With the holiday break behind them, the #2-ranked Huskers will play host to both #13 Northern Iowa and Wyoming for a triangular this Saturday.
Despite being heavy favorites in both duals, Nebraska still has a lot of really tough individual matchups to look forward to. UNI has eight ranked wrestlers while Wyoming has three in the rankings.
Eight of Nebraska’s ten starters are currently ranked at their weight classes — five are ranked in the top 6. With that much firepower and a Big Ten slate fast approaching, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nebraska get some backups and freshmen some action this weekend.
The duals will air live Saturday on B1G+ (subscription required) with the Huskers taking on Wyoming at 2 p.m. and UNI at 4 p.m. Wyoming and UNI will dual it out at noon.
Rankings according to FloWrestling
As the season’s progressed, Nebraska’s #2 Caleb Smith has been steadily winning matches while most everyone else at the weight has been taking losses. With his 13-1 record on the year, Smith has climbed all the way up to #2 after starting the season at #13.
His one loss on the year was a 4-2 decision to Wyoming’s #14 Jore Volk who Smith will get another shot at on Saturday. Other than that setback, Smith has wins this year over #3 Matt Ramos of Purdue, #17 Brandon Kaylor of Oregon State, #18 Tanner Jordan of SDSU, #20 Troy Spratley of Oklahoma State and #33 Tucker Owens of Air Force.
Volk has had a pretty inconsistent season. On one hand, he has wins over Smith and #7 Richard Figueroa. On the other, he’s 9-4 on the year with losses to #6 Nico Provo of Stanford, #12 Drake Ayala of Iowa, #13 Noah Surtin of Missouri and Kaylor. This match may be the one I’m most looking forward to this weekend.
Against UNI, Smith will face #22 Trever Anderson. A redshirt freshman, Anderson is 7-4 this year with all four of his losses to ranked opponents. He also has a solid 4-2 win over #15 Jakob Camacho, who was ranked #1 at 125 a few weeks ago.
After finishing as runner-up at the Soldier Salute last weekend, Nebraska’s Jacob Van Dee is now 10-4.
This weekend, Van Dee will likely face Wyoming’s Cooper Birdwell and UNI’s #19 Julian Farber. A sophomore, Birdwell is 8-7 on the year but has held close matches against top competition. Against #3 Daton Fix of Oklahoma State, a World silver medalist, Birdwell held it to an 8-2 decision.
Farber is a junior with an 8-5 record on the year with all of his losses coming to ranked guys. He also has a 9-5 win over Van Dee from CKLV and a win over #12 Nic Bouzakis of Ohio State. Just like with Smith and Volk, Van Dee gets a chance here to run it back in search of a win.
We could also see junior Kyle Burwick here. He’s wrestled one dual this year after starting last season. He’s 3-2 on the year.
For the third weight in a row, Nebraska’s wrestler will get a chance at redemption from a loss at CKLV. A sophomore, #6 Brock Hardy is 9-3 this year and will likely face Cole Brooks of Wyoming and #8 Cael Happel of UNI.
A true freshman, Brooks is 7-2 on the year but was pinned by Hardy in Vegas. Brooks also lost an 18-7 major decision to Happel, so he’ll get a chance at revenge against both Hardy and Happel.
Happel is a junior that’s 10-4 on the year with all of his losses to ranked opponents. Hardy and Happel put on a wild match at CKLV that Happel won 15-13.
This is going to be a fun one.
If Hardy doesn’t wrestle both matches, we could see someone like junior Blake Cushing or redshirt freshman Ismael Ayoub here.
Nebraska’s #1 Ridge Lovett is putting together a masterful season so far and he’ll likely carry his undefeated streak past this weekend as he’ll face #22 Gabe Willochell of Wyoming and Adam Allard of UNI.
Willochell is 8-4 on the year and finished seventh at CKLV. He’s wrestled two Top-10 guys and been beaten by tech fall both times this year. A junior, Allard is 4-4 on the year.
I could see Nebraska using a backup in one of these matches, probably against Allard. If so, it’ll likely be true freshman Scott Robertson.
With a perfect 13-0 record on the year, Nebraska’s #3 Peyton Robb has been spectacular. This weekend, Robb will face Wyoming’s Cooper Voorhees and #12 Ryder Downey of UNI.
A sophomore, Voorhees is 6-9 on the year and will likely not pose a threat to Robb. Downey is a redshirt freshman with an 8-4 record on the season. His four losses were to ranked guys, even holding #5 Ed Scott to 7-6 and 4-1 decision wins. Against #11 Paddy Gallagher of Ohio State, Downey has an 8-5 win as well as a 4-1 loss.
