The 10th-ranked Huskers will look to keep their impressive Big Ten season going. Despite a lopsided loss to No. 2 Iowa, the Huskers are still 3-1 in the conference (7-3 overall) with wins over No. 12 Minnesota, No. 13 Northwestern and No. 15 Wisconsin.
Next up for the Huskers is a road dual against No. 21 Illinois on Friday night before a quick turnaround trip on the road at Purdue. Illinois has some very good wrestlers on its team with five ranked in the Top 25, led by No. 8 Lucas Byrd (133 pounds), No. 8 Edmond Ruth (174) and No. 9 Zac Braunagel (197). Purdue has three ranked wrestlers in its lineup.
After facing some of the better teams in the Big Ten the past few weekends, Nebraska should be a heavy favorite in both dual matchups this weekend. Illinois is 5-5 on the year and just dropped a dual to Minnesota 24-9, while Purdue is 4-8 and 0-5 in the conference. The Boilermakers have lost six duals in a row.
Looking at these teams and how they match up with the Huskers, there are some very interesting matchups on deck this weekend. However, with the Huskers’ relative strength up and down the lineup, they should win both duals fairly comfortably. In fact, with Purdue’s three heavy-hitters going in as underdogs against three of Nebraska’s best wrestlers, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Huskers were able to blank the Boilermakers. That is, if the Huskers send out their entire starting lineup. In a match like this one at Purdue, it seems like an opportunity for the Husker coaches to get some of their freshmen/backups some action in a Big Ten dual.
Both duals will air on B1G+ (subscription required) with the Illinois dual Friday night at 7 p.m. and the Purdue dual Saturday at 5 p.m.
Rankings according to FloWrestling
It seems like the story every weekend has been Nebraska’s No. 3 Liam Cronin and his schedule full of top opponents. He’s already faced four of the Top-10 wrestlers in the country, going 3-1 with his only loss a pinfall to No. 1 Spencer Lee of Iowa. He still has three more of the Top-10 on the schedule, including Purdue’s No. 4 Matt Ramos on Saturday.
Much like Cronin, Ramos’ only conference loss on the season was a pinfall against Lee, but the Boilermaker sophomore did jump out to an early 8-1 lead on the three-tie NCAA champion before getting put on his back.
This matchup will likely decide who gets the 2-seed at the Big Ten tournament, putting them on the opposite side of the bracket as Lee.
Before he takes on Ramos, Cronin will likely face Illinois’ Maximo Renteria. A redshirt freshman, Renteria has struggled to a 3-9 record on the year. Cronin could absolutely put up bonus points in this matchup as a heavy favorite. Also, this may be an opportunity to rest Cronin for a match and send out freshman backup Jacob Van Dee.
This is a weight that the Huskers have struggled all season at, going just 3-7 in duals. They have started Boo Dryden (3-2 in duals), Alex Thomsen (0-1 in duals) and Kyle Burwick (0-4 in duals) here with little success. Dryden is 6-4 on the year, while Burwick has been the starter during Big Ten play and is 10-4 overall with his 10-0 start coming in open tournaments. Thomsen started one dual this year and is 4-4.
With Burwick struggling, especially in getting out from bottom, I think it’s possible the Huskers roll out Dryden this weekend. Regardless of who goes, they’ll have a difficult task Friday night against Illinois’ No. 8 Lucas Byrd. Byrd is a two-time All-American and is 20-3 on the year. He’s very good and should be considered a heavy favorite against whomever the Huskers send out to toe the line.
Against Purdue, the Huskers will face redshirt freshman Dustin Norris. Norris is 11-11 on the year and presents a much more winnable matchup for either Burwick or Dryden.
Nebraska’s No. 4 Brock Hardy is 20-3 on the season and has a couple pretty tough opponents on deck this weekend.
First, the redshirt freshman Husker will face Illinois’ Danny Pucino. Pucino is an honorable mention in the rankings and is 13-6 on the year.
Then against Purdue on Saturday, Hardy will face No. 16 Parker Filius. The senior is 15-6 on the year and has been a tough out for years in the Big Ten.
Hardy is certainly favored in both of these matchups, but both of these guys present some challenges as they’re both well over .500 on the year.
Nebraska’s Dayne Morton continues to be serviceable in his role for this Husker team. After a slow start in non-conference play, Morton is 2-2 in Big Ten duals with a win over No. 18 Michael Blockhus of Minnesota. Most recently, Morton downed Wisconsin’s Aidan Medora 7-3.
This weekend, Morton (5-9 on the year) will face a pair of unranked opponents who are also under .500 on the year. Against Illinois, Morton will likely face former Husker Kevon Davenport. The sophomore transferred last season to Illinois and is 6-8 this year as its starter.
Against Purdue, Morton will likely face Trey Kruse. Kruse is a sophomore with a 6-11 record this season.
With two very winnable matches this weekend after showing marked improvement this season, Morton could really increase his stock with a pair of wins.
For Nebraska’s No. 1 Peyton Robb, it’s been a season of top-shelf opponents and he’s had not much trouble mowing through the field in building his perfect 19-0 record. He has wins over nine wrestlers currently ranked in the Top 25, including a 7-4 decision over No. 2 Jared Franek, two wins over No. 6 Ed Scott, and a 7-3 decision win over No. 7 Kendall Coleman of Purdue.
