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Wrestling: Nebraska heading to NCAA Championships

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Huskers will be bringing eight wrestlers to Detroit for nationals, led by 3-seed Eric Schultz at 197 pounds

Nebraska’s Eric Schultz (right) goes for a takedown against Minnesota in a dual in 2020.
Jon Johnston / CORN NATION

After a disappointing showing at the Big Ten Championships, the No. 11-ranked Huskers travel to Detroit this week for the NCAA Championships.

With eight wrestlers qualified, Nebraska definitely has the firepower to make a push for a team trophy (Top-4 finish) but the Huskers will definitely have to out-wrestle their seeds.

Nebraska has three wrestlers that have now qualified for a record fifth NCAA Championships. With 2020 being cancelled due to COVID, this will be the fourth time Chad Red Jr., Taylor Venz and Eric Schultz will wrestle at nationals. Red has recorded three All-American finishes (Top-8 finish), while Venz was an All-American as a freshman but hasn’t gotten back on the podium. In his final NCAA tournament, Schultz seems to be a lock for All-American honors, but that designation has eluded him in the past.

How to Watch

The NCAA Championships will air from Thursday morning until Saturday night with two sessions per day. The morning/afternoon sessions will air on ESPNU each day, while the evening sessions will air on ESPN.

For the complete TV schedule, go here.

Weight-By-Weight Analysis

141 pounds - 19-seed Chad Red Jr.

NCAA tournament history
2018 - 7th (5-2)
2019 - 8th (4-3)
2020 - Cancelled due to COVID
2021 - 6th (5-3)

Nebraska’s Chad Red Jr. (12-6) is the most accomplished wrestler on the team with three All-American honors to his name in addition to being named 1st-team All-American by the coaches in 2020.

Nebraska’s Chad Red (right) gets instruction from Head Coach Mark Manning during a dual against Illinois in February.
Dylan Guenther / CORN NATION

This year, Red is just the 19-seed after not placing at Big Tens with a 1-2 record. That seed leaves Red with a seriously tough road.

In the first round, Red will face 14-seed Dresden Simon of Central Michigan. The last time these two met was when Simon downed Red 6-3 in the second round of last year’s NCAA tournament.

With a win over Simon, Red would then take on 3-seed Sebastian Rivera of Rutgers. Rivera is 24-0 on the year but he really hasn’t faced any of the top guys yet. On top of that, Rivera was noticeably limited by an injury at Big Tens before medical forfeiting out from the semifinal round on. Red and Rivera have met once before, with Rivera earning a 4-3 decision at last year’s Big Ten Championships.

If Red can get past Rivera, he’d likely have to face ACC Champion 6-seed Cole Matthews of Pitt. With a win, Red would meet 2-seed Jaydin Eierman of Iowa in the semis.

If Red can pull off this improbable run, he’d face 1-seed Nick Lee of Penn State in the NCAA final, which would be fitting as these two ended their high school careers against each other in their state title match. What better way to end their college careers with a national title on the line.

And don’t be surprised if you see Red make a run like this, whether it’s here or on the back side of the bracket. After all, Red did pin two-time defending NCAA Champion Dean Heil of Oklahoma State to secure All-American honors as a freshman in 2018.

As is more likely though, Red falls in one of these matches and wrestles back to the podium in the consolation bracket.

149 pounds - 10-seed Ridge Lovett

NCAA tournament history
2020 - Cancelled due to COVID
2021 - DNP (1-2)

As the 10-seed, Nebraska’s Ridge Lovett (20-3) will face a tough road to his ultimate goal: an NCAA title.

Nebraska’s Ridge Lovett (right) gets a takedown at the Big Ten Championships.
Dylan Guenther / Corn Nation

In the first round, Lovett will face 23-seed Jaden Abas of Stanford. Abas is 18-7 on the year and was pinned twice at the Pac 12 tournament. Also, Lovett already faced Abas this year, beating him 9-2 at the Cliff Keen Invitational.

In the second round, Lovett will likely face 7-seed Josh Heil of Campbell. Heil is 11-2 on the year and has a win over 2-seed Austin Gomez of Wisconsin, the Big Ten champion. Heil is a solid wrestler and will be a tough test for Lovett, but I expect the Husker sophomore to advance to the quarters to face 2-seed Tariq Wilson of NC State.

Wilson is 15-0 on the year after moving up to 149 pounds for his senior year. The ACC champion, Wilson presents a lot of problems for anyone he takes the mat against. He’s long, athletic and extremely disciplined, making him very hard to finish takedowns on.

With an improbable upset over Wilson, Lovett would then likely rematch the 3-seed Gomez in the semis. Gomez beat Lovett by decision in their first meeting before bombing the Husker for a pin in just 20 seconds in the Big Ten semifinal.

If Lovett can somehow get by Gomez, he’d likely face 1-seed Yianni Diakomihalis of Cornell, the odds-on favorite to win the whole thing. Earlier in the season, Lovett gave Diakomihalis his closest match of the year, a 3-2 sudden-victory win over Lovett.

