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Wrestling: Lovett into NCAA Finals, Huskers 5th in Team Race

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Nebraska is in the hunt for a team trophy as it sends 10-seed Ridge Lovett to the 149-pound final

Nebraska’s Ridge Lovett is on to the NCAA finals to face 1-seed Yianni Diakomihalis of Cornell, a two-time NCAA Champion.
Dylan Guenther / Corn Nation

After a good start on Day 1, the Nebraska wrestling team put together another solid day to keep within striking distance of a team trophy at the NCAA Championships in Detroit.

Nebraska’s 10-seed Ridge Lovett made a run on Friday that puts him in Saturday night’s final against one of the best wrestlers in the country, regardless of weight class.

Four other Huskers secured All-American status on Friday in advancing to the final day of the NCAA tournament.

Nebraska currently sits in fifth place with 54 team points, and with the top four teams receiving trophies, the Huskers are in position to possibly get one.

Penn State has five finalists and is running away with the team crown with 108 points after Day 2. Michigan is second with 85.5, while Arizona State has 63.5 points and is currently in third. Iowa has 62 points and heads into Saturday in fourth place.

Nebraska, Arizona State and Iowa will likely battle it out for two team trophies behind Penn State and Michigan. All three have one finalist and four other wrestlers still alive in the consolation brackets, so it’s likely to be a tight finish.

Nebraska takes the mat again Saturday morning for the consolation semifinal round, followed by the third, fifth and seventh-place matches. Saturday’s morning session will start at 10 a.m. central and will air on ESPNU.

Lovett will compete in the NCAA Finals Saturday evening, starting at 6 p.m. and televised on ESPN.

Weight-By-Weight Breakdown

141 pounds

After going 1-1 on Day 1 of NCAAs, Nebraska’s 19-seed Chad Red Jr. won a couple matches on the back side but fell just short of his fourth All-American finish.

In the consolation bracket, Red won a pair of tight matches. Against 13-seed Ian Parker of Iowa State, Red used some early takedowns and a riding-time point to secure the 7-5 decision victory.

In the next round, Red faced off against 21-seed Dylan Droegmueller of North Dakota State. Red jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the second period but was repeatedly hit for stalling before holding on for a 7-6 decision win.

In the Round of 12, oftentimes called the “Blood round” because the winners secure All-American Status (Top-8 finish), Red took on 8-seed Grant Willits of Oregon State. Red scored a takedown in the first period that led right into a Willits reversal to tie the score at 2-all. In the third, Red chose bottom and ended up getting locked up in a cradle and pinned, ending his season and his career.

Red finished the year with a 15-8 record and fell just one win short of entering the 100-career win club. His final career record is 99-46.

149 pounds

After going 2-0 on Thursday to advance to the quarterfinal round, Nebraska’s Ridge Lovett kept his momentum going.

On Friday morning, the 10-seed Lovett decked the undefeated 2-seed Tariq Wilson of NC State. Wilson took a 2-1 lead in the first period with a takedown, but he made the unwise decision of going underneath Lovett to start the second period.

Lovett started with a heavy ride that turned into a cradle that Lovett used to score four nearfall points. He then locked up another cradle, putting Wilson on his back again. This time, Lovett got the pinfall win to secure his first career All-American honors and a berth in the semis.

In Friday night’s semis, Lovett took on 11-seed Bryce Andonian of Virginia Tech. With both wrestlers having similar let-it-fly mindsets and elite scrambling abilities, this was an incredible match to watch.

Lovett started the scoring with a takedown, but Andonian scored a reversal to tie things at 2-all. In the second, Andonian chose bottom, which is generally not a good idea against Lovett. Lovett rode Andonian for the majority of the period before getting reversed. The reversal gave Andonian a 4-2 lead going into the final period.

In the third, Lovett started on bottom. He worked his way for a reversal to tie things up at 4-all before riding Andonian out for the rest of the period, despite Andonian’s best efforts late to get a reversal. Lovett earned the 5-4 decision win with the riding-time point.

Lovett will face 1-seed Yianni Diakomihalis of Cornell in Saturday night’s final. Diakomihalis beat Lovett earlier this year in overtime and is currently riding a 74-match win streak (longest in the country). The junior is already a two-time NCAA Champion at 141 pounds and is going for his third up a weight at 149.

157 pounds

After going 1-1 on Day 1 and hurting his knee in a loss to 7-seed Josh Humphreys, Nebraska’s 10-seed Peyton Robb bounced back on Friday to win four straight matches and secure his first career All-American finish.