This weekend will be no different as he’s slated to face No. 11 Mike Carr of Illinois before a second matchup against Coleman.
A former 149-pounder, Carr has wrestled only 10 matches since 2020 as he’s missed multiple seasons due to injury. In fact, he kind of came out of nowhere to recently take the 157-pound spot for Illinois. He’s only had three matches since returning in January but is 3-0 with a 12-7 win over No. 12 Cobe Siebrecht of Iowa under his belt.
Then on Saturday, Robb will face Coleman again after downing him in the finals of the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas. Coleman is 24-3 on the year with losses to Robb and Franek, the top two wrestlers in the country, but he also recently dropped a match to Wisconsin’s No. 17 Garrett Model. Robb just majored Model 11-3.
I look for Robb to add two more ranked wins to his resume this weekend.
Nebraska’s Bubba Wilson has struggled since Big Ten competition started as he’s 0-4 in conference duals, all against ranked opponents. He’s 9-10 overall on the year.
This weekend, Wilson will face another ranked foe in Illinois’ No. 16 Danny Braunagel. Braunagel is 17-7 on the year and is 1-0 against Wilson, downing the Husker via 12-2 major decision a year ago in this dual.
On Saturday night, Wilson will take on Purdue’s Stoney Buell. A redshirt freshman, Buell is 7-12 on the year.
Wilson will have his hands full with Braunagel Friday night but he should be able to get a win against Buell.
For Nebraska’s No. 2 Mikey Labriola, it’s so far been the best season of his career. He’s 19-0 with a win over an NCAA champion.
This weekend, he’ll get a chance to reaffirm his place among the top with a match against No. 8 Edmond Ruth of Illinois. The brother of three-time NCAA champion Ed Ruth of Penn State, Ruth is a sophomore with a 22-2 record. Big brother Ruth is on staff as an assistant at Illinois. Ruth lost his first match of the year against No. 6 Ethan Smith and was on a 22-match win streak before falling to then-No. 14 Bailee O’Reilly of Minnesota this past weekend.
On Saturday, Labriola will face Purdue’s Cooper Noehre. The sophomore Boilermaker is 8-10 on the year.
The matchup of Labriola vs. Ruth is one of the best matchups in the Big Ten at 174 pounds and will likely play a big part in seeding for the Big Ten Championships.
I look for Labriola to get a close win against Ruth before blowing things open against Noehre.
Nebraska’s No. 15 Lenny Pinto (11-7 on the season) has looked like a man on a mission this Big Ten season. He’s 2-2 in conference duals, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. His losses were both by one point each to No. 11 Isaiah Salazar of Minnesota and No. 8 Abe Assad of Iowa. His wins were dominant showings against unranked opponents.
This weekend, he’ll get the chance to prove that he’s one of the top 184-pounders in the conference as he takes on Illinois’ Dylan Connell and Purdue’s Ben Vanadia.
Connell is an honorable mention in the rankings and is 16-11 on the year. He’s a redshirt freshman just like Pinto and has been fairly solid all year.
Vanadia is also a redshirt freshman for the Boilermakers and has struggled some with his 10-12 record.
I look for Pinto to pick up two fairly dominant wins here as he separates himself from the middle of the Big Ten pack.
After beating No. 16 Braxton Amos of Wisconsin this past weekend, Nebraska’s No. 12 Silas Allred (17-5) has a chance to move into the Top 10 with a win over Illinois’ No. 9 Zac Braunagel on Friday night.
Braunagel is 19-3 after moving up from 184 to 197 for his junior year. He has two wins over Amos and a win over Iowa’s No. 10 Jacob Warner this year. He’s won his last 10 matches since a loss to former NCAA finalist Nino Bonaccorci, including a title at the Midlands Championships.
Allred will then take on Purdue’s Hayden Filipovich on Saturday. The redshirt freshman Boilermaker is 5-17 on the year and shouldn’t be much of a problem for Allred.
Allred has beaten a handful of guys ranked below him, but he’s still looking for that signature win. Maybe cooling down Braunagel’s hot streak will be just what Allred needs.
Nebraska’s Cale Davidson is 8-13 on the year but is nursing a three-match losing skid to guys ranked Nos. 3, 4 and 10 in the country.
Davidson get a rest from ranked opponents as he takes on Illinois’ Matt Wroblewski and Purdue’s Tristan Ruhlman this weekend.
The senior Wroblewski is 10-13 this season after moving up from 197 pounds to replace the departed two-time NCAA champion Gable Steveson. Also a former 197-pounder, Davidson has a real chance here. These two guys seem to be very evenly matched and this could end up being a fun match.
Ruhlman is a redshirt freshman for the Boilermakers and is 11-7 on the year. He will also pose a stiff challenge for Davidson, who’s proven to be a bit undersized and outmatches at times despite his grittiness and maximum effort. He certainly battles, and maybe his recent tussles with top competition pays off in his ability to beat guys like Wroblewski and Ruhlman.
The outcome of these types of matches will matter a lot when it comes time for tournament seeding.