With the regular season coming to an end Sunday night at the Devaney Center, Nebraska gets set to take on one of its toughest opponents in No. 2 Iowa.
On Senior Night, the No. 10 Huskers will play host to the Hawkeyes. A perennial national title contender, Iowa comes in with a 13-1 dual record with their lone loss coming to No. 1 Penn State 19-13.
The stage is set for Sunday night.— Husker Wrestling (@HuskerWrestling) February 18, 2022
Huskers Hawkeyes pic.twitter.com/SB1ypqOld9
The Hawkeyes certainly benefited from the NCAA’s free year of eligibility, as the Hawkeyes have seven seniors in its starting lineup, so the team that won a national title in 2021 is largely intact. One big loss for Iowa was the loss of three-time NCAA Champion Spencer Lee at 125 pounds. After tearing his second ACL at the Big Ten Championships in 2021, Lee went on to win the NCAA Championship. But he opted out of getting surgery in the offseason, hoping he could get through his final season with no ACLs. That wasn’t the case, as he opted for surgery on both knees in December and will be applying for a medical redshirt this season.
Even without Lee in the lineup, Iowa is one of the country’s best. The Hawkeyes have four wrestlers ranked No. 2 in their weight class. In the Top 5, Iowa has six. With all ten wrestlers ranked, Iowa is an extremely solid squad with considerable depth.
The Huskers are 6-4 on the year and will have an uphill battle to face if they want to beat the Hawkeyes. With seven matches on the night between ranked wrestlers, it’s safe to say this is a dual you won’t want to miss.
On paper, Nebraska is only favored in three matches. But good thing these things aren’t decided on paper. They’re decided on the mat.
How to Watch
Nebraska hosts No. 2 Iowa Sunday night at 6 p.m. at the Devaney Center. The dual will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
*Individual rankings according to FloWrestling
For the Huskers, you’ll see freshman Jeremiah Reno here. After picking up his first conference win last Sunday over Illinois’ Dane Durlacher, Reno will likely face another of the Big Ten’s best.
Iowa will send out either No. 10 Drake Ayala or Jesse Ybarra. Ayala is 13-4 on the year and is a true freshman who was pulled from redshirt when Spencer Lee was lost for the season. He hasn’t wrestled due to injury since a 7-5 sudden-victory loss to Ohio State’s No. 8 Malik Heinselman on Jan. 21. That’s a lot of time away, especially for a true freshman.
If not Ayala, Ybarra will get the nod. He’s 5-5 on the year as a spot starter. He started the year 5-0 but has lost five straight.
No matter if its Ayala or Ybarra, Reno will need to prove himself here as he’s just 4-11 on the year. Reno lucks out here that Lee is out and Ayala may also be still out, but Ybarra definitely has the ability to beat the young Husker. This will be a tough match no matter what.
For freshman Dominick Serrano, things started off good with a win over Wisconsin’s Kyle Burwick in overtime in his first dual start, but Serrano has been put through the ringer ever since.
Since that Burwick win, Serrano has gone 0-4, all against Top-10 opponents, including the defending NCAA champ Roman Bravo-Young of Penn State. This week, things don’t get any easier though, as Serrano will face off against No. 3 Austin DeSanto.
DeSanto is 13-2 on the year with his only losses to top-ranked Bravo-Young and No. 2 Daton Fix of Oklahoma State. Last season, DeSanto finished second at Big Tens to RBY and third at NCAAs behind RBY and Fix. DeSanto applies constant pressure when he wrestles, and the only guys to figure it out have been RBY and Fix.
DeSanto is a bonus-point machine. In his 13 wins, he’s tallied nine tech falls and a major decision. If Serrano can limit the bonus points here, that would be ideal for the team score.
Serrano is 12-9 on the year and has shown through in a few matches, but beating DeSanto would be an exceedingly tall task.
At this weight, Nebraska will send out No. 10 Chad Red Jr. to face off against Iowa’s No. 2 Jaydin Eierman.
Red is 11-3 on the year and holds a 5-1 Big Ten dual record with his lone loss coming to No. 1 Nick Lee 4-1 by decision. Last time out, Red dominated No. 11 Dylan Duncan of Illinois in a 7-1 decision win.
Eierman, who is a seventh-year senior with a 117-16 career record between his time at Missouri and Iowa, is 14-1 on the year. In his career at Iowa, Eierman is 26-2 with his only losses to Penn State’s Nick Lee. This season, Eierman fell to Lee 6-4 in sudden victory, but he’s also wrestled some close bouts.
Classic double leg defense from Jaydin Eierman pic.twitter.com/r3QItGDZRQ— FloWrestling (@FloWrestling) February 13, 2022
Historically, Red and Eierman have met twice with Eierman winning both matches via decision. Last season, Red fell to Eierman 8-4 in their dual before dropping a 7-1 match at Big Tens.
With Red putting together a solid season kind of under the radar, he’ll have every chance to beat Eierman to jump up the rankings and improve his seed at the conference tournament. Red is definitely the underdog, but this win would do so much for both the team in the dual as well as Red’s ranking and seeding.
In the first match that Nebraska will be favored in, the Huskers will roll with No. 5 Ridge Lovett against No. 10 Max Murin.
Lovett is 16-2 on the year with a 6-1 Big Ten dual record. He’s only lost matches to No. 1 Yianni Diakomihalis (3-2 in sudden victory) and No. 4 Austin Gomez (4-2 decision).
Murin comes in 8-2 on the year with losses to No. 2 Sammy Sasso (3-2 decision) and unranked Manzona Bryant of Lehigh (7-5 decision). Last time out, Murin downed Oklahoma State’s No. 18 Kaden Gfeller 5-2.
