The 16th-ranked Huskers started their season slow with a 1-2 start in duals, but they bounced back two weeks ago with a first-place finish at the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas.
Nebraska started the year with a 20-16 loss to No. 15 North Dakota State before defeating Army 25-9. After that the Huskers fell to No. 7 NC State 23-10.
Since then, the Huskers have been on the upswing as they’ve had some impressive individual and team performances in winning both the Navy Classic and CKLV.
Next up for the Huskers before going into the break is a dual matchup against No. 18 South Dakota State tomorrow afternoon.
Nebraska currently has seven of its 10 starters ranked in the Top 25, while SDSU matches that number with seven ranked wrestlers of its own. In fact, SDSU finished third as a team at CKLV. The Jackrabbits didn’t have any individual champions, but eight of their wrestlers finished as placers, proving they have a deep roster top to bottom and should be a tough dual opponent.
The dual will air tomorrow at 2 p.m. on FloWrestling (subscription required).
Rankings according to FloWrestling
Nebraska has listed on their probable lineup both No. 9 Liam Cronin and true freshman Jacob Van Dee. Cronin — a senior — had an impressive third-place finish at CKLV and is riding some serious momentum as he’s 8-2 on the year. Van Dee has shown some promise as he started his Husker career with a 7-3 win over then-No. 21 Jarrett Trombley of NC State. He’s 2-2 and is still redshirting this season. According to head coach Mark Manning, the plan is to start Van Dee next season after the graduation of Cronin.
South Dakota State will send out junior Tanner Jordan at 125. Jordan is listed as an honorable mention in the rankings after a 6th-place finish at CKLV. He’s 9-6 on the year and has a ranked win over Appalachian State’s No. 23 Caleb Smith.
Cronin was able to beat Jordan at CKLV pretty handily with a 12-3 major decision, so if the Huskers elect to go with the senior, he’ll be a heavy favorite.
Prediction: Cronin by major decision — Nebraska 4, SDSU 0
In one of only two matchups between unranked opponents, Nebraska will go with Boo Dryden here. The senior is an honorable mention in the rankings after a disappointing 0-2 performance at CKLV. He has a 5-3 record on the year so far and will be looking to get a win before the holiday break.
For the Jackrabbits, it’ll be Derrick Cardinal who takes the mat. A redshirt freshman, Cardinal is 1-3 on the year. Most recently, he lost a 6-2 decision to Minnesota’s Aaron Nagao in a dual.
Both these guys have struggled at times this year, but I think it’s obvious that Dryden is the favorite here.
Prediction: Dryden by decision — Nebraska 7, SDSU 0
For the Huskers, Brock Hardy has been a man on a mission this season. After a slow 1-2 start that saw him fall to two ranked wrestlers, he’s rattled off 13 straight wins, including six wins over ranked opponents and a CKLV title. For his efforts, he’s currently ranked No. 5 in the country and looks to be a threat to end the season on the podium at NCAAs.
Taking the mat against Hardy will be No. 15 Clay Carlson for SDSU. An All-American in 2021, Carlson will be another big test for Hardy as he tries to prove he’s one of the best 141-pounders in the country. Carlson finished sixth at CKLV and is currently 7-3 on the year.
This may be the match of the dual and will be a fun one to watch. Hardy has only been getting better with more matches and has been a bonus-point machine. He’s first on the team with 10 wins via bonus and five pins. I expect him to keep up his dominance here.
Prediction: Hardy by major decision — Nebraska 11, SDSU 0
This will be an interesting weight for Nebraska as it’s unclear who will take the mat. After the decision to redshirt NCAA finalist Ridge Lovett, senior transfer Dayne Morton has been the starter but has struggled to a 2-6 record so far. Listed as an “OR” on the probable lineup is freshman Reese Davis who could see his first varsity action here after compiling a 12-4 record at open tournaments. He has nine wins with bonus points.
For the Jackrabbits, it’ll be Alek Martin here. A redshirt freshman, Martin is 4-5 on the year.
I think it’s worthwhile to see what Davis can do in a varsity dual as the Huskers can wrestle him without burning his redshirt.
Prediction: Davis by decision — Nebraska 14, SDSU 0
One of the leaders of this year’s Husker squad, No. 2-ranked Peyton Robb comes into this dual with a 12-0 record after winning his first career CKLV title. He has five wins over ranked opponents this year and has a chance to add to that total tomorrow as he’ll face SDSU’s No. 23 Cael Swensen.
