Nebraska opens Big Ten play against No. 12 Minnesota at home on Friday night before hosting No. 11 Northwestern Sunday afternoon.
The 16th-ranked Huskers are 4-2 in duals with their losses to No. 5 NC State and No. 17 North Dakota State. Nebraska has a win over No. 19 South Dakota State as well as a tough Army squad.
In tournament action, the Huskers have done much better. They won the premier non-conference tournament the Cliff Keen Invitational, the third straight team win for the Huskers in Las Vegas. They also won the Navy Classic.
Both Minnesota and Northwestern have seven ranked wrestlers. Nebraska also has seven ranked wrestlers, so these duals could be very competitive.
Minnesota is 7-1 on the year with wins over No. 13 Oklahoma State, No. 17 North Dakota State and No. 19 South Dakota State. However, the Golden Gophers dropped their first dual of the year to open Big Ten play with an 18-11 loss to Northwestern. Northwestern is 2-0 on the year in duals with the win against Minnesota as well as a win over Virginia.
How to Watch
Nebraska’s dual against Minnesota will be Friday at 8 p.m. and will be on the Big Ten Network, while the dual against Northwestern on Sunday at 2 p.m. will air on BTN+ (subscription required).
Rankings according to FloWrestling
Nebraska’s No. 8 Liam Cronin really has his work cut out for him this weekend. He’s 11-2 on the year, but he’ll face two of the best wrestlers in the nation.
First, Cronin will face Minnesota’s No. 3 Pat McKee who is 7-0 on the year. He’s a two-time All-American and has a ranked win over No. 13 Trevor Mastrogiovanni of Oklahoma State to his name. The only meeting between Cronin and McKee took place in 2021 in a dual during the shortened 2021 season where Cronin picked up a dominant 8-1 decision.
Against Northwestern, Cronin will likely face No. 4 Michael DeAugustino. The senior Wildcat is 1-1 on the year with an injury default loss from CKLV. He’ll see his first action since that tournament against Cronin, who finished third at CKLV after winning six-straight matches on the back side. Cronin and DeAugustino have met four times in their careers with DeAugustino holding a 3-1 advantage in those matches. Cronin’s only win was in 2019 as a member of Indiana, a 3-2 decision. Since, Cronin has lost three close matches. This will be a good one, if it happens. After all, a potential matchup between both McKee and DeAugustino last weekend in their dual was a rare double-forfeit.
At this weight, Nebraska has two wrestlers listed on the projected lineup in senior Boo Dryden (6-3) and junior Alex Thomsen (2-3). Dryden is an honorable mention in the FloWrestling rankings and should get the start. Both Dryden and Thomsen split duals last weekend against Gardner-Webb and Campbell. Both wrestlers took losses, so it’s anyone’s guess who toes the line for the Huskers, but my bet is Dryden.
Whoever does take the mat, they’ll have their work cut out for them. Against Minnesota, Nebraska will see No. 22 Aaron Nagao. The redshirt freshman is 12-3 on the year and has been a nice addition to Minnesota’s salty lineup.
Northwestern will bring No. 11 Chris Cannon to Lincoln. The junior is 9-4 on the year. The two-time All-American is very physical and very good. He’ll be a tough out for either Dryden or Thomsen.
Nebraska boasts No. 4 Brock Hardy here at 141. The redshirt freshman is 17-2 on the year. After a 1-2 start, he’s won 16 straight, including Hardy avenging one of those early losses to No. 5 Ryan Jack on the way to a CKLV championship. Hardy has seven ranked wins on the year and is only improving.
Against Minnesota, Hardy will face No. 11 Jake Bergeland. The senior is 9-4 on the year and has a 6-2 win over No. 14 Dylan Droegemueller of North Dakota State. Droegemueller beat Hardy 10-4 to open the year. I know, the transitive property doesn’t really translate to wrestling very well, and a lot has happened for Hardy since his 0-1 start. But it’s worth noting. Bergeland is coming off a 2-1 decision loss to No. 10 Frankie Tal Shahar of Northwestern.
Facing Tal Shahar on Sunday, Hardy will face a tough test as the Wildcat just beat Bergeland and is 3-1 on the year. His one loss this year was a medical forfeit at the Midlands Championships.
Hardy has proven to be extremely well-rounded. He’s proven to be a hammer on top with his team-leading six pins in addition to four major decisions and a tech fall. These will not be easy matches by any means and both Bergeland and Tal Shahar are capable of beating Hardy, but he should be slightly favored in both.
Nebraska has struggled all year at this weight. In the absence of NCAA finalist Ridge Lovett due to a redshirt, the Huskers have gone mostly with Dayne Morton. A DII transfer, Morton has struggled with a 3-7 record, although his last match he beat Campbell’s Chris Rivera soundly 5-0. They also sent out redshirt freshman Blake Cushing in a dual last weekend against Gardner-Webb. Cushing, a Grand Island standout in high school, won a 5-2 decision over Corbin Dion for his first career dual win. Normally a 141-pounder, Cushing is now 10-3 on the year. Both are listed on the projected lineup.