However, it’s much more likely that Lovett will fall along the way and have to earn his first All-American honors through the back side.

157 pounds - 10-seed Peyton Robb

NCAA tournament history
2020 - Cancelled due to COVID
2021 - DNP (2-2)

Nebraska’s 10-seed Peyton Robb (13-8) comes in after finishing fifth at Big Tens. The Husker sophomore impressed with two wins over Purdue’s Kendall Coleman as well as a close loss to 2-seed Ryan Deakin.

Peyton Robb (top) rides his opponent at the Big Ten Championships.
Dylan Guenther / Corn Nation

In the first round on Thursday, Robb will face 23-seed Markus Hartman of Army. Hartman is 16-8 on the year with some decent wins, but he’s not likely to be a major threat to Robb.

With a win against Hartman, Robb will likely move on to face 7-seed Josh Humphreys of Lehigh. Humphreys is 18-3 on the year, even beating Iowa’s Kaleb Young 11-2 earlier in the season. Humphreys is a serious test for Robb who will need to be at his best to get by him.

With a win over Humphreys, Robb would then meet 2-seed Ryan Deakin for the third time this year. After holding Deakin to 4-2 and 5-3 decisions, Robb can keep the match close but likely will fall to the surging Deakin.

Robb would then have to win two matches on the back side of the bracket to secure his first career All-American honors.

165 pounds - 27-seed Bubba Wilson

NCAA tournament history
2022 - First-time Qualifier

Nebraska’s Bubba Wilson (13-12) has had an up-and-down season, as you’d expect from a redshirt freshman making his debut in the starting lineup. The highlight of his season came when he upset then No. 12 Cam Amine of Michigan 5-3 in their dual matchup.

At Big Tens, Wilson showed toughness and some really solid defense in going 3-2. As the 8-seed, Wilson upset 7-seed Hayden Lohrey of Purdue 3-2 before downing Michigan State’s 5-seed Caleb Fish 5-2 in the consolations.

Nebraska’s Bubba Wilson (bottom) wrestling at the Big Ten Championships.
Dylan Guenther / Corn Nation

At NCAAs, Wilson will again face Cam Amine of Michigan in the first round. Amine is the 6-seed and is favored to win here, but Wilson has beaten him once. He can do it again. Amine has been hot lately, finishing as runner-up at Big Tens. He’s 16-5 on the year.

If Wilson gets past Amine, he’ll likely face 11-seed Izzak Olejnik of Northern Illinois. Olejnik is 24-4 on the year after winning the MAC Championship. Two of his losses came to ranked opponents. This will be a tough match for Wilson.

With another upset win over Olejnik, Wilson would likely face 3-seed Alex Marinelli of Iowa. Marinelli beat Wilson 8-2 in their dual matchup in February.

It’s more likely that Wilson falls along the way to either Amine or Olejnik though, so the Husker freshman will need to work his way through the consolation bracket if he wants to earn quality team points. With a first-round loss to Amine, Wilson would have to win four straight matches on the back side to earn All-American honors.

174 pounds - 9-seed Mikey Labriola

NCAA tournament history
2019 - 6th (4-3)
2020 - Cancelled due to COVID
2021 - 3rd (6-1)

After finishing third at last year’s NCAA tournament, Nebraska’s Mikey Labriola (19-3) goes into his third national tournament as the 9-seed. Labriola had a disappointing Big Ten tournament, finishing 2-2 for fifth place.

Nebraska’s Mikey Labriola, seen here getting his hand raised after downing DJ Shannon of Illinois in their dual matchup.
Dylan Guenther / CORN NATION

As the 9-seed, Labriola will have a hearty path in front of him if he hopes to win a national title. First, Labriola will face 24-seed Joel Devine of Iowa State. Devine is 12-9 on the year but shouldn’t really pose much of a threat to Labriola.

In the second round, Labriola will likely see 8-seed Michael O’Malley of Drexel. The sophomore is 22-2 on the year, but he lacks a big-time win. Meanwhile, Labriola is battle-tested with wins over guys like Iowa’s Michael Kemerer and Ohio State’s Ethan Smith.

In the quarters is where Labriola’s tournament will go one of two ways. He’ll take on 1-seed Carter Starocci of Penn State, the defending NCAA Champion. Starocci is 18-0 on the year after winning the Big Ten title.

If Labriola figures out a way to get past Starocci, he’ll likely face 4-seed Hayden Hidlay of NC State in the semis before facing either 2-seed Mekhi Lewis of Virginia Tech or 3-seed Logan Massa of Michigan in the final.

Now, it’s more likely that Labriola makes it to the quarters and loses to Starocci. In that case, he’ll need two more wins to lock up All-American honors. He’ll likely face Missouri’s 11-seed Peyton Mocco in his first consolation match before taking on either 5-seed Kemerer or 4-seed Hidlay in the blood round. With a win there, Labriola would face the 3-Massa vs. 2-Lewis loser before a potential third-place match against either Hidlay or Kemerer.

This is just downright one of the toughest weights in the entire tournament.

