The 7th-ranked Huskers come into this dual against No. 18 Arizona State having won five straight since their loss to No. 2 Iowa.
To be honest, this dual on Sunday afternoon at the Devaney has kind of lost its luster a bit as No. 18 Arizona State has struggled with a 6-4 dual record. Early in the season, this looked to be a possible matchup of Top-10 programs — maybe even Top 5. Arizona State has dealt with some injuries this season, seeing both Jacori Teemer (157 pounds) and Kordell Norfleet (197) go down with injury. They’ve struggled at times.
But that’s not to say this Arizona State squad isn’t a salty one. The top of their lineup is one of the best in the country. Out of their first four wrestlers, three are ranked in the Top-7. The other comes in at No. 15.
With the typical start to a dual at 125 pounds, this generally means the Sun Devils are able to build an early lead against most opponents. Nebraska matches up well at both 125 and 141, so those matchups will be key in not letting Arizona State build a big lead.
Later in the lineup — where Nebraska is strongest — the Sun Devils aren’t as strong, but they will be bringing out an NCAA finalist at heavyweight.
Nebraska will face Arizona State Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. with the dual televised on BTN.
Rankings according to FloWrestling
After a Big Ten slate that featured five matches against Top-10 opponents, Nebraska’s No. 3 Liam Cronin welcomes one last one to Lincoln in Arizona State’s No. 7 Brandon Courtney.
Cronin went 4-1 against those five top opponents, his only loss via pinfall against Iowa’s No. 1 Spencer Lee. Lee is a three-time NCAA champion. In fact, Cronin has largely not been challenged much in conference action other than that loss to Lee. The Husker senior is 17-3 on the year, and a win here would definitely help when it comes to seeding for the NCAA tournament.
Courtney — a two-time All-American and NCAA finalist in 2021 — is 8-2 on the year and has split time with former top recruit Richard Figueroa. It appears Courtney has won the job and will take the mat in Lincoln.
The Huskers have been using both Kyle Burwick and Boo Dryden here. Most recently, Boo Dryden took the mat but lost to a ranked guy, while Burwick is 1-6 in Big Ten duals.
Whoever Nebraska uses has a tall task against No. 4 Michael McGee. A two-time All-American, McGee is 16-2 on the year and has 115 career wins. This will be a matchup where Nebraska will likely just be trying to not give up bonus points.
In another matchup of ranked opponents, it’s two guys who are very familiar with each other. Meeting for the third time this year, Nebraska’s No. 4 Brock Hardy will take on No. 15 Jesse Vasquez of Arizona State.
Hardy is 24-3 on the year and is 2-0 against Vasquez, pinning him both times. Vasquez is 16-7 this season in his first year starting.
Hardy seems like a heavy favorite here based on their seasons and head-to-head results.
Much like at 133 pounds, Nebraska will be a huge underdog here. The Huskers will likely send out senior Dayne Morton to face No. 5 Kyle Parco.
Morton is 5-11 on the year but wrestled tough against a stacked Big Ten slate. He’s a tough customer, and he’s surprised some guys who weren’t careful. Against Parco, Morton will need something big to get the win, and I’m betting the Huskers would settle for not giving up bonus points.
At this points, Nebraska will probably be behind in the dual (granted things start at 125), and that’s OK. Because the meat of the lineup starts here with No. 1 Peyton Robb. Robb is 22-0 this year and looks like the favorite to win the 157-pound title.
He’ll take on Arizona State’s Maxwell Wilner who is filling in after the loss of Teemer to injury. Wilner is 3-10 on the year.
Robb should absolutely be looking for bonus points here. He leads the team with five tech falls, so it’s definitely a possibility and would be huge in the dual.
This may be one of the tougher matches to predict of this dual. Nebraska’s Bubba Wilson does have a win this year against Arizona State’s Tony Negron, but it was a close 3-1 decision at the Cliff Keen Invite in Las Vegas.
Negron is 8-11 on the year while Wilson is 12-10. Both guys have potential but haven’t been able to put it all together just yet. This could be a fun one to watch.
Another match where Nebraska is heavily favored is No. 2 Mikey Labriola taking on Cael Valencia.
Labriola looks like a national title threat and shouldn’t really have much of a problem with the redshirt freshman who’s 9-8 on the year. While Valencia has won four straight and is supremely talented, Labriola is just at a different level than him right now.
Next up for the Huskers is Labriola’s roommate No. 14 Lenny Pinto. Pinto will take on Arizona State’s No. 20 Anthony Montalvo in the final ranked matchup of the night.
Pinto (18-7) has been on fire lately having won four matches in a row. His only two losses in Big Ten action were one-point defeats to Top-10 guys.
Montalvo is just 5-6 on the year. This looks like a matchup where Pinto could potentially put up some bonus points.
Nebraska has No. 10 Silas Allred here. A redshirt freshman, Allred has won five-straight matches and is 7-1 in Big Ten action. On Sunday, he’ll likely face Arizona State’s Jonathan Fagen.
Now, it’s possible that Norfleet returns from injury as he’s not been ruled out this season, but I don’t see it happening. Instead, Fagen will likely take the mat for the Sun Devils. He’s just 4-11 this year.
Against someone so seemingly outmatched, Allred needs to score bonus points here.
In a rematch from Cliff Keen, Nebraska’s Cale Davidson will again take on No. 5 Cohlton Schultz.
An NCAA finalist and World Team member in Greco-Roman, Schultz was able to pin Davidson in the first period in their first meeting.
Davidson is 9-15 on the year and comes in undersized at heavyweight, while Schultz is a legit heavy. This just isn’t a good matchup for Davidson.