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Wrestling: Husker Heroes Overcome to Down Badgers 21-15

No. 7 Nebraska remembers Christian Miller before downing No. 18 Wisconsin in final home dual of the season

Nebraska’s No. 14 Christian Lance (left), seen here wrestling against No. 1 Gable Steveson last season, picked up his biggest career win over No. 5 Trent Hilger of Wisconsin.
Jon Johnston / Corn Nation

In the Huskers’ final home date, there’s a lot to unpack as they stayed undefeated in Lincoln.

The No. 7 Nebraska wrestling team finished its home slate a perfect 4-0 after downing No. 18 Wisconsin 21-15 on Sunday afternoon at the Devaney Center. With the loss at No. 1 Iowa, Nebraska is 4-1 on the season.

Nebraska paid tribute to Christian Miller, the Husker wrestler that tragically passed away in a car accident in the offseason, with a pre-meet ceremony and custom shoes (see below).

The Huskers also persevered through some questionable officiating and its own self-inflicted wounds to pull off the W to improve to 4-1 on the season. In a dual filled with crazy scrambles on the mat and a couple guys in the heavier weights stepping up big time, the Huskers earned a hard-fought win over the Badgers.

Match-By-Match Breakdown

*FloWrestling individual rankings used

125 pounds

Nebraska’s No. 8 Liam Cronin (4-1) faced junior Ethan Rotondo of Wisconsin rather than No. 17 Eric Barnett, who pinned the No. 2 wrestler in the country a week ago. Rotondo was a starter two years ago for the Badgers, and he showed why he was in the lineup in a hard-fought match.

Rotondo earned the first takedown of the match to go up 2-0, and Cronin picked up a quick escape in the first period. In the second, Cronin gave up an escape after starting on top, but Rotondo was called for stalling, giving Cronin a point.

With Rotondo leading 3-2 going into the third period, Cronin evened things up with a quick escape. With 35 seconds left, Cronin scored a takedown with a beautiful ankle pick. However, Rotondo took the lead back with a quick escape and an immediate takedown. After a restart, Cronin rolled through an attempted mat return by Rotondo into a reversal with five seconds left and held on for the 7-6 win.

Nebraska was deducted a team point when Cronin threw his headgear off the mat in celebration, so the Huskers led 2-0 instead of 3-0.

Team Score: Nebraska 2, Wisconsin 0

133 pounds

Nebraska went with junior Tucker Sjomeling (2-2) over sophomore Alex Thomsen in this one. Sjomeling took on Wisconsin’s Kyle Burwick, a redshirt freshman who was the top-ranked 126-pounder coming out of high school in 2018. Burwick was a five-time North Dakota state champion with 293 career wins in high school. He redshirted last season.

After a scoreless first period, Burwick struck first with an escape in the second before Sjomeling evened things up with an escape of his own to open the third period. Under 30 seconds left, Burwick got in on a shot for a takedown. The exchange was reviewed by the officials and upheld, so Burwick went up 3-1. Sjomeling then was awarded a point for a locked hands call on Burwick but was unable to score an escape to force overtime, falling to Burwick 3-2.

Team Score: Wisconsin 3, Nebraska 2

141 pounds

Nebraska’s No. 6 Chad Red Jr. (5-1) faced off against Wisconsin’s Dominic Dentino. Red quickly took down the sophomore Badger and nearly cradled Dentino. After amassing 1:37 in riding time, Red cut Dentino loose and went for a period-ending takedown but Dentino held onto Red’s leg for dear life as time expired with Red up 2-1.

In the second, Red was working for a turn when he put himself into a very unusual position, legs and body straight up while on his face. The referees blew the whistle for a potentially dangerous move, and Red was visibly shocked at the call as he was working on a big-time move. In his defense, Red routinely puts himself in strange situations with rolls and cartwheels and crazy scrambles. Dentino received a penalty point, tying the match at 2-all. Red rode out Dention for the rest of the second period.

Red escaped quickly to start the third period to retake the lead. The senior Husker then caught a Dentino shot and turned it into a takedown of his own to go up 5-2. Red then cut Dentino loose and scored another quick takedown to earn a 8-3 win with the riding-time point.

Team Score: Nebraska 5, Wisconsin 3

149 pounds

For Nebraska, No. 18 Brock Hardy faced off against Drew Scharenbrock of Wisconsin. The first period was scoreless but didn’t lack in action.

Scharenbrock got on the board first with a second-period reversal. Hardy then tied things up at 2-all with a reversal of his own. A Scharenbrock escape gave him a 3-2 lead going into the third.

