The 9th-ranked Huskers started their season with a solid 31-12 win on the road over North Dakota State.
This Friday, the Huskers will be hosting Campbell on their alumni night for their home-opener. The Campbell Fighting Camels will bring a solid team to Lincoln and should be able to push the Huskers in a lot of these matchups. Last season, Nebraska traveled to face Campbell and left with a 37-6 win.
Nebraska will have nine ranked wrestlers going into this matchup, led by four Top-6 guys in Brock Hardy, Ridge Lovett, Peyton Robb and Silas Allred.
“I thought overall guys like Antrell (Taylor) obviously performed really well (against NDSU),” Nebraska Head Coach Mark Manning said. “Ridge and Peyton and Lenny and Silas, they’re rock stars. They’re out there just forcing their will on people.”
The Camels started their season with a 25-9 win over Army West Point before going to the Southeast Open this past weekend and seeing a lot of success.
Campbell brings five ranked wrestlers to this dual, led by No. 10 Domenic Zaccone at 133 pounds and No. 16 Taye Ghadiali at heavyweight.
The dual will air live on Friday at 7 p.m. on BTN+ (subscription required).
Rankings according to FloWrestling
Starting things off for the Huskers will be No. 13 Caleb Smith who started his Husker career with a 9-5 decision over North Dakota State’s Carlos Negrete Jr.
“I thought Caleb Smith really set the tone,” Manning said. “He really dominated the match – the score wasn’t huge, but he was really relaxed.”
Smith will likely face Campbell’s Zander Phaturos here. A redshirt freshman, Phaturos is 5-2 on the year so far. After taking a 6-1 loss to Army’s No. 22 Ethan Berginc to start the year, Phaturos went 5-1 in finishing fifth at the Southeast Open in the Freshman/Sophomore division.
Another option for Campbell here is junior Anthony Molton. He hasn’t wrestled a match this year yet, but he’s 22-22 in his career.
A junior who’s qualified for NCAAs twice, Smith should be too much for Phaturos or Molton.
In what could be the match of the night for the Huskers, they’ll get to see what young Jacob Van Dee can do against a ranked opponent at 133 pounds.
Now ranked No. 32 in the country, Van Dee won his first match of the season, a 5-1 decision over NDSU’s Fernando Barreto. Now, he’ll get to test himself against Campbell’s No. 10 Domenic Zaccone.
A junior, Zaccone is 1-0 this year with a 12-10 win over Army’s Braden Basile. He has a career 38-18 record. He’ll be a tough test for Van Dee for sure, a true measuring stick match.
In last year’s dual, Zaccone beat Nebraska’s Alex Thomsen 4-1.
Nebraska will see No. 4 Brock Hardy re-enter the lineup here after he took the NDSU dual off after winning a bronze medal at the U23 World Championships just a couple weeks ago. Nebraska’s Blake Cushing, a Grand Island native, got the nod but dropped his match 9-4.
Hardy comes in off securing All-American honors last season with a 30-8 record. He’ll take on Campbell’s Chris Rivera. A junior, Rivera is 3-2 so far this season. He beat Army’s Zach Keal 4-1 before going 2-2 at the Southeast Open.
Another option for the Fighting Camels is freshman Wynton Denkins who went 4-2 at the Southeast Open in the Freshman/Sophomore division. Last year’s starter Shannon Hanna is a senior who’s redshirting up at 149 pounds — he has a career 60-38 record but fell to Hardy via pinfall last year.
Back from his redshirt season, top-ranked Ridge Lovett beat down No. 12 Kellyn March 11-1 in his season-opener.
Up next for Lovett will be Campbell’s Justin Rivera. A junior, Rivera is 2-3 on the year. After losing to Army’s Trae McDaniel 7-0, he went 2-2 at the Southeast Open. In last year’s dual, Nebraska’s Dayne Morton beat Rivera 5-0.
Another option for Campbell would be Hagen Heistand, a redshirt freshman that’s 6-1 on the year after taking fifth at the Southeast Open’s F/S division.
I see Lovett working for a pin or tech in this matchup.
Peyton Robb made his return to the mat on Saturday and dismantled NDSU’s Landon Johnson via 18-3 tech fall.
In his return to the Devaney Center, Robb will take on Campbell’s Chris Earnest. A freshman, Earnest is 5-1 on the year. He opened the season with a 9-6 win over then-No. 21 Nathan Lukez of Army. He followed that up with a runner-up finish at the Southeast Open’s F/S division.
