In what is possibly the most anticipated dual of the season for the Huskers, #6 Iowa comes to town Friday night as the Huskers look to end their 12-dual losing streak to the Hawkeyes.
Ranked #2 in the country according to FloWrestling’s team tournament rankings, Nebraska hasn’t beaten the Hawkeyes since 2005, a 24-13 win for the Huskers.
Check out our conversation from Thursday night’s Five Heart Podcast:
But compared to recent years, the Hawkeyes seem semi-vulnerable this season, although they still field one of the better teams in the country. After losing three-time NCAA champion Spencer Lee and four-time All-American Jacob Warner to graduation, Iowa also lost heavyweight Tony Cassioppi, 174-pounder Nelson Brands and 197-pounder Abe Assad to gambling suspensions. It’s safe to say that Iowa is in a rebuilding year and has built this team with a combination of transfers, former backups and freshmen.
During the offseason, Iowa brought in All-American transfers Jared Franek and Michael Caliendo from North Dakota State to join former Stanford transfer Real Woods to form the backbone of this team. The Hawkeyes also brought in impact freshmen Gabe Arnold and Ben Kueter who could factor into Friday’s dual.
In all, Nebraska has nine ranked wrestlers while Iowa has eight in the rankings. Nebraska’s lone unranked wrestler may be the most talked about with Nash Hutmacher making his debut in a Husker singlet last weekend. Will he take the mat against the Hawkeyes? According to head coach Mark Manning, he will.
"Polar Bear is gonna hit the mat, and maybe bring us home a victory on Friday night."@Coach_Manning of @HuskerWrestling joined the show today to preview their dual with Iowa on Friday, confirming that Nash Hutmacher will be wrestling against the Hawkeyes at heavyweight.— Hail Varsity Radio (@HVarsityRadio) January 11, 2024
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The dual will air live Friday on the B1G Network at 6:30 p.m.
Rankings according to FloWrestling
We’ll start Friday’s dual with a Top-10 matchup as Nebraska’s #5 Caleb Smith takes on #9 Drake Ayala of Iowa.
Smith is 14-2 on the year with both losses coming to #11 Jore Volk of Wyoming, while Ayala is 9-1 this season with his only loss a 7-6 decision to Oregon State’s Brandon Kaylor. Smith beat Kaylor 4-1 in sudden victory at the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas earlier this season.
This won’t be the first time these two have met, as they wrestled in 2022 when Smith was at Appalachian State with Ayala picking up the 5-2 win. I expect this match to be another close one that’s probably decided by a single takedown.
The winner of this match will be a heavy favorite to win the whole dual, I expect it to be that close.
Nebraska’s #32 Jacob Van Dee is 11-5 on the year as a redshirt freshman and he’ll take on Iowa’s #9 Brody Teske, a senior.
Teske is 6-1 on the year with his only loss an 8-1 decision to Iowa State’s #8 Evan Frost. Van Dee did face off against Teske this year with the Hawkeye pulling off a 5-4 decision over Van Dee in the final of the Soldier Salute.
With the last match between these two so close, I see this as a true coin flip situation and the winner of the dual could come down to who won this match as well. With as many toss-up matches as we have here, every match is just so critical when the margins are so thin.
In one of the best matchups of the night, Nebraska’s #8 Brock Hardy will take on #1 Real Woods for the fourth time in their careers.
Hardy is 0-3 against Woods, losing 6-4 in their dual last year and again via 2-1 decision in the Big Ten final. At NCAAs, Hardy broke his rib in his semifinal match with Woods winning the match via 11-1 major decision.
An NCAA finalist last year, Woods is 9-0 this year and looks like the favorite to win his first NCAA title, although Hardy has given him trouble in the past with his funky style.
Can Hardy figure out the puzzle that is Real Woods? Maybe fourth time is a charm. An upset here by Hardy would nearly clinch a win for Nebraska.
Nebraska’s #1 Ridge Lovett will probably take on Iowa’s #14 Caleb Rathjen, the winner of the Soldier Salute a couple weeks ago.