Murin and Lovett both own wins over No. 11 Yahya Thomas and No. 15 Beau Bartlett. This rivalry is locked at 1-all right now, with Lovett downing Murin 11-6 at Big Tens before the Hawkeye exacted revenge with a 5-3 win at the NCAA Championships.
This match will be an exciting one and could really go either way.
Nebraska’s No. 8 Peyton Robb has won two straight matches after taking losses to No. 4 Brayton Lee of Minnesota and No. 2 Ryan Deaking of Northwestern.
Robb is 10-5 on the year with some solid wins and losses, but he’s also been extremely inconsistent, making his matches difficult to predict.
Robb will face Iowa’s No. 15 Kaleb Young Sunday night. Young is a senior with a 13-5 record on the year. Young has won seven straight matches since falling to Brayton Lee 4-3. Also of note, Robb and Young both lost to No. 5 Quincy Monday of Princeton.
Robb and Young have struggled at times this season, making this another one that’s hard to predict. In their careers, these two have met twice before and have split their matches. In the 2019-20 season, Young beat Robb 6-4 in their dual matchup before falling to Robb 3-2 at the Big Ten Championships.
That was a long time ago, so I look forward to see how this match turns out. Again, this one favors Robb, but ever so slightly.
Next up for Nebraska is freshman Bubba Wilson. The young Husker is 10-9 on the year after suffering a 12-2 major decision loss to Illinois’ Danny Braunagel last time out. Before that, Wilson picked up his biggest career win against then-No. 11 Cam Amine of Michigan.
Wilson will face Iowa’s No. 5 Alex Marinelli who has a 17-1 record on the year. Marinelli has only lost to No. 4 Carson Kharchla of Ohio State via 3-2 decision. He has wins over No. 6 Dean Hamiti of Wisconsin and Braunagel to his record. His win over Hamiti is the only loss the Wisconsin freshman has on the year.
Wilson will be a big underdog here and should just look to limit the bonus points.
In one of the biggest matchups of the night, Nebraska’s No. 6 Mikey Labriola will take on Iowa’s No. 2 Michael Kemerer.
Labriola is 15-2 on the year with losses to Michigan’s No. 6 Logan Massa and Purdue’s No. 21 Gerrit Nijenhuis. He’s 5-2 in Big Ten duals and is looking for a signature win this year.
Kemerer is 7-1 on the year and holds a 93-9 career record for the Hawkeyes. Last time out, Kemerer beat Oklahoma State’s No. 9 Dustin Plott 6-1. His only loss came to No. 1 Carter Starocci of Penn State 2-1 in a wild match that ended in tie-breakers.
Kemerer has been one of the most consistent wrestlers in the country for years, and Labriola will have his hands full if he wants to pull the upset.
Nebraska’s No. 13 Taylor Venz has had an up-and-down season up to this point. He’s 12-6 on the year but has struggled with a 2-4 conference dual record. He’s lost three matches in a row and looks to get back on track against Iowa’s No. 16 Abe Assad.
Assad is 10-5 on the season and is coming off a 9-2 loss to Oklahoma State’s No. 9 Dakota Geer. Assad and Venz both lost matches to No. 1 Aaron Brooks and Ohio State’s Kaleb Romero, but Assad did beat Zac Braunagel of Illinois 5-2. Braunagel just beat Venz 12-6.
This match is so hard to predict because Venz has been so inconsistent this season. You never know which Taylor Venz will show up.
Hopefully, for the Huskers’ sake, the Venz that finished second at the Cliff Keen Invitational shows up and puts some team points on the board.
This is by far the biggest individual matchup of the night. Nebraska’s No. 5 Eric Schultz will take on Iowa’s No. 2 Jacob Warner.
Schultz is 13-1 on the year with a perfect 7-0 record in Big Ten duals. With a win here, Schultz could earn the No. 1 seed at the upcoming Big Ten Championships. He has multiple wins over highly ranked guys but didn’t get a chance to face No. 1 Max Dean of Penn State as the Nittany Lion has been out of the lineup with an injury since the beginning of February.
Warner is 13-2 on the year with his losses to top-ranked Dean and No. 11 Yonger Bastida of Iowa State.
Schultz and Warner are knotted up at 2-all in their careers. Warner earned two wins in 2019, while Schultz beat Warner twice since, in 2020 and 2021. It seems that Schultz has figured out the formula to take down Warner, so I anticipate the senior ending his career at home with a big-time win.
At heavyweight, No. 10 Christian Lance got back in the win column over No. 17 Luke Luffman of Illinois last week but has to end his regular season with another top-tier opponent in Iowa’s No. 2 Tony Cassioppi.
Lance is 13-5 on the year with all of his losses coming to ranked opponents, including matches to No. 1 Gable Steveson, No. 3 Mason Parris and No. 4 Greg Kerkvliet. Lance also owns a win over then-No. 8 Trent Hillger of Wisconsin.
Cassioppi is 12-2 on the year and has won his last seven matches since falling to Steveson 17-7 via major decision. That includes wins over Kerkvliet and Hillger.
Cassioppi is 2-0 all time against Lance and should be able to continue that trend, as he’s one of the best heavies in the country.
Nebraska would absolutely need a couple things to go its way in this one if it hopes to win. First, The Huskers would need to capitalize in matches where they are favored and score bonus points, like from Lovett, Robb and Venz.
Then, Nebraska would need a couple upsets, probably from Red, Labriola or Schultz. Finally, the Huskers need to limit bonus points for the Hawkeyes, with Reno, Serrano, Wilson and Lance needing to hold their matches to decisions.
That’s a fine line Nebraska will be walking. It’s certainly possible for the Huskers to win, but it’s not likely.
Score Prediction: Iowa wins 22-13