184 pounds - 10-seed Taylor Venz

NCAA tournament history
2018 - 4th (6-2)
2019 - DNP (3-2)
2020 - Cancelled due to COVID
2021 - DNP (2-2)

Nebraska’s Taylor Venz (16-8) is another Husker that’s been very up-and-down this season. He’s coming off a fifth-place showing at Big Tens with a 3-2 record, earning him the 10-seed.

The senior is now a five-time NCAA qualifier going into his fourth national tournament, but he hasn’t finished on the podium since his freshman year in 2018. I’d imagine he’s hungry for another Top-8 finish.

Nebraska’s Taylor Venz, celebrating after a win over Michigan in 2020.
Dylan Guenther / CORN NATION

Venz will face Princeton’s 23-seed Travis Stefanik in the first round. Stefanik is 15-4 on the year, but it’s unlikely he will really challenge Venz. In the second round though, Venz will face either 7-seed Kaleb Romero of Ohio State or 26-seed Donnell Washington of Indiana. Romero has beaten Venz this year and Washington beat Carter Starocci last year at 174 in the Nittany Lion’s first varsity start.

With a win over Romero/Washington, Venz will be pitted against 2-seed Aaron Brooks of Penn State in the quarterfinal round. Venz beat Brooks as a freshman but has lost five in a row to the Nittany Lion since. This is a match that I don’t see Venz having much of a shot in.

With a loss to Brooks, Venz would need two more consolation wins to ensure All-American status. He’ll likely need to beat the likes of 4-seed Parker Keckeisen of Northern Iowa and 3-seed Trent Hidlay of NC State to finish third.

Another deep weight class with a lot of heavy hitters here. If Venz can All-American, it’ll be a nice way to end his Husker career.

197 pounds - 3-seed Eric Schultz

NCAA tournament history
2018 - DNP (2-2)
2019 - DNP (2-2)
2020 - Cancelled due to COVID
2021 - DNP (2-2)

Nebraska’s best wrestler this season has been senior Eric Schultz (16-2). After going 2-1 to finish as runner-up at Big Tens, Schultz earned the 3-seed at the national tournament. Now a five-time NCAA qualifier, Schultz has yet to earn All-American honors. His two losses on the year came to 1-seed Max Dean and 2-seed Stephen Buchanan.

Nebraska’s Eric Schultz
Dylan Guenther / CORN NATION

In the first round, Schultz will face 30-seed Cole Urbas of Penn. Urbas comes in with a 23-9 record, but the Husker should get by him with ease.

Then Schultz will likely face 14-seed Greg Bulsak of Rutgers. Bulsak is 22-6 on the year and finished seventh at the Big Ten Championships.

With a win over Bulsak, Schultz will likely face 6-seed Jacob Warner of Iowa in the quarters. Schultz has won this matchup three straight times, so he’ll be favored in this one.

Then in the semis, Schultz will most likely face 2-seed Stephen Buchanan of Wyoming in a rematch of their CKLV final that Buchanan won 7-3.

With a win over Buchanan, Schultz would then get a rematch against 1-seed Max Dean of Penn State in the NCAA final.

Now, it’ll be a tough road for Schultz to make it to the final and win it, but he has the best shot at a national title of any Husker this year.

285 pounds - 12-seed Christian Lance

NCAA tournament history
2020 - Cancelled due to COVID
2021 - DNP (1-2)

After finishing seventh at Big Tens, Nebraska’s Christian Lance (16-8) heads into the NCAA tournament as the 12-seed.

Nebraska’s Christian Lance blows through for a takedown at the Big Ten Championships.
Dylan Guenther / Corn Nation

In the first round, Lance will face 21-seed Tyrie Houghton of NC State. Houghton is 20-8 on the year but hasn’t seen near the level of competition that Lance has in the Big Ten. Lance should cruise here.

Then in the second round, Lance will face a big test in 5-seed Wyatt Hendrickson of Air Force. The sophomore heavyweight has put together an incredible season with a perfect 24-0 record and a Big 12 title. Hendrickson is also a bonus-point machine and a natural pinner. He’s won 16 of his matches by pinfall along with two tech falls and two major decisions. That’s absurd for a heavyweight.

If Lance can somehow get by Hendrickson, he’ll face a familiar foe in 4-seed Greg Kerkvliet of Penn State in the quarters. Kerkvliet has beaten Lance twice already this year, so this match seems to be about as far as Lance is going to make it in the championship bracket.

In the consolations, Lance will need a few wins to earn All-American honors and help the Huskers in the team race. But with the top five or six spots on the podium almost inevitably going to this year’s incredible crop of top guys (Gable Steveson from Minnesota, Tony Cassioppi from Iowa, Mason Parris from Michigan, Greg Kerkvliet of Penn State, Cohlton Schultz from Arizona State and Wyatt Hendrickson of Air Force.), that means that there are a lot of really solid wrestlers vying for just a few podium spots.

Lance should be right there in the mix, especially after facing the kind of schedule he did this year. His record may not be the best, but that kind of weekly grind against top competition will certainly prepare you for something like the NCAA tournament.