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Wrestling: Huskers Traveling to Face Gophers of Minnesota

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No. 15 Nebraska and No. 14 Minnesota both looking for a big conference win

2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Wrestling Championship
Minnesota’s Gable Steveson is already a Big Ten Champion, NCAA Champion, and Olympic Champion.
Photo by Scott Rovak/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

After stumbling out of the gate against Purdue last weekend, the Huskers will continue down the gauntlet that is a Big Ten wrestling schedule.

The No. 15 Nebraska wrestling team travels today to face No. 14 Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minn.

The Gophers are 2-2 on the year, but their losses came to No. 2 Iowa (22-10) and No. 4 Oklahoma St. (23-10). This past weekend, they lost to Iowa on Friday but downed No. 23 Northwestern 31-9 in impressive fashion on Sunday.

With both teams sporting seven ranked wrestlers each, it makes for five ranked matchups, that is if both teams field full squads (which hasn’t happened much this season).

How to Watch

Nebraska travels to face Minnesota tonight at 8 p.m. at the Maturi Pavilion in Minneapolis, Minn. The dual is scheduled to be televised on BTN.

Match-By-Match Analysis

*Individual rankings according to FloWrestling

125 pounds

The Huskers have struggled mightily at 125 pounds this season. With senior Liam Cronin out until further notice, Nebraska has been sending out freshman Jeremiah Reno. He’s done decent against lower competition, but against Big Ten foes he’s struggled. Reno is 3-6 on the year and most recently lost to No. 9 Devin Schroder 17-0 via tech fall in Nebraska’s dual against Purdue.

Against Minnesota, things don’t get any easier for Reno as he takes on No. 8 Pat McKee. The senior Gopher is 14-2 on the year but is coming off an 8-7 loss to Northwestern’s Michael DeAugustino. This will be another tough match for the youngster against a seasoned veteran. Nebraska’s chances: 5%

2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Wrestling Championship
Minnesota’s No. 8 Pat McKee
Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

133 pounds

Another weight that has plagued Nebraska is 133 pounds. Sophomore Alex Thomsen has manned the spot so far this season and is 2-4 on the year. Last weekend, Thomsen fell to Purdue freshman Matt Ramos 3-1.

A notable twist going in to tonight’s dual is that Nebraska has freshman Dominick Serrano as an “OR” on the projected lineup. It’s no secret that I’m a big believer in Serrano’s potential for Nebraska, so I think if Nebraska decides to pull his redshirt it would really bolster the Husker lineup this season. Serrano is 11-5 on the year in open tournaments and holds an 18-8 major decision win over his starting teammate Thomsen at the Daktronics Open.

Minnesota’s Jake Gliva is ranked No. 20 with a 9-6 record on the year. Since Big Ten action has started, Gliva has lost two straight matches, but he wrestled both No. 3 Austin DeSanto of Iowa and Northwestern’s No. 9 Chris Cannon, falling to DeSanto 7-5 and Cannon 6-3.

Thomsen has the ability to win this match, but it’ll be an uphill battle. Serrano, on the other hand, certainly has a better chance to beat Gliva and makes this more of a toss-up match. Nebraska’s chances: 20% with Thomsen, 50% with Serrano

141 pounds

In the night’s first matchup of ranked opponents, Nebraska’s No. 10 Chad Red Jr. is slated to face No. 13 Jakob Bergeland of Minnesota.

Red hasn’t wrestled since the Cliff Keen Invitational in early December after missing last week’s dual against Purdue. He’s 6-2 on the season after finishing third at CKLV. If Red doesn’t wrestle, Nebraska will send out Tucker Sjomeling again. He’s 2-2 on the year.

Bergeland is 13-5 on the year and has won eight of his last nine matches, losing only to No. 2 Jaydin Eierman of Iowa in that time.

This is a tough match to pick. First, we don’t know if Red is even going to wrestle. Second, we don’t always know which Chad Red is going to show up. With this long layoff, Red will come in as an underdog. Nebraska’s chances: 45%

149 pounds

Nebraska will rely again on No. 4 Ridge Lovett to begin digging the team out of a hole here. He’s 11-3 on the year and has been impressive in doing so, losing only to top-ranked Yianni Diakomihalis in overtime.

Nebraska has sophomore Jevon Parrish listed as an “OR” on its official projected lineup here at 149 pounds. I’d imagine he’ll serve as the backup for both Lovett and Peyton Robb at 157 after taking Robb’s spot last week in an overtime win against Purdue.

Lovett will face No. 23 Michael Blockhus, who is 12-7 on the year. He’s lost his last two matches to ranked opponents, including a 6-1 loss to No. 5 Yahya Thomas of Northwestern.

Along with No. 2 Sammy Sasso of Ohio State, Lovett has seemed to separate himself from the rest of the Big Ten at 149. With no Ohio State-Nebraska dual this year, these two seem destined to meet again in the Big Ten Final. Lovett shouldn’t have much of a problem against Blockhus. The question seems to be whether Lovett can earn bonus points. Nebraska’s chances: 90%

157 pounds

Much like at 141, this all depends on whether Peyton Robb wrestles after missing the Purdue dual. Robb is 7-3 on the year and is ranked No. 7 after some very impressive non-conference performances.

