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Wrestling: Huskers to Face No. 3 Michigan and No. 1 Penn St.

No. 8 Nebraska hosts the Wolverines tonight before traveling to face the Nittany Lions Sunday morning

2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Wrestling Championship
Penn State’s No. 1-ranked Carter Starocci won the NCAA Championship at 174 pounds in 2021 as a true freshman and is undefeated this season, again as a freshman due to last season’s free year of eligibility.
Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The No. 8-ranked Nebraska wrestling team bounced back two weeks ago with a pair of big wins over ranked opponents in No. 8 Wisconsin and No. 24 Northwestern.

The Huskers are now 5-2 on the year in duals and will face their biggest tests yet this weekend. Nebraska hosts No. 3 Michigan tonight before going on the road to face No. 1 Penn State on Sunday morning.

The Wolverines are 8-1 on the year with their lone blemish coming from Penn State in a lopsided 29-6 dual. Michigan has wins over No. 6 Ohio State, No. 14 Rutgers and No. 16 Minnesota. The Nittany Lions are 14-0 on the season and are coming off a big 19-13 win at No. 2 Iowa, cementing themselves as the clear top team in the country. It was Penn State’s 25th straight dual win, which snapped Iowa’s nation-leading 29 dual win streak, giving the Nittany Lions the lead nationally.

Nine of Michigan’s ten starters are currently ranked, led by Nick Suriano who is No. 1 at 125 pounds. Michigan also has No. 2 Myles Amine (197), No. 4 Mason Parris (285) and No. 6 Logan Massa (174). They’re obviously one of the best teams in the country.

After finishing behind the 2021 National Champion Iowa Hawkeyes at the 2021 NCAA Championships, Penn State has passed Iowa by this season. The Nittany Lions boast a ridiculous four top-ranked wrestlers in Roman Bravo-Young (133), Nick Lee (141), Carter Starocci (174) and Aaron Brooks (184). On top of those four returning NCAA Champions, Penn State also has No. 2 Max Dean at 197, No. 3 Greg Kerkvliet at 285, and No. 7 Drew Hildebrandt at 125.

In both duals this weekend, Nebraska will need to score some upsets to have a chance at winning as a team.

How to Watch

Nebraska plays host to Michigan tonight at 8 p.m. before traveling to face Penn State Sunday at 11 a.m. with both duals airing nationally on the Big Ten Network.

Weight-By-Weight Analysis

*Individual rankings according to FloWrestling

125 pounds

Nebraska freshman Jeremiah Reno has faced four Top-10 wrestlers in a row and has certainly taken his lumps along the way, although he’s held three of those matches to regular decisions. This weekend, he’ll face two more Top-10 guys.

Tonight things get even harder for the Husker youngster as he will face top-ranked Nick Suriano of Michigan. The Rutgers transfer, Suriano is 6-0 on the year and is considered the favorite to win the NCAA title at 125 pounds now that Iowa’s Spencer Lee is out for the season. Last time out, Suriano beat Minnesota’s No. 6 Pat McKee 14-6 via major decision. McKee beat Reno earlier this year 7-2.

Then on Sunday, Reno will take on No. 7 Drew Hildebrandt of Penn State. A senior transfer from Central Michigan, Hildebrandt immediately filled a big need for Penn State when he began suiting up earlier in 2022. He’s 5-1 on the year with his lone loss a 2-1 decision against Suriano.

Reno is 3-9 on the year and will be a serious underdog in both of these matches. While Reno has shown some defensive savvy in limiting his opponents’ scoring, he hasn’t done much in the way of offense as he’s only scored three points in his four Big Ten matches.

133 pounds

Again, the Huskers list both sophomore Alex Thomsen and freshman Dominick Serrano at this weight. Serrano wrestled in both duals two weeks ago, getting a 10-8 overtime win over No. 23 Kyle Burwick of Wisconsin before falling to No. 9 Chris Cannon 5-4.

Serrano looked very explosive and quick in those matches, so I’m excited to see how he does this weekend when he takes on No. 8 Dylan Ragusin of Michigan and No. 1 Roman Bravo-Young of Penn State, the 2021 NCAA Champion.

Ragusin is 15-4 on the year and is riding a three-match win streak, including a 16-1 tech fall over Maryland’s King Sandoval last time out. RBY, on the other hand, is a perfect 11-0 after downing No. 3 Austin DeSanto of Iowa 3-2 last time out. The Nittany Lion has beaten four Top-10 foes in his last five matches.