Robb ripped off wins against 24-seed Doug Zapf of Penn (3-2 decision) and 16-seed Brady Berge of Penn State (8-3) before facing 4-seed Ed Scott of NC State in the Round of 12.

After a scoreless first period, Red opened things up in the second period with a takedown and nearfall points before locking up a cradle to get the win by pinfall.

Robb then went on to beat 17-seed Hunter Willits of Oregon State in the consolation round of 4. Robb earned a first-period takedown before riding out the third period to earn the 4-1 victory.

Robb will face 3-seed Jacori Teemer of Arizona State in Saturday morning’s consolation semifinal.

165 pounds

Husker freshman Bubba Wilson, the 27-seed this weekend, showed a lot of promise in the country’s toughest tournament.

He went 1-1 on Thursday before losing his only match on Friday to 12-seed Zach Hartman of Bucknell.

Wilson scored three escapes but didn’t have an answer for Hartman in a 13-3 major decision loss.

Wilson finishes the year with a 14-14 record.

174 pounds

For Nebraska’s 9-seed Mikey Labriola, his first match on Friday was a tough one against 1-seed Carter Starocci of Penn State.

Facing the defending champ, Labriola kept things scoreless in the first before falling behind 3-0 in the second. Labriola did score a third-period escape but Starocci ended the match with a foot-sweep takedown for the 6-1 win over Labriola.

In the consolation bracket, Labriola faced 20-seed Hayden Hastings of Wyoming to secure his third All-American honor. Labriola scored two takedowns in the 5-3 decision win.

In his next match, Labriola faced 5-seed Michael Kemerer of Iowa. Unlike their dual matchup that Labriola won, the Husker didn’t have much offense to offer the Hawkeye. With the match tied at 1-all after three periods, the two went to sudden victory where Kemerer emerged as the victor with a takedown to win 3-1.

Labriola will face 10-seed Clay Lautt of North Carolina in Saturday afternoon’s 7th-place match.

184 pounds

Nebraska’s 10-seed Taylor Venz started the day in the consolation bracket after falling in the second round on Thursday.

The Husker made easy work of 24-seed Caleb Hopkins of Campbell, racking up 10 points in a 10-0 major decision win.

In the next round, Venz faced 17-seed Jeremiah Kent of Missouri. Venz narrowly pulled out a 3-2 decision win to advance to the Round of 12 where he faced 4-seed Parker Keckeisen of Northern Iowa.

Venz jumped out to a 4-2 lead in the first period with two takedowns, but Keckeisen came back in the final two periods to down Venz 7-5 and deny the Husker senior his last attempt at earning All-American honors again.

Venz went 3-2 in the tournament, finishing the year with a 19-9 record. Venz joins Schultz in the 100-win club after Schultz recorded his 100th win in a Husker singlet on Thursday. Venz finishes his career with a 101-41 record.

197 pounds

After winning his first two matches on Thursday, Nebraska’s 3-seed Eric Schultz took on 6-seed Jacob Warner in the quarters.

Schultz couldn’t get any offense going against the Hawkeye in a 2-0 loss, although you could argue that Warner was stalling for the entire third period. Refs didn’t see it that way I guess.

Schultz then dropped down to the Round of 12 against 17-seed Jay Aiello of Virginia. Fighting for his first career All-American honors, Schultz got a first-period takedown on the way to a 4-2 decision victory.

In the next round, Schultz took on 7-seed Rocky Elam of Missouri. It was Elam though who got the early takedown this time on the way to the 3-2 win over Schultz.

Schultz will face 14-seed Greg Bulsak of Rutgers in Saturday’s 7th-place match. Schultz already beat Bulsak 4-3 on Thursday in the Round of 16.

285 pounds

After upsetting his way into the quarters, Nebraska’s 12-seed Christian Lance fell to 4-seed Greg Kerkvliet of Penn State 7-1.

Lance then faced 18-seed Lewis Fernandes of Cornell in the Round of 12. After finishing regulation tied at 2-all, Lance came out on top in sudden victory with the takedown for the win, securing his first career All-American finish.

In the next round, Lance faced 9-seed Lucas Davison. In a low-scoring affair, Davison came out on top with the 2-1 decision over Lance.

Lance will face 3-seed Tony Cassioppi of Iowa in Saturday’s 7th-place match.