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Wrestling: Huskers traveling for Saturday Triangular

No. 7 Nebraska travels to Indiana to face No. 23 Michigan State and Indiana in a triangular after Rutgers had to postpone

Head wrestling coach Mark Manning, seen here talking to Taylor Venz before a dual against Minnesota last season, has his Huskers rolling heading into this weekend’s triangular.
Jon Johnston / Corn Nation

The Huskers have done exactly what they’ve needed to do this season as they are off to a 4-1 start with three wins over ranked opponents. The lone blemish was a 31-6 drubbing at No. 1 Iowa, but as we’re finding out, Iowa will be doing that to everybody. The Hawkeyes have since beaten No. 13 Minnesota 35-4 and No. 9 Illinois 36-6. So far, Nebraska has been Iowa’s closest dual.

Nebraska comes in ranked No. 7 in the NWCA coaches poll and is the top ranked team that’s not undefeated. The Huskers still have eight ranked wrestlers while a few Huskers made some well deserved moves up the rankings after some impressive performances and some losses ahead of them in the rankings.

The Huskers travel Saturday to take part in a now-triangular in Bloomington, Indiana. Nebraska will face off against No. 23 Michigan State and Indiana now that No. 24 Rutgers was forced to pull out due to Covid-19 concerns.

Scouting The Field

No. 23 Michigan State

The Spartans come in with five ranked wrestlers and a solid dual team, led by Cameron Caffey at 197 pounds. The senior moved up this season from 184 pounds where Caffey finished runner-up at the 2020 Big Ten Championships.

Michigan State is 1-2 on the season with its win being a 42-0 demolishing of Maryland followed by losses to No. 14 Minnesota (28-6) and No. 11 Ohio State (24-9). The Spartans are looking to get back on track this weekend with a couple duals.

Indiana

The Hoosiers are hosting this meet and come in with a 1-3 record on the year. Indiana lost to No. 2 Michigan, No. 4 Penn State and No. 9 Illinois to start the year but pulled off an 18-16 win against then-No. 25 Northwestern last weekend.

Led by No. 6 Donnell Washington at 174 pounds, this Indiana squad looks to be improving and ready for a scrap. They may be far from competing with the big dogs, but Indiana isn’t a doormat this season. Should make for some fun individual matchups, and honestly with this one being Nebraska’s final dual of the day, the Huskers may elect to give some backups their first dual action of the season.

How to Watch

Nebraska will face Michigan State at 1 p.m. and Indiana at 3 p.m. and the action can be seen on BTN plus (subscription required).

Weight-By-Weight Analysis

*Individual rankings according to FloWrestling

125 pounds

Nebraska’s No. 6 Liam Cronin has been on a tear since getting pinned by No. 1 Spencer Lee of Iowa. He’s rattled off three straight wins, including a pin and a major decision. He’s pretty well established himself at the top of the heap of guys vying for the No. 2 spot at 125 in the Big Ten. Although, this Saturday will do a lot to prove if he really deserves his No. 6 ranking.

First, Cronin will face Indiana’s No. 18 Brock Hudkins or Jacob Moran. Hudkins is 0-2 on the year with his losses coming to No. 22 Justin Cardani of Illinois 3-1 and a 6-4 decision to Michigan’s No. 10 Dylan Ragusin. Moran is 4-1 and 1-1 in dual competition with his lone loss coming to No. 7 Michael DeAugustino of Northwestern in a close 5-3 decision.

Then against Michigan State, Cronin will wrestle No. 13 Rayvon Foley. After beating Maryland’s King Sandoval by tech fall to open the year, Foley has lost two straight matches to No. 22 Patrick McKee and No. 12 Malik Heinselman.

Neither matchup will be a pushover, but I think Cronin will come out of the weekend unscathed.

Prediction: Cronin goes 2-0

133 pounds

We don’t know who Nebraska will send out there on Saturday. Will it be sophomore Alex Thomsen (1-3) or junior Tucker Sjomeling (2-2)? Or could it be freshman Dominick Serrano? Considering the fact that the Huskers are 1-4 overall in dual competition at this weight with their only win coming from Thomsen against a doormat Maryland team, I’d say it’s a possibility.