Hardy started the final period on bottom and patiently worked his way toward another reversal before putting Scharenbrock in a cradle, only to have action stopped for a potentially dangerous call, a questionable one at that. Scharenbrock then scored his own reversal to go up 5-4.

With 15 seconds remaining, Hardy worked for yet another reversal to go up 6-5, but these two weren’t done yet. Scharenbrock went up 7-6 with five seconds left with a...you guessed it, a reversal. It was a questionable reversal, and the officials chose not to review it. It should have been looked at. Hardy falls to 2-3 on the year after dropping the 7-6 decision.

Team Score: Wisconsin 6, Nebraska 5

157 pounds

Senior Caleb Licking (1-4) took the mat for the Huskers against No. 24 Garrett Model for Wisconsin. Model secured a first-period takedown before giving up a Licking escape. In the second, Licking gave up a reversal before being taken down and put on his back on the edge of the mat by Model for a loss by pinfall.

Team Score: Wisconsin 12, Nebraska 5

165 pounds

With the Huskers needing a shot in the arm, No. 18 Peyton Robb made quick work of Josh Otto. Robb got a quick takedown on an ankle pick before eventually crushing Otto with a huge mat return onto his back. Robb worked toward a pinfall at the 1:32 mark to improve to 4-2 on the year.

Nebraska was penalized another team point after Robb’s pinfall, this time for a mat area violation as the bench came out too far onto the mat in celebration. Meaning that instead of six more points for the Huskers from the pin, they got five.

Team Score: Wisconsin 12, Nebraska 10

174 pounds

Nebraska’s No. 3 Mikey Labriola, one of Nebraska’s two undefeated starters, stayed that way with a 10-4 win over Jared Krattiger of Wisconsin.

Labriola took a 4-1 lead into the second period, where Labriola scored a takedown but gave up two escapes. Labriola started the third period with an escape and a quick takedown to go up 9-3. Krattiger was later called for stalling, but Labriola couldn’t score another takedown, taking the 10-4 decision win. The junior All-American improves to 5-0 on the year.

Team Score: Nebraska 13, Wisconsin 12

184 pounds

In the day’s premier matchup, Nebraska’s No. 10 Taylor Venz took on No. 7 Chris Weiler of Wisconsin. Early in the first period, Venz put Weiler on his back in a cradle and was so close to a pin, but Weiler avoided the fall. Venz and Weiler then traded reversals, giving Venz an 8-2 lead going into the second.

Venz then started the second period on top and worked toward tilting Weiler on his back. It looked to me like Venz should have gotten some nearfall points, but the officials disagreed. Weiler then eventually worked toward another reversal, cutting the Venz lead to 8-6. Venz scored two escapes in the third while Weiler secured two takedowns to tie the match at 10-all, but Weiler rode the Husker out for another point for riding time. Venz fell 11-10 by decision, dropping to 3-2 on the year.

Team Score: Wisconsin 15, Nebraska 13

197 pounds

With the dual on the line, leave it to No. 3 Eric Schultz to bail the Huskers out. Needing a technical fall (five team points) to force the Badgers to win by major decision or better at heavyweight to win the dual, Schultz put on one of the most impressive takedown clinics I’ve ever seen.

The senior Husker spent nearly seven minutes taking down Wisconsin’s Andrew Salemme and letting him back up over and over again. Schultz recorded six takedowns in both the first and second periods before getting two more in the third on the way to a 30-13 tech fall win. That’s 14 takedowns and 13 releases for Schultz in the match.

Schultz showed again that he’s Nebraska’s best wrestler as well as its most consistent.

Team Score: Nebraska 18, Wisconsin 15

285 pounds

With a three-point team lead, all Nebraska’s No. 14 Christian Lance needed to do was win or lose by decision (by seven points or less), and Nebraska could at the very least win by criteria. Making a serious statement, Lance took out No. 5 Trent Hilger of Wisconsin to erase any doubt and give the Huskers the big team win.

Lance struck first with a quick takedown to start the match before a Hilger escape. Hilger scored another escape to tie the match at 2-all in the second period.

After a scoreless third period, Lance and Hilger went into sudden victory, where Lance got in on Hilger’s ankle before working toward a takedown with 13 seconds left. An official review delayed the official result, but the celebration was on.

At the very least, this Husker team looks to be excited and tough together. As they say.

Team Score: Nebraska 21, Wisconsin 15

What’s Next for Nebraska?

The Huskers travel to Bloomington, Ind. for a quadrangular against Indiana, No. 20 Rutgers and No. 23 Michigan State on Saturday.