I look for Robb to make pretty quick work of Voorhees and Downey before turning his attention to next weekend’s matchup against #2 Jared Franek of Iowa.
I doubt that Robb will sit out either dual, but if he does he’ll likely be spelled by freshman Ethan Stiles.
This weekend’s slate should be good for #16 Antrell Taylor as he gains a little bit more experience before starting Big Ten season next week. He’ll face two wrestlers with losing records in Wyoming’s Brett McIntosh and UNI’s Evan Yant.
McIntosh is a junior with a 4-9 record, while Yant is 4-5. Taylor has already faced Yant this year, downing him 11-3 by major decision at CKLV.
A redshirt freshman with a 9-2 record on the year, Taylor should add a fresh pair of wins to his resume on Saturday.
It sure seems like Nebraska’s #20 Bubba Wilson has seized the opportunity and will be the starter at 174. He’s 8-4 on the year after finishing third at the Soldier Salute this past weekend.
This weekend, Wilson will face Wyoming’s Riley Davis and UNI’s #33 Jared Simma. A true freshman, Davis is 6-5 this year. A sophomore, Simma is 7-4 on the season. Both wrestlers went 2-2 at CKLV.
Nebraska has also used sophomore Adam Thebeau and junior Elise Brown Ton as starters this year, so it’s possible we see them in a match this weekend. But after Wilson out-placed them both at the Soldier Salute while beating Brown Ton head to head, it’s his spot to lose.
Also, true freshman Christopher Minto has been impressive and could wrestle a dual while keeping his redshirt, while I don’t anticipate that happening.
Undoubtedly the biggest match of the weekend will be Nebraska’s #4 Lenny Pinto taking on UNI’s #1 Parker Keckeisen. Pinto (10-2) will also face Wyoming’s Quayin Short.
A three-time All-American, Keckeisen is a perfect 10-0 this year with an 8-4 decision win over Pinto at CKLV. A junior, Keckeisen has an 82-5 career record after finishing third at NCAAs his first two years and second a year ago. Keckeisen fell in last year’s NCAA final to Penn State’s Aaron Brooks, a three-time NCAA Champion.
This is a match that I know the Husker coaching staff and Pinto know he can win, but he’s going to need to wrestle his absolute best to pull it off.
A sophomore, Short is 3-7 on the year. If Nebraska decides to hold Pinto for just the Keckeisen match, we could see true freshman Ethan DeLeon here. He’s 2-2 this year against DI opponents and can wrestle while keeping his redshirt intact.
Nebraska’s #13 Silas Allred is 10-3 this year and he’ll see a couple familiar foes this weekend in Wyoming’s #19 Joey Novak and UNI’s #29 Wyatt Voelker.
Allred has faced both of these guys this year already, beating Novak via pinfall and Voelker via 19-3 tech fall, both at CKLV. A true freshman, Novak is 13-6 this year with all of his losses coming to ranked wrestlers. He also has a win over #25 Garrett Joles of Minnesota at the Soldier Salute.
A redshirt freshman, Voelker is 7-2 this year with his only other loss on the year a 4-3 decision to #4 Jaxon Smith.
It seems that Nebraska’s Harley Andrews figured some things out this past weekend when he finished seventh at the Soldier Salute. He’s now 8-8 on the year. A redshirt freshman, Andrews will take on Wyoming’s Kevin Zimmer and UNI’s #16 Tyrell Gordon this weekend.
A redshirt freshman himself, Zimmer is 5-5 this year. A senior, Gordon is 2-1 this season but he’s a two-time NCAA qualifier at heavyweight after moving up from 197 a few years ago. His only loss this year was a 4-1 decision to #15 Owen Trephan of NC State.
With Andrews sometimes struggling against the size of some heavyweights, this matchup may just be an upset he can get. A small 285-pounder, Gordon also relies on his speed. This is definitely a measuring-stick match for Andrews as he’s going against a true veteran who’s been in a lot of tough matches.
Another option for Nebraska would be current football player Nash Hutmacher who has been working out with the team. He’s a former #1-ranked heavyweight in high school and went 166-0 with four state titles. There’s been chatter that he could make an appearance this weekend, so let’s just see. I’m skeptical however, as he’d need to make the 285-pound weight limit. He is listed for football at 330, but he certainly doesn’t look that big now after some time in the wrestling room.