Indiana will send out either Cayden Rooks (1-2) or Kyle Luigs (0-3). Rooks beat Colin Valdiviez 5-3 in overtime for the lone win while Luigs has wrestled tough against tough competition in No. 3 Roman Bravo-Young (11-8 decision) and No. 23 Chris Cannon (12-10).

The Spartans will send out Jordan Hamdan (1-2). His win came against Maryland’s Jackson Cockrell.

All three teams have struggled this year at 133, so this weight is anyone’s guess.

Prediction: (insert Nebraska wrestler here) goes 1-1

141 pounds

Nebraska ‘s No. 6 Chad Red Jr. has put together a four-match win streak since losing to No. 2 Jaydin Eierman 8-4, and unfortunately he misses his chance to face the top 141-pounder in the country this Saturday as Rutgers was forced to miss the meet. So we won’t all be treated to No. 1 Sebastian Rivera vs CJ Red. Since Rivera moved up from 133 this season, he and Red have never hit. It would have been a fun one.

Indiana will wrestle Jonathan Moran here. The Hoosier is 0-3 on the year, while the entire Indiana team is a combined 0-8 at 141 pounds. Michigan State will send out Jacob Spiess who is 1-2 on the year with a 57-second pin over Maryland’s Danny Bertoni. His two losses came via regular decisions against Minnesota and Ohio State.

The loss of the marquee matchup stings, but Red easily goes 2-0. It’s even possible that the Husker coaches insert sophomore Ridge Lovett into a dual here. He’d very likely win either matchup as well.

Prediction: Chad Red Jr./Ridge Lovett goes 2-0

149 pounds

Nebraska’s No. 22 Brock Hardy is now 2-3 after a controversial late reversal call against Wisconsin. The true freshman will have his opportunity to bounce back on Saturday when he takes on a ranked opponent.

Indiana’s No. 14 Graham Rooks is 1-1 on the year after defeating then-No. 10 Jarod Verkleeren of Penn State 4-2 then losing to Northwestern’s No. 11 Yahya Thomas 8-4. Rooks will be a big test for Hardy who has struggled against top competition.

Michigan State has Peyton Omania at 149. The Spartan is 1-2 on the year with his win over Maryland’s Michael North. He also wrestled No. 1 Sammy Sasso extremely tough in a 7-6 decision loss.

Hardy has shown a lot of promise this year, but it will be tough for the freshman to come out of Saturday unscathed.

Prediction: Hardy goes 1-1

157 pounds

Nebraska’s Caleb Licking has been Nebraska’s starter all season here and has a 1-4 record with his lone win coming against Maryland. Nebraska also has Kevon Davenport here, but the redshirt freshman is 0-2 on the year in extra matches.

Michigan State has Chase Saldate (2-1) here. Saldate has been impressive this season, as he’s earned a win by pinfall against Maryland’s Lucas Cordio and most recently a 4-0 decision win over No. 23 Elijah Cleary. His lone blemish was a 5-4 loss to No. 6 Brayton Lee of Minnesota.

Indiana’s Matt Ortiz is 1-2 on the year with his win being an 8-3 decision over Northwestern’s Maxx Mayfield. Licking lost to Mayfield 6-4 in sudden victory. Ortiz’s two losses are to ranked opponents.

This weekend presents both an opportunity and a challenge for the Huskers. On one hand, neither opponent is ranked so they’re certainly beatable. On the other, both are solid opponents who look to be slightly better than Nebraska coming in.

Prediction: Licking goes 0-2

165 pounds

Nebraska’s No. 18 Peyton Robb has won four straight after dropping his first two duals of the season. He looks to keep his win streak intact this weekend.

Michigan State has No. 17 Jake Tucker here. Similarly to Robb’s early season start, Tucker also lost his first two big matchups. He fell to Andrew Sparks of Minnesota 8-7 and No. 6 Ethan Smith of Ohio State 17-6 by major decision. Tucker’s win came against Maryland.