Lovett is 14-0 on the year and won a title at CKLV, while Rathjen is 7-1 this season.
In a dual that’s going to be this close, Nebraska will need Lovett to score bonus points in a matchup he’s heavily favored in. With Lovett’s top game and dominant style, if this match stays at a decision for Lovett, that could be considered a win for the Hawkeyes. With the fact that the first three matches of the night could go either way, the Huskers will be looking for one of their leaders to set the tone and score extra.
After falling to #8 Ryder Downey last week, Nebraska’s #3 Peyton Robb finds himself trying to rebound against a familiar foe in #2 Jared Franek of Iowa.
Wrestling for North Dakota State last season, Franek faced Robb twice. Robb earned a 7-4 dual win before falling to him 3-1 in sudden victory while unknowingly dealing with a flesh-eating bacteria at the 2023 NCAA Championships.
With Franek trading in his Bison singlet for the black and gold of Iowa in his last season, this matchup has even more added meaning, especially as these two are ranked Nos. 2 and 3 in the country. This match isn’t only pivotal in deciding this dual, but it’ll go a long way in deciding seeding for Big Tens and NCAAs.
This match has “prove yourself” written all over it for Nebraska’s #16 Antrell Taylor. The redshirt freshman by way of Millard South is 11-2 in his first year in the lineup and will see a Top-10 opponent in #7 Michael Caliendo of Iowa, an All-American last year as a freshman.
These two have a few common opponents from this season, as Taylor fell to Purdue’s Stoney Buell but Caliendo beat him 6-1. Both men beat SDSU’s #26 Tanner Cook this year with Taylor winning a 7-1 decision and Caliendo winning 8-4.
A transfer with Franek from NDSU to Iowa, Caliendo is 9-1 this year with his lone loss a 16-4 major decision to #2 David Carr of Iowa State, a former NCAA champion at 157 and last year’s finalist at 165.
As is often the territory for an unproven redshirt freshman, this match is a measuring stick kind of moment where we find out if Taylor is ready for the spotlight against the best in the country.
Nebraska’s #19 Bubba Wilson has established himself at 174 pounds after losing his spot at 165 to Taylor and suffering an early-season rib injury. He’s 10-4 on the year and will take on rising true freshman #7 Gabe Arnold or sophomore Patrick Kennedy.
Arnold is a perfect 7-0 with ranked wins over #11 Lennox Wolak of Columbia as well as a bump up in a dual against Iowa State where he went at 184 and beat #8 Will Feldkamp 3-2. With the NCAA rule allowing true freshmen five events to wrestle while being able to maintain a redshirt, Arnold has used three. If he goes on Friday in Lincoln, that means he’ll have only one left. And based on the trash talk between the two, I fully expect Iowa to wrestle Arnold against 3-time NCAA Champion Carter Starocci of Penn State in their dual, whether he’s redshirting or not.
At the Soldier Salute which Arnold won, he faced two Huskers. Arnold beat Adam Thebeau via 17-3 tech fall before downing Elise Brown Ton 4-2. Wilson is really Nebraska’s only other 174 he hasn’t faced yet. The kid is legit, and if he starts, Wilson could have trouble with him. Although, Wilson’s defense usually keeps him in most matches, but he’ll have to find a way to score off his feet against the stout Arnold.
Another option for the Hawkeyes would be Kennedy, a sophomore who’s moved up from 165. Kennedy is 5-2 this year and recently lost to Caliendo 7-3 at the Soldier Salute in an attempt to win that starting spot. If Iowa really intends to redshirt Arnold, Kennedy will get the nod. In that matchup, I’d say Wilson would be a very slight favorite.
This is a weight that has a big question mark to it as Nebraska’s #3 Lenny Pinto missed last week due to injury with Elise Brown Ton moving up in weight to take his place. Brown Ton went 1-1 in duals last weekend, dropping a match to #1 Parker Keckeisen.
Pinto has been extraordinary this year with an 11-2 record. His only losses have come to #1 Keckeisen of UNI and #2 Dustin Plott of Oklahoma State. He also beat Plott as they split matches at CKLV.