Serrano came to Nebraska as a big-time recruit and is 12-6 on the year, mostly in open tournaments. Now, it’s time to see where he really stacks up against the elite level of wrestlers at 133 pounds.

141 pounds

For Nebraska, No. 10 Chad Red Jr. has been steadily improving this season. He’s 9-2 on the year but is undefeated in Big Ten play so far. After a couple wins over unranked guys, Red will face both No. 14 Stevan Micic of Michigan and No. 1 Nick Lee of Penn State.

After competing in the Olympics in 2021 for Serbia, Micic has struggled since entering the Wolverine lineup. He’s 3-2 with both of his losses to ranked guys (No. 13 Jakob Bergeland of Minnesota and No. 16 Cole Matthews).

Penn State sends out another defending NCAA champ in Nick Lee who is 11-0 on the season. He’s coming off a 6-4 overtime win over No. 2 Jaydin Eierman of Iowa.

Rivals since high school when Red beat Lee in the Pennsylvania state final, Lee has gotten the better of Red in college. Red is 0-3 against Lee with two close decisions and a 9-1 major decision loss in 2020.

Red should have a solid shot at beating Micic, and the Huskers very well may need that win to have any shot at pulling a dual upset over Michigan. But against Lee, Red has historically struggled. And with how Lee is wrestling right now, beating him is going to be an extremely difficult task.

149 pounds

Nebraska’s No. 6-ranked Ridge Lovett is looking for a couple wins this weekend after going 1-1 two weekends ago. Lovett fell to No. 8 Austin Gomez of Wisconsin before beating No. 11 Yahya Thomas.

And this weekend, Lovett may just be set up to get a couple wins as he’ll face Michigan’s Patrick Nolan and Penn State’s No. 15 Beau Bartlett.

A backup to Kanen Storr, who is out with an injury, Nolan is 6-6 on the year and has lost three of his last four since the Big Ten dual season started. The sophomore Bartlett is 10-4 on the year, but he lost last time out via a 4-1 decision to No. 10 Max Murin of Iowa.

Lovett is 13-2 on the year and is one of the best in the country at this weight. I expect him to down both Nolan and Bartlett quite easily.

157 pounds

For Nebraska, No. 8-ranked Peyton Robb had a rough weekend last time out. Robb downed Wisconsin’s Garrett Model 17-11 before being put through the ringer in a 4-2 loss to No. 2 Ryan Deakin of Northwestern.

This weekend, Robb starts against No. 13 Will Lewan of Michigan before taking on Terrell Barraclough of Penn State. Lewan is 11-3 on the year and 4-1 in Big Ten duals, his lone blemish a 5-4 loss to No. 7 Brayton Lee.

Barraclough is 6-7 on the year and is Penn State’s lone unranked wrestler. Last time out, Barraclough fell to No. 12 Kaleb Young 2-0, extending his losing streak to three matches.

Against such tough teams, Robb has a relatively manageable path to victory this weekend. I’m sure he’s ready to put that loss to Deakin behind him and get back into the win column.

165 pounds

At this spot, Nebraska has redshirt freshman Bubba Wilson. He’ll likely face No. 11 Cam Amine of Michigan before turning around to face No. 10 Brady Berge of Penn State.

Wilson is 9-8 on the year and has shown that he’s pretty solid but has a lot to improve on. Wilson is 0-2 against ranked opponents, but he’ll get two shots this weekend to grab his first career ranked win.

Amine comes in 10-3 on the year and has won three straight since falling to Berge 3-1. Berge is 3-1 on the year after coming out of retirement as a coach at South Dakota State to use his final year of eligibility. His lone loss was a 10-2 major decision last time out against No. 5 Alex Marinelli of Iowa.

Much like Reno, Wilson has shown a lot of promise defensively but he’s yet to score more than 3 points in a Big Ten match. He’ll be the underdog all weekend.

174 pounds

For Nebraska, No. 5 Mikey Labriola has both a tough weekend ahead of him as well as a boat load of opportunity. Labriola is 13-1 on the season, but his season gets a lot harder this weekend.

First, Labriola will face No. 6 Logan Massa of Michigan. Then, against Penn State, Labriola will take on No. 1 Carter Starocci, a freshman who won the 2021 NCAA Championship.