2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Wrestling Championship
Minnesota’s No. 5 Brayton Lee (left)
Photo by Scott Rovak/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Robb will face another top foe in Minnesota’s No. 5 Brayton Lee tonight in the dual’s most anticipated matchup. Lee is 13-0 on the year and is coming off a 4-3 win over Iowa’s No. 10 Kaleb Young. Robb will be Lee’s highest-ranked opponent yet this year, but this match could be a true toss-up. If it happens. Nebraska’s chances: 50%

165 pounds

This matchup is flying way under the radar, but this bout between unranked wrestlers could very well determine the dual. Nebraska’s Bubba Wilson has been putting together a decent season and will face fellow freshman Cael Carlson of Minnesota.

Wilson is 8-6 on the year and is coming off a 3-1 win over Purdue’s Hayden Lohrey, his first career Big Ten win. Carlson, on the other hand, is 15-8 on the year after some early-season struggles. He’s 9-2 in his last 11 matches, including a hard-fought 6-5 loss where he really pushed No. 4 Alex Marinelli of Iowa.

I know Nebraska really likes Wilson and he’s been impressive at times, especially defensively, but this match could easily go either way. It’ll be a fun one to watch though. Nebraska’s chances: 50%

174 pounds

Coming off an upset loss against Purdue, I see Nebraska’s No. 5 Mikey Labriola coming out on a mission against No. 19 Bailee O’Reilly of Minnesota.

Labriola started the season 10-0 before falling to then-No. 19 Gerrit Nijenhuis 6-4 to start conference play. O’Reilly is 21-5 on the year but has already lost to Labriola 11-4 in the final at the Daktronics Open.

I see Labriola getting back on track with a nice win over a ranked opponent. Nebraska’s chances: 85%

184 pounds

Here’s another Husker looking to bounce back from an upset loss against the Boilermakers. Nebraska’s No. 12 Taylor Venz fell to Purdue’s No. 23 Max Lyon 7-2 last week and will face Minnesota’s Isaiah Salazar tonight.

Nebraska does have freshman Brandyn Van Tassell on its projected lineup as an “OR” here at 184. The freshman is currently in a redshirt year, but if Venz is unable to go it looks like he’ll get the nod.

Venz is 10-3 on the year, while Salazar is 8-2 in his first collegiate season. The Gopher freshman was a prized recruit, but he’s struggled against ranked opponents, going 1-2. Venz should welcome the kid to the Big Ten and get back in the win column. Nebraska’s chances: 80%

197 pounds

Nebraska’s No. 6 Eric Schultz is fresh off a big 5-2 win over No. 13 Thomas Penola. The Husker senior will take on Minnesota’s Michial Foy.

Schultz is 7-1 on the season with his only loss in the CKLV finals against No. 4 Stephen Buchanan. Foy comes in with an 11-5 record on the year. He’s only 1-4 against ranked opponents but wrestled Iowa’s No. 3 Jacob Warner tough in a 6-4 decision loss.

I don’t see Schultz blowing Foy out, but he’s the heavy favorite. Nebraska’s chances: 90%

285 pounds

Continuing the toughest schedule on the team, Nebraska’s No. 11 Christian Lance will face off against one of the best wrestlers ever in No. 1 Gable Steveson.

JAPAN-CHIBA-OLY-WRESTLING-MEN’S FREESTYLE 125KG-FINAL
Minnesota’s No. 1 Gable Steveson with his Olympic gold medal.
Photo by Wang Yuguo/Xinhua via Getty Images

In 2021, Steveson won a Big Ten title, an NCAA title, and an Olympic gold medal. He’s the heavy favorite to repeat as the Big Ten and NCAA champ. He’s also in the running for his second Hodge Trophy. He’s 4-0 on the year with three major decisions and a tech fall. This past weekend, he dominated Iowa’s No. 5 Tony Cassioppi in a 17-7 major decision.

Lance has had a really impressive season so far, coming in 11-1 on the year. The last time Lance wrestled Steveson, the Gopher earned a 23-8 win via tech fall. Nebraska’s chances: 0%

Final Prediction

This dual really will come down to a few toss-up matches at 141, 157 and 165 (and possibly 133 if Serrano takes the mat). Also, with Minnesota projected to earn big-time bonus points at 125 and especially 285, a Nebraska win may also hinge on whether guys like Lovett, Labriola, Venz or Schultz can earn bonus points to keep up.

If both teams have their full lineups, I see Nebraska sneaking out with a super close win. The Huskers could very well win six matches to Minnesota’s four. But if these teams split the matches 5 apiece, Nebraska will need a lot of bonus points to keep up and get the win.

Score Prediction: 18-16 Nebraska victory