For Indiana, Nick South has faced a tough schedule to start the year, dropping matches to No. 6 Joe Lee of Penn State, No. 11 Danny Braunagel of Illinois, and No. 16 Cameron Amine of Michigan. His win was an 8-4 decision win over Northwestern’s David Ferrante.

These are two tough yet winnable matchups for Robb. And with the way he’s been wrestling, I’m not picking against him.

Prediction: Robb goes 2-0

174 pounds

Nebraska’s No. 3 Mikey Labriola has been a standout for the Huskers this season as he’s jumped out to a 5-0 start, mainly against overmatched opponents after Iowa didn’t wrestle No. 1 Michael Kemerer against him. Labriola has two wins by major decision and one by pinfall on the year.

Labriola will get his final real test before the conference tournament in March when he takes on Indiana’s No. 6 Donnell Washington. Washington shot up the rankings after downing then-No. 5 Carter Starocci of Penn State 10-9. Washington is 3-1 on the year with his loss coming via pinfall to Michigan’s No. 2 Logan Massa.

Michigan State will send out No. 20 Drew Hughes who is 1-2 on the year. His win came against Maryland’s Phillip Spadafora, while he was major decisioned by Minnesota’s Jake Allar and Ohio State’s Ethan Smith.

Washington is a good wrestler and all, but Labriola is starting to establish himself as a top guy in the country.

Prediction: Labriola goes 2-0

184 pounds

Nebraska’s No. 11 Taylor Venz has been very up and down this season. After dropping his season opener, Venz won three straight before dropping an 11-10 decision against Wisconsin’s No. 11 Chris Weiler last weekend.

Venz will face off against Indiana’s No. 12 Layne Malczewski who is 3-0 on the season. He has wins over No. 16 Rocky Jordan and Minnesota’s Owen Webster.

Michigan State has struggled at 184 pounds, as Drayton Harris is 0-4 on the year with three losses by bonus points.

Venz will have a tough time with Malczewski but should drop Harris rather easily. Still, I think Venz gets it done.

Prediction: Venz goes 2-0

197 pounds

Nebraska’s No. 2 Eric Schultz has started the season 5-0 with wins over Nos. 4 and 7 in the country. Last weekend, his team needed him to score a tech fall for team points and Schultz delivered a 30-13 masterpiece against Wisconsin.

In one of the day’s marquee matchups, Schultz will face off against Michigan State’s No. 8 Cam Caffey. Caffey is 3-0 on the year after moving up from 184 pounds a year ago where he finished second at the Big Ten Championships. Caffey has two wins over unranked opponents and a 3-2 decision over No. 25 Gavin Hoffman of Ohio State.

Indiana’s Nick Willham is 2-2 on the year and fell in his only match against top competition, a 10-2 major decision to No. 7 Lucas Davison of Northwestern.

Caffey will be a solid test for Schultz, but the Spartan hasn’t wrestled anyone like Schultz since moving up. I’m betting Schultz welcomes Caffey to the weight class with a decisive victory.

Prediction: Schultz goes 2-0

285 pounds

Nebraska’s No. 10 Christian Lance had himself a weekend as he downed then-No. 5 Trent Hilger of Wisconsin 4-2 in sudden victory. Lance, who’s 4-2 on the year, won his other matches with a major decision and two pinfalls. His only losses are to No. 1 Gable Steveson and No. 3 Tony Cassioppi.

Michigan State will send out Brad Wilton who’s gone 1-2 on the year. His win came via pinfall over Maryland’s Connor Bowes.

For Indiana, it’ll be either Jacob Bullock (1-2) or Rudy Streck (0-2). Streck’s two losses came via pinfall while Bullock beat Northwestern’s Brendan Devine 8-2 last time out to get the first Hoosier win at heavyweight on the year.

Lance should earn a couple comfortable wins here.

Prediction: Lance goes 2-0

Final Prediction

With the subtraction of Rutgers from this weekend’s meet, the road gets easier for the Huskers, who will be heavily favored in both duals on Saturday. While Michigan State and Indiana each present some challenging individual matchups, the team scores should be comfortably in Nebraska’s favor.

Nebraska should improve to 6-1 on the year after Saturday.