The 8th-ranked Huskers will look to add an exclamation point to their season before going into the holiday break when they host the 14th-ranked South Dakota State Jackrabbits Saturday at the Devaney Center.
Up Next ➡️ a top-15 matchup at home on Saturday night. pic.twitter.com/nde9MWRb7E— Nebraska Wrestling (@HuskerWrestling) December 11, 2023
The Jackrabbits are 3-1 on the season with their only loss a 19-13 setback to No. 12 Minnesota. They finished 10th at CKLV with four placers.
In Division I, this may be the dual of the week as we head into the holiday break. Both of these teams could field seven ranked wrestlers each with five potential matchups between ranked guys. Obviously, it’s never known who will actually wrestle, especially in these non-conference duals before the holidays, but we’re going to assume both teams will field their starters.
The dual will air live on Saturday at 6 p.m. on B1G+ (subscription required).
Let’s get into the matchups.
Rankings according to FloWrestling
Likely starting things off will be No. 7 Caleb Smith, a junior who transferred in from Appalachian State this offseason and is off to great start with a 12-1 record.
Smith’s only loss came to No. 11 Jore Volk of Wyoming at the Cliff Keen Invite. Smith finished third in Vegas with wins over No. 4 Matt Ramos and No. 15 Brandon Kaylor.
Smith will likely face No. 17 Tanner Jordan here. A junior, Jordan is 12-3 on the year after placing eighth at CKLV. He lost matches to both Ramos and Kaylor.
This would be another nice feather in Smith’s cap if he gets the ranked win before the holiday break. With the chaos at 125 this year, a 13-1 Smith would have a strong argument for a Top-5 ranking.
After a disappointing CKLV, redshirt freshman Jacob Van Dee will look to get back on track against SDSU’s No. 17 Derrick Cardinal.
Van Dee is 7-3 on the year after going 2-2 in Vegas. He’s yet to earn a ranked win this year, so this will be a great opportunity for the young Husker. Cardinal is 12-4 on the year after finishing in 6th place at CKLV, highlighted by a 14-3 major decision win over No. 13 Domenic Zaccone.
On paper, Cardinal is the favorite, but Van Dee has had his moments this year that prove he’s able to contend. This could be a sneaky good match to watch.
Nebraska’s No. 6 Brock Hardy will try to get back on the winning side after dropping three straight matches at CKLV as he finished sixth. Hardy is 8-3 on the year, winning his first eight matches before falling to No. 3 Jesse Mendez in the semis in Vegas.
Hardy will likely see junior Caleb Gross, who is 9-5 on the year while spelling No. 8 Clay Carlson. Carlson is out with injury until January. Gross has been solid this year, but I have the feeling Hardy will come out intent on righting the ship.
Look for Hardy to rack up some bonus points in this one.
Top-ranked Ridge Lovett is fresh off a CKLV title and comes into this dual with a perfect 11-0 record. He beat No. 2 Caleb Henson in the finals 4-3.
Against SDSU, Lovett will face either Alek Martin or Daniel Kimball. Martin, a sophomore, is 4-3 on the year, while the junior Kimball is 9-2 in open tournaments.
Either way, it doesn’t much matter. Lovett seems intent on smashing away this season, so I expect a pin or tech here.
Another CKLV champ for the Huskers, No. 3 Peyton Robb is 12-0 this year after running a gauntlet in Vegas while racking up multiple wins over top ranked guys.
Robb will likely face No. 18 Cael Swensen of SDSU on Saturday. These two met at CKLV with Robb winning a dominant 10-0 major decision. Swensen is 4-3 on the year, but his three losses all came to top-15 guys. A national qualifier last year, Swensen was one win shy of All-American honors.
Seeing as these two wrestled just two weeks ago and it wasn’t even close, I look for Robb to instill his will again.
Nebraska’s redshirt freshman No. 19 Antrell Taylor started this season off strong with a 6-0 record going into CKLV, but the momentum took a hit as he finished 2-2 in Vegas and didn’t place.
Still, Taylor is a super talent that just needs experience at the Division I level. He has a nice opportunity on Saturday as he takes on SDSU’s No. 27 Tanner Cook. Cook is 3-2 on the year but he’s still a two-time NCAA qualifier, so he can’t be overlooked.
I think Taylor gets back in the win column here, but I’ll be interested to see if it’s close or if Taylor can blow the match open.
So far this season, it seems that nobody has really taken hold of the starting spot here.
Elise Brown Ton started Nebraska’s opener, but Adam Thebeau has been the team’s starter since. True freshman Christopher Minto has been in the mix as well. Brown Ton is 12-4 on the year so far, while Minto is 9-2. Thebeau is 6-3 after going 1-2 at CKLV.
I’ll be really interested to see who Nebraska sends out there as Big Ten season approaches. I imagine the Huskers will use these next three duals to help work out who they’re going to send out to start Big Ten play against Iowa.
Against SDSU, Nebraska’s 174-pounder will face a tough task against No. 3 Cade DeVos. The junior is 8-0 on the year after winning a CKLV title.
Nebraska’s No. 5 Lenny Pinto has had an impressive start to his season. He finished fourth at CKLV, beating then-No. 5 Dustin Plott and giving No. 1 Parker Keckeisen his closest match.
Pinto is 10-2 this year and will likely face redshirt freshman Bennett Berge. Ranked No. 24, Berge just won a U20 World bronze medal this summer in freestyle. He’s 4-1 this year, but he lost a match via major decision to NC State’s backup Brock Delsignore, so I’m skeptical that he’s ready for someone like Pinto.
In maybe the night’s premier matchup, Nebraska’s No. 12 Silas Allred will look to get revenge on SDSU’s No. 6 Tanner Sloan. Sloan defeated Allred 12-1 at CKLV. Sloan finished third in Vegas while Allred took fifth.
In their careers, Allred is 0-3 against Sloan with two of the losses coming via major decision. Let’s see if Allred can close the gap against the 2023 NCAA finalist.
It’s no secret that the Huskers have struggled at heavyweight this year with redshirt freshman Harley Andrews sporting a 4-6 record on the year so far. He is 0-2 in duals and went 1-2 at CKLV.
On Saturday, Andrews will take on fellow freshman Luke Rasmussen, who is 6-3 on the year. Rasmussen went 3-2 at CKLV.
Getting on track at heavyweight would be a big boost for this Husker team.