Pinto or Brown Ton will face Iowa’s Aiden Riggins, a redshirt freshman who was pressed into action with the gambling suspensions. Riggins is 5-4 this year and 1-2 in duals, so this is a serious chink in the Hawkeye armor.
It must be mentioned that against Iowa State, the Hawkeyes rolled out Kennedy at 174 and Arnold at 184, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they do something similar on Friday if they think Arnold has a shot against Pinto.
If Pinto is healthy, a bonus-point win would go a long way here in deciding the dual.
After pinning both opponents a week ago, Nebraska’s #13 Silas Allred will take on Iowa’s #25 Zach Glazier. Allred is 13-3 this year while Glazier is 8-0.
At the Soldier Salute, Glazier initially lost his final against former NCAA champion AJ Ferrari in sudden victory, but as often occurs with Ferrari, pandamonium ensued with Ferrari throwing a punch at Glazier before throwing the double middle fingers to the Iowa crowd while in side splits.
Here’s the rub — Iowa has both of AJ’s younger brothers committed and was courting AJ to transfer in for the second semester at 197 pounds. After this incident, it seems Iowa has cooled on the Ferrari family.
Here is the video of what went down at the Soldier Salute championship match. @mrfasttwitch AJ Ferrari secures the match-winning takedown on @Zglazier Zach Glazier, before things get out of hand, resulting in the victory given to the Hawkeye#SoldierSalute #wrestling #Hawkeyes pic.twitter.com/pKIFV169qQ— Curtis Feder (@CurtisFeder_) December 31, 2023
Allred should be a favorite against Glazier as we begin conference season.
It sounds like Nebraska will send out Nash Hutmacher to end the dual. Hutmacher is the big story now as the star nose-tackle-turned-wrestler and gives Nebraska the best shot to win here.
For Iowa, it’ll be either redshirt freshman Bradley Hill or true freshman Ben Kueter. It’ll be a decision between the redshirt freshman who’s been in that spot against the football player/wrestler. Hill is 8-3 this year and has been serviceable after the loss of Cassioppi, pressing Hill into action.
Kueter is a linebacker for the Hawkeyes and was a true blue-chip wrestling recruit as he’s committed to both football and wrestling for Iowa. An Iowa native, Kueter went 111-0 in high school, winning four state titles. In 2022, he won a U20 freestyle world championship. The kid is as good as they come.
As you may know, coming out of high school in 2020, Hutmacher was the #10 overall recruit in the country in wrestling and the top heavyweight after going 166-0 in high school with four state titles. He chose football over wrestling and you know how that story is going as he was Nebraska’s defensive anchor this fall.
The matchup I’m hoping to see is Hutmacher vs. Kueter. Kueter is a seriously undersized heavyweight and could have trouble against the mountain that is the “Polar Bear”. With both guys serving double duty as football players, let’s take a look at their listed measurables:
Hutmacher, a nose tackle, is listed at 6-foot-4, 330 pounds.
Kueter, a linebacker, is listed at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds.
It’s been documented that Hutmacher was able to lose over 40 pounds in just over a month to make the 285-pound weight limit, while Kueter probably won’t sniff 285 throughout his entire wrestling career. With Kueter a true freshman and so outmatched in size, Hutmacher has to be the favorite to manhandle the young man from Iowa. I see Hutmacher, who also was a prep national champ in both folkstyle and freestyle, having a 50-60 pound weight advantage here if that’s the matchup.
With Nebraska going with Hutmacher, I don’t expect Iowa to send out Kueter for the aforementioned reasons. Why send an undersized yet unbelievably talented freshman out to get smashed by a 285-pound-plus behemoth? My money is on a Hutmacher v Hill matchup with the Polar Bear pinning his man.
Regardless, this dual is going to be wild and very well could come down to heavyweight, and with this being the most uncertain weight, it’s must-watch from beginning to end. If you have the opportunity, I suggest getting to the Devaney Friday night for this one.
Can you imagine? Nash Hutmacher pinning Iowa’s heavy to down the Hawkeyes for the first time in nearly 20 years....that story writes itself.