Swensen is a freshman with a 6-3 record on the year. He has a ranked win over No. 24 Cesar Alvan of Columbia, but he’s wrestled some of the best in the country pretty close. In fact, he fell to No. 4 Will Lewan in a close 3-2 decision and lost to No. 12 Ed Scott 4-0. Robb has beaten Scott twice this season.
Robb shouldn’t really have much of a problem with Swenson with the way he’s dominated this year, especially in the top position. That isn’t to say that the young Jackrabbit isn’t solid and doesn’t have a bright future. He does, but Robb is a legit NCAA title contender.
Prediction: Robb by major decision — Nebraska 18, SDSU 0
Nebraska is happy to have No. 13 Bubba Wilson back in the dual lineup after he missed the beginning of the season with an injury. Wilson looked impressive as he wrestled back through the consolation bracket at CKLV to place fourth. He’s 8-4 on the year.
For SDSU, No. 11 Tanner Cook will toe the line against Wilson. Cook has been impressive this year, finishing as runner-up at CKLV with his lone loss of the season in the final. In fact, Cook won his first three matches in Vegas via pinfall, including a 37-second stick of then-No. 6 Carson Kharchla of Ohio State. Kharchla beat Wilson 8-2 in the first round in Vegas.
Cook looks to be a pinner and is 8-1 on the year. While I don’t expect him to be able to pin Wilson, who is solid defensively, I do expect he’s the favorite here and could put SDSU on the board.
Prediction: Wilson loses decision — Nebraska 18, SDSU 3
Another NCAA title contender for the Huskers is No. 2 Mikey Labriola. The senior is 12-0 on the year after winning CKLV with an impressive 3-1 decision in sudden victory over NCAA champion Mekhi Lewis of Virginia Tech.
South Dakota State will send out No. 16 Cade DeVos to face Labriola. DeVos is 10-3 on the year and finished fourth at CKLV. All three of his losses have come to top-15 wrestlers, including a loss via pinfall to Lewis.
DeVos is no slouch — he did go 31-9 last year as a freshman — but Labriola is a different level and looks to be on a mission in his final season in a Husker singlet.
Prediction: Labriola by major decision — Nebraska 22, SDSU 3
It looks like redshirt freshman Lenny Pinto has officially taken a hold of the starting spot here, and after a sixth-place finish at CKLV he is now ranked No. 17 in the country. Pinto beat No. 7 Jonathan Loew of Cornell and No. 6 Trey Munoz of Oregon State on the way to the semifinal round in Vegas. Unfortunately, he took the semifinal slide after that as he fell to No. 2 Parker Keckeisen of Northern Iowa 11-2, then got pinned by No. 8 Hunter Bolen of Virginia Tech in the consolation semis. In the fifth-place match, Pinto was pinned by No. 16 Cade King of South Dakota State. Pinto is 6-5 on the year.
Pinto will have a chance at redemption tomorrow when he again faces King. A senior, King is 8-3 on the year with the win over Pinto. This is one of the matches to watch in tomorrow’s dual.
Prediction: Pinto loses decision — Nebraska 22, SDSU 6
Another of the Huskers redshirt freshmen standouts is No. 18 Silas Allred. Allred finished fifth at CKLV and is 12-3 on the year. Two of his losses have come to No. 9 Isaac Trumble of NC State. His other loss came to SDSU’s Tanner Sloan 12-5 in the consolation semis in Vegas.
Much like Pinto, Allred has a chance at redemption tomorrow as he’ll rematch Sloan, ranked No. 17 in the country. Sloan finished third at CKLV and is 7-1 on the year with his only loss a 5-2 decision to Virginia Tech’s No. 16 Andy Smith.
Many times, young wrestlers have a tough time in the second day of a tournament like CKLV, so I expect a much better performance out of Allred in a dual format.
Prediction: Allred by decision — Nebraska 25, SDSU 6
Nebraska has senior Cale Davidson starting this year at heavyweight. Davidson went 2-2 in Vegas but failed to place for the Huskers. He’s 6-8 on the season.
South Dakota State’s No. 12 AJ Nevills has been impressive this season for the Jackrabbits. In fact, he took out then-No. 1 Cohlton Schultz 5-2 in the quarters in Vegas on the way to a sixth-place finish. Schultz downed Davidson via first-period pinfall at CKLV.
Nevills is a big favorite over Davidson here.