On Saturday night, the Huskers welcomed South Dakota State to the Devaney Center for a dual before taking a break for the holidays.
Ranked No. 8 by the coaches, Nebraska had a much more eventful night than anticipated going in. We saw some lineup changes and some weight class changes as the Huskers continue to tinker with their lineup to start the year.
The dual ended up being much closer than expected, but the Huskers still pulled off the 21-17 win to improve to 3-0 on the year.
Junior Kyle Burwick got his first start of the year while Bubba Wilson moved up a weight and took one of the best guys in the country to the brink. Then we saw Big Ten Champion Silas Allred move up to heavyweight and Brandyn Van Tassell slide in at 197 in his stead.
*FloWrestling individual rankings used
Nebraska’s No. 7 Caleb Smith started the dual as he has all year, with a win. Facing No. 17 Tanner Jordan, who Smith lost to last year while at Appalachian State, Smith showed a lot of veteran savvy.
Smith fell into a 3-0 hole early after a takedown from Jordan and a healthy ride, but the Husker scored a reversal late in the period before putting Jordan on his back briefly on a mat return, giving him a 4-3 lead going into the second period.
In the second, Smith started on bottom and eventually got another reversal to go up 6-3 before riding Jordan out for the rest of the period.
In the third, Smith gave up an escape and held on for the 6-4 decision win, improving to 13-1 on the year.
Team Score: Nebraska 3, SDSU 0
Getting his first start of the year, Kyle Burwick took on SDSU’s No. 17 Derrick Cardinal.
Cardinal got a first-period takedown before riding the period out. Burwick then started the second on top before Cardinal went up 5-0 with a reversal.
In the third, Burwick started on bottom and eventually got an escape but dropped the match via 6-1 decision, dropping him to 3-2 on the year.
Team Score: Nebraska 3, SDSU 3
After a disappointing Cliff Keen Invite in Vegas, Nebraska’s No. 6 Brock Hardy didn’t leave anything up to chance against Caleb Gross.
The Husker sophomore scored an early takedown before locking up a cradle and sticking Gross to the mat in just over two minutes.
With the win, Hardy improves to 9-3 on the year.
Team Score: Nebraska 9, SDSU 3
Facing SDSU’s Alek Martin, Nebraska’s No. 1 Ridge Lovett got all he could handle in a closer-than-anticipated match.
After coming out to the mat to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas”, Lovett scored the match’s only takedown in the first period to go up 3-0. Martin secured an escape but gave up a second stall call late, giving Lovett a 4-1 lead going into the second.
In the second, Martin chose bottom and was ridden out for the full period, although he made Lovett work for it. In the third, Lovett chose bottom but was unable to get an escape, although Martin was hit for stalling again, giving Lovett the 5-1 decision win.
Lovett improves to 12-0 on the year with the win.
Team Score: Nebraska 12, SDSU 3
Facing a familiar foe in No. 18 Cael Swensen, Nebraska’s No. 3 Peyton Robb got his second win of the year over the Jackrabbit. Robb beat Swensen 10-0 at Cliff Keen in Vegas a couple weeks ago.
Robb took Swensen down in the first period before riding him out. In the second, Robb scored an escape. In the third, Robb scored a point on stalling and a riding-time point, giving him a 6-0 decision win.
Robb improves to 13-0 on the year with the victory.
Team Score: Nebraska 15, SDSU 3
Facing a much taller and longer No. 27 Tanner Cook of SDSU, Nebraska’s No. 19 Antrell Taylor was facing a very unorthodox opponent, especially as a natural 157-pounder wrestling up a weight this year.
After a scoreless first period, Taylor scored an escape early before getting a late takedown on a beautiful duck-under to double to go up 4-0. In the third, Cook scored an escape, but Taylor added a late takedown on a counter to earn a 7-1 decision win.
Taylor improves to 9-2 on the year with the ranked win.
Team Score: Nebraska 18, SDSU 3
At a weight in flux that’s seen three guys throw their names in the ring, Nebraska added a fourth on Saturday night with former 165-pound starter Bubba Wilson bumping up to take on SDSU’s No. 3-ranked Cade DeVos.
And despite a losing effort, Wilson may have just won the job at 174.
A two-time NCAA qualifier at 165, Wilson gave up the first takedown to DeVos but worked for the escape. He then showed off some of his patented defense as he staved off some late offense from DeVos.
In the second period, DeVos scored a quick escape. In the third, Wilson got an escape of his own, cutting the DeVos lead to 4-2. Both wrestlers let it fly with a few solid scrambles over the last minute and a half, but Wilson eventually fell short 4-2.
With such a solid showing against one of the best in the country to go along with Nebraska’s struggles at 174, Wilson seems like the best option as the Huskers will soon turn the page into Big Ten season.
Wilson is now 3-3 on the year, so nothing is guaranteed. He’ll be competing with sophomore Adam Thebeau, junior Elise Brown Ton and freshman Christopher Minto for the starting spot.
Team Score: Nebraska 18, SDSU 6
Facing a multi-time age-level World champion, Nebraska’s No. 5 Lenny Pinto was impressive. Although he’s just a redshirt freshman, SDSU’s No. 24 Bennett Berge is a U17 and U20 World medalist.
After a scoreless first period, Pinto struck first with an escape in the second. Pinto then hit a sweep single followed by a big lift through the crotch for a takedown, ride-out and 4-0 lead.
184 | Lenny takes a 4-1 lead into the final period. pic.twitter.com/0ZDRznHUtH— Nebraska Wrestling (@HuskerWrestling) December 17, 2023
In the third, Berge got a quick escape, but Pinto countered late for another takedown, giving him the 8-2 decision win with riding time. Pinto is now 11-2 on the year.
Team Score: Nebraska 21, SDSU 6
In a surprise development, Nebraska sent out Brandyn Van Tassell here. Originally a 184-pounder to start the year, Van Tassell took on SDSU’s No. 6 Tanner Sloan.
The Jackrabbit senior showed why he’s one of the best in the country as he scored an opening takedown before scoring 13 nearfall points on the way to a 16-0 tech fall win over Van Tassell in the second period.
Team Score: Nebraska 21, SDSU 11
In another even bigger surprise, Nebraska sent out its 197-pound Big Ten champ Silas Allred at heavyweight to take on SDSU’s Luke Rasmussen.
Allred shot in on some early offense only for Rasmussen to counter for a takedown. Allred then scored an escape to cut the lead to 3-1. Allred shot in with 10 seconds left in the first period and appeared to hit his head on Rasmussen’s knee, leaving him stunned and frozen in place before stumbling back. It was a scary sight.
Allred was taken back for concussion protocols and was forced to medically forfeit out of the match, giving SDSU the win and the six team points.