The first day of the Big Ten Championships are in the books...and what a first day it was for the 4th-ranked Huskers.
Nebraska advanced half of its lineup into Sunday’s finals with some big-time wins and sits in third place in the team race behind No. 1 Penn State and No. 2 Iowa.
Penn State is in first place with 120 points while the Hawkeyes are in second with 105.5 points. Nebraska is third with its 98.5 points, and Ohio State is fourth with 77 points. Minnesota is in fifth place with 73 points.
With the finals set, Nebraska has the second-most finalists (5) behind Penn State’s six. Iowa has the next most with three in the finals. With a couple wins in the finals, Nebraska has a chance to overtake Iowa, especially considering the Huskers still have two more wrestlers alive in their consolation semifinals as well.
*FloWrestling rankings used
Nebraska’s 2-seed Liam Cronin fell behind early but recovered to down 7-seed Braxton Brown of Maryland in the quarterfinal round. Down 4-1 to start the second period, Cronin then outscored the Maryland freshman 10-3 the rest of the match, earning the 11-7 decision win.
Cronin then took on 6-seed Michael DeAugustino in the semifinal round, dropping the Wildcat 2-1 in a controlling and measured match.
With the win, Cronin became Nebraska’s first finalist this year and will take on Iowa’s No. 1 Spencer Lee on Sunday afternoon.
Nebraska’s 12-seed Kyle Burwick struggled to get anything going on Saturday.
He started the day with a 10-4 loss to 5-seed Dylan Ragusin of Michigan before dropping a 3-1 decision to 13-seed Dustin Norris in the consolation bracket.
After that — in the 9th-place bracket — Burwick lost his first match to 11-seed Henry Porter of Indiana via 6-2 decision.
With his 0-3 day, Burwick will probably be on the outside looking in at NCAAs. He’s 13-10 on the year.
Nebraska’s 3-seed Brock Hardy used two very controlling wins to advance to Saturday night’s semifinal.
Hardy didn’t give up a single point in his first two matches as he beat 14-seed Kal Miller of Maryland 6-0 in the first round before downing 11-seed Joseph Zargo via 12-0 major decision in the quarters.
In one of the best semis of the day, Hardy took on 2-seed Beau Bartlett of Penn State. Bartlett got the match’s first takedown in the first period to go up 2-0. After that, it was all Hardy as the Husker freshman scored a pair of escapes and a takedown, going into the final period up 4-2. Bartlett got a third-period escape, but Hardy got another takedown and got the riding-time point for the 7-3 decision win.
Onto Sunday’s final, Hardy will get another shot at 1-seed Real Woods of Iowa for conference gold.
Nebraska’s Dayne Morton was eliminated Saturday from the main bracket after losing his first two matches. Morton fell to 6-seed Michael Blockhus via pinfall before losing to 14-seed Jaden Reynolds of Purdue by 3-1 decision.
Dropping down to the 9th-place bracket, Morton received a first-round bye and will take on 10-seed Tony White of Rutgers in the semifinal round of the bracket on Sunday morning.
After a first-round bye, Nebraska’s 1-seed Peyton Robb took on 8-seed Trevor Chumbley of Northwestern in the quarterfinals. Robb was fairly dominant in beating Chumbley via 11-3 major decision, advancing to face 4-seed Chase Saldate of Michigan State in the semis.
Against Saldate, Robb was calculated and hesitant as to avoid Saldate’s wild style. After a scoreless first period, Robb scored an escape and a late takedown to go up 3-0 going into the third period. Saldate then scored an escape and got a takedown in the third to tie things at 3-3, but a Robb escape gave him a 4-3 decision win.
Moving onto the finals, Robb will take on Penn State’s 2-seed Levi Haines Sunday afternoon.
Nebraska’s 10-seed Bubba Wilson didn’t start the day like he wanted, dropping his first match via pinfall to 7-seed Caleb Fish of Michigan State, but he finished it on a high note.
After his loss to Fish, Wilson dropped down to the consolation bracket and faced 9-seed Andrew Sparks of Minnesota. Wilson got a first-period takedown and held on for a 3-2 win.
Advancing to the consolation quarterfinal round, Wilson took on 4-seed Alex Facundo of Penn State. Wilson was able to get a third-period takedown which turned out to be the difference as he earned the 3-2 upset win, advancing him to the consolation semifinal round.
In Sunday’s consolation semis, Wilson will take on Michigan’s 2-seed Cam Amine.
Nebraska’s 2-seed Mikey Labriola took care of his business on Saturday as he positioned himself in Sunday’s final.
Labriola used a pair of escapes to down Iowa’s 7-seed Nelson Brands 5-2 in the quarters before scoring another late takedown to beat 3-seed Ethan Smith of Ohio State via 4-2 decision.
The undefeated Labriola (26-0) will take on the also undefeated and top-seeded Carter Starocci of Penn State in Sunday’s Big Ten final.
Nebraska’s 7-seed Lenny Pinto started his first Big Ten tournament in thrilling fashion as he pinned Wisconsin’s 10-seed Tyler Dow in the first period.
With that win, Pinto moved on to take on 2-seed Kaleb Romero in the quarters. Pinto took the early lead with a first-period takedown, but Romero was able to take a late third-period 4-3 lead with a takedown with 45 seconds left. Romero was able to ride out Pinto for the win.
Pinto then dropped to the second round of consolations and took on Illinois’ 9-seed Dylan Connell who suffered a head injury early in the match and was forced to injury default out.
In the quarterfinal round of the consolation bracket, Pinto again advanced, this time due to a medical forfeit by Michigan State’s 6-seed Layne Malczewski.
Pinto will face Michigan’s 4-seed Matt Finesilver in the consolation semifinal round on Sunday morning.
After a first-round bye, Nebraska’s 2-seed Silas Allred took on Ohio State’s 7-seed Gavin Hoffman in the quarterfinals. Allred used a pair of takedowns in the match to go along with some riding time to earn the 6-2 decision win.
Moving to the semis, Allred faced 3-seed Zac Braunagel of Illinois. After a scoreless first period, Allred scored an escape and a last-second takedown to go up 3-0 going into the third.
In the final period, Allred gave up an escape and a takedown, tying the match at 3-3. Allred was cut loose by Braunagel for the escape point and was able to fend off the late burst to hold onto the 4-3 decision win.
Allred will take on top-seeded Max Dean of Penn State in Sunday’s final.
Filling in for injured starter Cale Davidson, 14-seed Austin Emerson finished his career on Saturday.
The senior lost a 10-0 major decision to Iowa’s 3-seed Tony Cassioppi in the first round before falling to 11-seed Garrett Joles of Minnesota via 3-1 decision.
Onto the 9th-place bracket, Emerson lost a first-round match 4-0 against 12-seed Ryan Vasbinder of Michigan State.
With the 0-3 day, Emerson falls to 10-7 on the year.