With eight Huskers punching their tickets to the NCAA Championships next week in Detroit, the seeds were announced on Wednesday, giving us an early look at potential matchups and paths to victory or defeat.
After a largely disappointing Big Ten Championships, the Huskers earned some tough seeds. I think some of the seeds are off the mark, but it doesn’t really matter that much in my opinion. If you think you’re good enough to win an NCAA title, you’re going to have to go through the top guys. Who cares whether it’s in the quarters or in the final?
My Initial Thoughts
At 141 pounds, senior Chad Red Jr. has a brutal draw as the 19-seed after a disappointing showing at Big Tens. He’ll face a salty 14-seed Dresden Simon of Central Michigan in the first round. Simon also struggled at his conference tournament, finishing 1-2 and not placing in the MAC after a stellar regular season. With a win over Simon, Red would have to take on 3-seed Sebastian Rivera of Rutgers. Rivera is 24-0 on the year but may not be fully healthy after medical forfeiting out of the semifinal round at Big Tens.
When Rivera’s on, he’s easily one of the best in the country at any weight, but he also hasn’t proven himself at all this season, as he still hasn’t wrestled Nick Lee, Jaydin Eierman or Red at all this year.
After facing 2-seed Ryan Deakin of Northwestern twice already this season, Nebraska’s 10-seed Peyton Robb (157 pounds) is on another collision course with the Wildcat in the quarterfinal round. Robb is 0-2 against Deakin this year, but the two losses were 4-2 and 5-3 decisions. Robb has wrestled Deakin tough at times, but he’s never really been in a position to win the match. This is a tough draw for Robb.
Nebraska’s NCAA newcomer Bubba Wilson, the freshman who auto-qualified for NCAAs at 165 pounds, received the 27-seed. His first match will be against 6-seed Cam Amine of Michigan. If you remember, Wilson upset Amine earlier this year 5-3 in their dual matchup. He’s done it once, so Wilson is absolutely capable of shaking up this bracket early.
Nebraska’s 9-seed Mikey Labriola (174 pounds) got one of the most atrocious seeds of all. He should be no lower than the 7-seed, as he has wins over both 5-seed Michael Kemerer and 7-seed Ethan Smith. Had he injury defaulted out, like much of the Iowa roster (including Kemerer from the semis on), maybe he would have earned the 4-seed. We’ll never know.
But the NCAA definitely has an emerging problem of wrestlers medical forfeiting matches to preserve their records and seeds. If you’re actually injured, like Kemerer was so I’m really not trying to knock him (he actually beat Ethan Smith with a takedown late in the quarterfinal after his shoulder popped out), then I’m obviously okay with it. That’s what the rule is there for.
But if you’re just ducking matches like Tony Cassioppi not taking the mat against Gable Steveson or Jaydin Eierman against Nick Lee in the conference final, then the fact that you refused to take the mat should count against you when it comes to NCAA seeding. Unfortunately, it seems that that strategy has been rewarded.
Ok. Rant over.
Similar to Robb and Deakin, Nebraska’s 10-seed Taylor Venz (184 pounds) just cant get away from Penn State’s 2-seed Aaron Brooks. After beating the freshman Aaron Brooks in 2019-20, Venz has gone on to lose to him five straight times.
Nebraska’s 3-seed Eric Schultz (197 pounds) has a very manageable path to the semifinal round, as he’ll likely face Iowa’s 6-seed Jacob Warner in the quarters. Schultz has beaten Warner three times in a row.
In the semi, Schultz will likely get another crack at 2-seed Stephen Buchanan of Wyoming. Outside of Big Ten Champion Max Dean, the Big 12 Champion Buchanan is the only other man to beat Schultz this season. If Schultz can avenge his only losses of the season against Buchanan in the semis and potentially Dean in the final, he’ll end his career on the top of the podium.
These are just my initial thoughts as I combed through the brackets. Check back again early next week for a more in-depth look at possible paths to victory or pitfalls that the Huskers could face.