Again, whoever takes the mat will have a tall task. Against Minnesota, the Huskers will face No. 18 Michael Blockhus. A senior, Blockhus is 9-2 on the year and is coming off a 2-1 loss in tiebreakers to No. 4 Yahya Thomas of Northwestern.
Against Northwestern’s Thomas, the Huskers will face one of the best in the country. A Midlands champion, Thomas’ only loss this year came to No. 3 Sammy Sasso of Ohio State.
Here, the Huskers get to send out the best in the country at 157. Top-ranked Peyton Robb is 14-0 on the year and hasn’t really been challenged all that much along the way. He won a CKLV title and has six wins over ranked opponents, including wins over the current No. 2 Jared Franek (NDSU) 7-4 and No. 3 Kendall Coleman (Purdue) 7-3.
This weekend, he’ll face both No. 10 Brayton Lee of Minnesota and No. 9 Trevor Chumbley of Northwestern.
Robb has faced Lee once, a 4-0 decision loss to the Gopher. Since that time, Robb finished fourth at NCAAs and has been dominant all season, while Lee suffered an injury during the season last year and has struggled to a 3-3 record since returning this year. He’s coming off an 8-4 loss to Chumbley. It’s worth noting that his three losses came to Top-10 guys.
Chumbley is now 17-2 on the year with the win over Lee. It’s obvious that Chumbley’s stock is on the rise. The junior has some solid wins on the year and looks like a real threat in the Big Ten. Robb will need to be on top of his game if he wants to come out of this match still undefeated.
Here at 165, Nebraska has No. 21 Bubba Wilson. The sophomore is 9-6 on the year. He finished fourth at CKLV but also dropped a match in sudden victory to Gardner-Webb’s RJ Mosley in a dual last weekend. He’s been slightly up and down this year, so this weekend will represent a great opportunity to start Big Ten play on the right footing.
Wilson will face Minnesota’s Andrew Sparks on Friday night before taking on Northwestern’s Maxx Mayfield on Sunday. Both wrestlers are honorable mentions in the rankings, so they’ll definitely challenge and could very well beat Wilson.
Sparks is 11-6 on the year, while Mayfield — a Lincoln East graduate — is 17-5. In his first year as the starter, Mayfield has been solid. He’ll present a tough test for Wilson.
Honestly, both of these matches could be considered toss-ups.
Here is another of Nebraska’s heavy hitters in No. 2 Mikey Labriola. The senior is a three-time All-American and is 15-0 this season with a win over a national champion to his name.
This weekend, Labriola will likely face Minnesota’s No. 14 Bailee O’Reilly and Northwestern’s No. 21 Troy Fisher.
Labriola is 4-0 in his career against O’Reilly with three wins by decision. He’s 1-0 against Fisher, a 19-7 major decision in 2021.
Look for Labriola to keep his undefeated season rolling.
Formerly a prized recruit, Nebraska’s No. 15 Lenny Pinto missed his senior year of high school as well as his first year of college (his redshirt season a year ago) due to a knee injury. So, this year has been his first real competition since October of 2020.
He’s had some obvious growing pains, but the redshirt freshman has had some impressive performances. He has wins over two Top-10 opponents in No. 7 Trey Munoz of Oregon State and No. 9 Jonathan Loew of Cornell but also dropped three straight matches after reaching the semifinal round at CKLV.
Recently, he’s been improving rapidly. He avenged a CKLV loss when he majored No. 17 Cade King of South Dakota State in dual action a couple weeks later.
This weekend, Pinto will face a measuring stick of sorts in No. 11 Isaiah Salazar of Minnesota. A sophomore, Salazar is 9-1 on the year and represents a solid test to see how high the talented freshman can go. Then against Northwestern, Pinto will likely face redshirt freshman Evan Bates. Bates is 11-9 on the year.
From what I’ve seen, Pinto is exceedingly strong for the weight class and looks to be putting things together at the college level. If he really figures out how good he can be, watch out. After all, he was a Pennsylvania state champ as a junior before losing out on his senior year.
Nebraska’s No. 15 Silas Allred has had a solid start to his career as a starter. He’s 14-4 on the year with some impressive wins. His four losses are to ranked opponents while he has wins over No. 13 Gavin Hoffman of Ohio State and No. 16 Owen Pentz of North Dakota State.
This weekend, Allred will take on Minnesota’s Michial Foy (10-4), an honorable mention in the rankings, on Friday night. Then on Sunday, Allred will face Andrew Davison (13-6), also an honorable mention.
Trust me, don’t let the honorable mention fool you. I have seen enough of Foy and Davison to know that they are both dangerous and can absolutely knock off Allred. Now, the Husker should win these two matches, but they’re not easy matches by any means.
Nebraska has struggled at times here with senior Cale Davidson. The former Wyoming transfer is 7-10 on the year.
Against Minnesota, Davidson will face Garrett Joles who is 9-7 on the year and listed as an honorable mention in the rankings. With both Davidson and Joles former 197-pounders, this could be a fun and exciting match.
Against Northwestern, Davidson will face No. 4 Lucas Davison. Davison is 11-1 on the year with his lone setback a 6-4 decision to No. 2 Mason Parris of Michigan. This will be a very tough match for Davidson.