Massa is 10-1 on the year with his lone loss a 3-2 decision to Starocci. Starocci is 14-0 on the year and just beat No. 2 Michael Kemerer of Iowa 2-1 in tie-breakers.

Both Massa and Starocci are extremely tough opponents, but Labriola has faced them before. In last year’s Big Ten Championships, Labriola lost to Starocci 3-1 in sudden victory before downing Massa 11-3 via major decision.

Labriola will have to be at his best against both of these guys if he wants to come out of the weekend unscathed.

184 pounds

After getting two wins last time out, Nebraska’s No. 12-ranked Taylor Venz has the toughest possible pair of matches ahead of him this weekend. He’ll face No. 2 Myles Amine of Michigan and No. 1 Aaron Brooks of Penn State.

Just two weeks ago, Brooks and Amine squared off with Brooks getting the 3-1 win. Amine earned a bronze medal at the Olympics last summer for San Marino, but he was unable to score on his offense against Brooks. Amine is 10-1 on the season with that his lone setback.

Brooks is 12-0 on the year after winning the 2021 NCAA Championship. He seems to have separated himself from the pack at 184 pounds. Venz and Brooks have a lot of history, as Venz was actually able to give Brooks his only collegiate loss, a 9-5 decision back in 2020 when Brooks was a freshman. The sophomore is 41-1 in his career.

Talk about opportunity though. If Venz loses both of these matches, he still won’t drop much, if at all. I mean, everyone loses to Amine and Brooks. They’re obviously the two best at this weight in the country. But if Venz can get a win in one or both of these matches, he’ll shoot up near the top of the rankings.

197 pounds

Next up for Nebraska is No. 6 Eric Schultz who has been just outside of the Top-5 all season. He’ll get his chance this weekend to insert himself into the conversation for one of the top spots.

With his lone loss to Stephen Buchanan of Wyoming who is currently ranked fourth, Schultz will face Michigan’s No. 8 Pat Brucki before taking on No. 2 Max Dean of Penn State.

Brucki is 14-4 on the year with one of his losses in sudden victory to Dean. Last time out, Brucki was upset by Maryland’s Jaron Smith in sudden victory 11-9. Dean is 13-1 on the year with his lone loss a 3-2 decision to No. 10 Cam Caffey. Last time out, Dean put a hurt on Iowa’s No. 3 Jacob Warner in an 8-3 decision.

Schultz has looked like one of the best 197-pounders in the country at times this year, especially last time out when he scored seven takedowns in the third period to down Andrew Davison of Northwestern 23-8 via tech fall. Schultz can absolutely win both of these matches, which would pay dividends when it comes time for seeding the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.

285 pounds

Facing one of the toughest weekends on the team, No. 10 Christian Lance will toe the line against No. 4 Mason Parris of Michigan before facing No. 3 Greg Kerkvliet of Penn State.

Lance is 12-3 on the year and has been solid, but both Parris and Kerkvliet have proven to be in a grouping that’s separated itself from the pack at heavyweight. There’s Gable Steveson, then a big gap, then there’s Parris, Kerkvliet and Iowa’s Tony Cassioppi. Then there’s a gap before everyone else.

Parris is 9-2 on the year with losses to Steveson and Kerkvliet, while Kerkvliet is 11-1 with his only loss to Cassioppi, a 7-2 decision. Kerkvliet has not faced Steveson yet this season.

This is one of the toughest fields ever at heavyweight, and Lance will get a crack at the upper echelon twice this weekend.

Final Predictions

The Huskers have been wrestling pretty well as of late, and having last weekend off may just pay dividends. But these two teams are at a different level than anything the Huskers have seen this year.

Nebraska will have to pull some upsets if it wants to win these duals, especially against Penn State. With so many matches against high level competition on the schedule this weekend, Nebraska could use this as an opportunity to really establish itself at the top with the Wolverines and Nittany Lions.

Against Michigan, Nebraska is favored in four matches. That’s not enough to win, so the Huskers will need an upset or two to get the dual win.

Against Penn State, Nebraska’s major strength (174 pounds through 285) will pretty much be neutralized, as the Huskers will be underdogs in all four of those matches. They’ll need a couple upsets and maybe some surprise bonus points to knock off the top team in the land.

Score Predictions

No. 3 Michigan 18-17 win over No. 8 Nebraska

No. 1 Penn State 24-12 win over No. 8 Nebraska