the second period and went up 5-1 after another takedown and escape, but Sparks earned a last-second takedown, cutting Robb’s lead to 5-4. Sparks quickly took the lead in the third period with an escape and takedown. After an escape, Robb trailed 7-6 and went for a takedown in the final seconds, nearly securing the two points. After reviewing the end of the period, Sparks was awarded the 7-6 win.
Team Score: Nebraska 9, Minnesota 9
All-American Mikey Labriola did what he was supposed to do against junior Jake Allar. The third-ranked Labriola went up 4-1 after one period before adding two more takedowns in the second to go up 9-2. Midway through the third period, Labriola caught Allar shooting in and put him on his back with a headlock, securing the win by pinfall at the 6:17 mark.
Team Score: Nebraska 15, Minnesota 9
Nebraska’s No. 6-ranked Taylor Venz was scratched from the starting lineup when he failed a skin test, so true freshman Nathan Haas took the mat against Minnesota’s No. 15 Owen Webster. Haas fell behind 2-1 after the first period, but took a 4-2 lead with an escape and takedown in the second. In the third period, Haas rode Webster out for a 5-2 win and a very promising debut.
Team Score: Nebraska 18, Minnesota 9
Nebraska’s third-ranked Eric Schultz showed why he’s ranked so high against Minnesota’s Garrett Joles. The senior Husker led 2-0 after the first period. Despite giving up a second-period takedown, Schultz led 5-3 heading into the final period, when he really poured things on. Schultz used two takedowns and four nearfall points to secure a 14-3 win by major decision.
Team Score: Nebraska 22, Minnesota 9
Nebraska’s No. 13 Christian Lance did his best, but he was not real match for Minnesota’s top-ranked Gable Steveson. Steveson took Lance down 10 times throughout his 23-8 win by tech fall. All eight of Lance’s points were from escapes.
Team Score: Nebraska 22, Minnesota 14
What’s Next for Nebraska?
The Huskers travel to Iowa City, Iowa on Friday to take on No. 1 Iowa at 8 p.m. in the Hawkeyes’ season-opener.