Also an option for Campbell will be redshirt freshman Gunner Endicott. He is 5-1 on the season after taking 5th-place at the Southeast Open’s F/S division. Another possibility for the Camels would be senior Troy Nation — he hasn’t wrestled this year yet but has a 33-16 career record.
Regardless of who takes the mat for Campbell, I see a big win for Robb. Definitely a tech or a pin.
While discussing the Hardy-Lovett-Robb gauntlet in the lineup recently, Manning said this:
“Independently, they’re champions in their mindset and what they bring to the program and how they feed off each other, it’s inspiring. Their expectation for this year is high and we wouldn’t want it any other way. They’re elite, and what makes them elite is that they’re not satisfied with just being good.”
Nebraska’s No. 26 Antrell Taylor started his career as a starter off with a bang when he pinned NDSU’s Brendan Howes in the first period. A redshirt freshman, Taylor beat out preseason-ranked No. 9 Bubba Wilson in their wrestle-off to earn his starting gig.
Taylor will take on Campbell’s Domonic Baker here. A sophomore, Baker is 4-1 on the year. After losing a 4-1 decision to Army’s Dalton Hawkins, Baker won a championship at the Southeast Open in the F/S division with a 4-0 record. In last year’s dual, Baker was pinned by Wilson.
I see the young Husker getting another emphatic win here.
After stumbling out of the blocks against NDSU’s No. 23 Gaven Sax 8-3, Nebraska’s No. 24-ranked Elise Brown Ton looks to rebound against Campbell’s No. 29 Austin Murphy.
A senior, Murphy is 4-1 on the year. After a 4-2 win over Army’s Gunner Filipowicz, Murphy went 3-1 at the Southeast Open, losing only a 2-1 decision to No. 9 Travis Wittlake.
This match is definitely one of interest because I think the development of Nebraska’s non-superstar starters is what will propel this team to a team trophy or not at NCAAs.
If I was forced to pick, I’d go with Murphy in this one, but just slightly.
After a dominant 19-4 tech fall in his season-opener, Nebraska’s No. 14 Lenny Pinto will face his first real test of the year against Campbell’s No. 23 Caleb Hopkins. Pinto did defeat Hopkins last season 14-6 via major decision.
A senior, Hopkins is 3-2 on the year. He opened the season with an 8-0 major decision over then-No. 14 Ben Pasiuk of Army. After that, Hopkins went 2-2 at the Southeast Open, finishing in 4th-place with both of his losses to ranked guys.
Hopkins is solid, but Pinto looks like a man on a mission. A very large, strong man.
Another Husker that looks in peak form this past Saturday was Silas Allred. Ranked No. 6 in the country, Allred demolished Spencer Mooberry to the tune of a 20-4 tech fall.
On Friday, Allred will face Campbell’s No. 19 Levi Hopkins. A junior, Hopkins is 4-1 on the year. After a shutout decision against Army, Hopkins made it to the finals of the Southeast Open, falling short 7-2 against No. 12 Evan Bockman of Utah Valley.
This is a step up in competition for Allred, but there’s still no reason he can’t impose his will in this match. Last year, Allred downed Hopkins via 8-3 decision, and I’d be willing to bet it won’t be that close this time around.
With Pinto and Allred back-to-back in the lineup and the same grade, they often get lumped together. They’re both All-American threats this season at the least.
“They’ve made a lot of growth over the summer, and that’s where it really starts. Just their mentality, their belief and confidence,” Manning said. “Lenny and Silas have the confidence from last year and they just want to take it to another level. They both have super tough weight classes — they’ll be matched up against a lot of big physical guys.”
After starting his redshirt freshman season with a loss via pinfall, Harley Andrews gets a shot at righting the ship in a big way this Friday.
Andrews will take on Campbell’s No. 16 Taye Ghadiali. A junior, Ghadiali is 5-0 on the year and has won every match via tech fall or pinfall. He pinned Army’s Lucas Stoddard before winning the Southeast Open with two techs then two pins over ranked guys — No. 19 Boone McDermott in the semis and No. 17 Michael Wolfgram in the finals.
In last year’s dual, Ghadiali beat Nebraska’s starter Cale Davidson 5-3 by decision.
For Andrews, a lot of his struggles come down to gaining experience.
“We just need more seasoning with him. He needs to be able to figure out how to win these big moments,” Manning said. “He had an opportunity to put the guy on his back in the first period and he missed out there. Harley is going to get better and he needs to get better in situational wrestling.”
Facing a ranked opponent on the rise, Andrews has a golden opportunity here to steal Ghadiali’s momentum.