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Wrestling: Observations; Husker Commit Shines, UNK Nearly Wins Title

Observations and thoughts going into NCAAs; Husker commit Condomitti wins state title; UNK has 9 All-Americans

Nebraska’s 8-seed at 184 pounds, Taylor Venz looks to have another March to remember at the NCAA Championships this weekend.
Jon Johnston / Corn Nation

With the 2021 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships next weekend, I have a few thoughts and observations from the Big Ten Championships last weekend. The Huskers finished third but certainly underperformed at times and quite frankly fell on the short end of a couple no-calls on takedowns that would have sent two more Huskers to the finals.

But that’s old news, and these Huskers have nine wrestlers heading to St. Louis, Mo. for nationals.

One of the top teams in the field, the Huskers have five wrestlers seeded to finish as All-Americans (top-8 finish), but it’s in the consolation brackets where teams really separate themselves. Especially with so many teams contending for team trophies.

Thoughts and Observations

Top-half Draws

Nebraska’s wrestler is positioned in the top half of the bracket in seven of the nine weight classes at NCAAs. That means that the Huskers are positioned on the same side as the 1-seed and will likely have to go through them to make a run at the finals.

Normally, that’s not a huge issue because there’s generally not a guy that’s head-and-shoulders above the field, but this year is different. I would argue that the gap between the top guy and the No. 2 guy is quite large in 6 of the 10 weight classes (125, 141, 157, 165, 174 and 285). In the field, there are two guys in Spencer Lee of Iowa and Gable Steveson of Minnesota who could very well be representing U.S.A. Wrestling this summer at the Olympics. Add in to that Iowa’s Jaydin Eierman (141), Alex Marinelli (165) and Michael Kemerer (174), then Northwestern’s Ryan Deakin, and you have a handful of weights that look to have very heavy favorites.

But as head coach Mark Manning has talked about, you have to go through those guys eventually so who cares what round it’s in?

Lightweight Woes

At the two lowest weight classes, the Huskers ended the season on a sour note as Liam Cronin finished 9th at Big Tens as a 2-seed and Tucker Sjomeling finished 9th and missed out on an at-large bid to the NCAAs. Cronin got in as an at-large, but he’ll need to vastly improve from the conference tournament if he wants to medal.

At 125, Nebraska hasn’t had a solid presence since Tim Lambert graduated after going 31-8 as a senior in 2016-17. Cronin had a solid regular season, but two straight losses to start the Big Ten tournament is concerning going into nationals.

Upper Weights Solid

The Huskers’ strength lies with its upper weights this season. Led by senior Eric Schultz as a 2-seed at 197 pounds, Nebraska also has 4-seed Mikey Labriola (174), 8-seed Taylor Venz (184), 14-seed Peyton Robb (165) and 12-seed Christian Lance (285) in the top half of its lineup.

Venz and Schultz finished runners-up at Big Tens, while Labriola finished third and Robb fourth. Lance finished in fifth place.

Venz and Labriola especially have the ability to put up big bonus point wins, and the Huskers will be relying on them to help out in what looks like a tight trophy race.

Husker Depth

Every year the field at any weight can be divided up into categories. There are favorites, contenders, outside shots and then there are guys who really don’t have much of a shot but it’s an accomplishment in itself to qualify. And it certainly is.

Out of Nebraska’s 9 qualifiers, I would say that the Huskers have 7-8 guys that could seriously contend to finish in the Top 8 and earn All-American status. More importantly, they would earn placement points for the team.

I would say that 2-seed Schultz, 5-seed Ridge Lovett (149), 8-seed Venz, 4-seed Labriola and 8-seed Chad Red Jr. (141) are strong favorites to finish as All-Americans. The 14-seed Robb, 13-seed Cronin and 12-seed Lance have outside shots to be All-Americans.

Commit Condomitti Wins Pennsylvania State Title

One of Nebraska’s stud commits out of Pennsylvania just finished his career with a PIAA Class AAA State Championships at 160 pounds. Jagger Condomitti of Northampton High School is the No. 4-ranked wrestler in the nation at 160 according to Flowrestling.

After falling in the finals at 145 as a junior, Condomitti bumped up to 160 and went undefeated on the way to his first state title in the toughest state for high school wrestling. Condomitti beat Chase Kranitz 5-3 in the quarterfinal before downing Matt Colajezzi 6-4 in the semis.

In the final, Condomitti escaped a major scare against Jack McGill of Spring-Ford. McGill took a 3-0 lead into the third period. Condomitti scored a quick escape after choosing bottom to start and was hunting for a takedown. He was able to take McGill down with a beautiful inside trip with six seconds left to tie things at 3-all. After riding for six seconds, the match went to sudden victory. In the extra minute, Condomitti was again able to strike late with a takedown with five seconds left before turning McGill for two additional back points as time expired for the 7-3 decision win.

A Pennsylvania state title is no joke. Condomitti will be a stud for the Huskers.

UNK finishes 2nd at DII Nationals

The University of Nebraska-Kearney nearly pulled off a run at a NCAA DII National Championship over the weekend. UNK finished second at the DII nationals with 105.5 points while St. Cloud State won for the third straight year with 107 points. In fact, things were so tight down the stretch that St. Cloud didn’t win the team title until their heavyweight Kameron Teacher won a 6-5 decision in the 285-pound final.

In an incredible feat of depth, UNK nearly won the national title without a single wrestler in his weight class’ final. The Lopers had nine wrestlers finish as All-Americans but struggled in the consolation final round, going 0-5 with five guys finishing in 4th place.