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Wrestling: #5 Nebraska Hosting #9 Michigan on Senior Night

After the Wolverines beat down #3 Iowa last weekend, the Huskers may just have their hands full in this dual

Nebraska competing in a dual against Michigan on Feb. 14, 2020 at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
Nebraska’s #1 Ridge Lovett, seen here putting an opponent in a cradle, will try to avenge two previous losses to Michigan’s Austin Gomez on Friday night.
Dylan Guenther / CORN NATION

This is where the metal meets the meat for the Huskers.

The 5th-ranked Huskers are starting their tough stretch run with a dual Friday night against #9 Michigan. Nebraska and Michigan both have nine wrestlers ranked nationally.

Michigan is 6-3 (4-2 in Big Ten) on the year in duals but just knocked off #3 Iowa. The Wolverines didn’t just beat the Hawkeyes, they won the first five matches on the way to a 24-11 beat down of Iowa. The same Iowa team that beat Nebraska 22-10 in Lincoln just a month ago.

The Huskers have won five duals in a row since that loss, but none of them have been against a team as good as Michigan. Nebraska is 10-1 on the year with wins over # 11 Minnesota (19-14), #12 South Dakota State (21-17), #17 Northern Iowa (18-17), and solid currently-unranked teams Campbell (37-4) and Wisconsin (28-9).

Earlier in the year, Michigan fell to SDSU 22-17, but has since pulled the Olympic redshirt off Dylan Ragusin and added All-American Austin Gomez to its lineup. The Wolverines are all-in on this season, having added four All-American transfers in Gomez (from Wisconsin), Shane Griffith from Stanford, and Michael DeAugustino and Lucas Davison from Northwestern.

Before the big win against Iowa, Michigan dropped a razor-thin dual to #6 Ohio State 20-19.

Friday’s dual will air live on the Big Ten Network at 6 p.m.

Weight-by-Weight Breakdown

Rankings according to FloWrestling

125 pounds

Starting off the dual will be one of the best matchups of the night as Nebraska’s #9 Caleb Smith takes on Michigan’s #10 Michael DeAugustino.

After starting his Husker career off with a hot start, the Appalachian State transfer Smith has stumbled a bit in Big Ten action. He’s 16-5 on the year but just 2-3 in conference duals, beating Illinois’ Justin Cardani 9-2 last time out. Of note, he did beat #1 Matt Ramos of Purdue 8-4 in overtime this season at the Cliff Keen Invite in Las Vegas.

DeAugustino was an All-American for Northwestern before transferring to Michigan for his final year. Sporting a very impressive beard, DeAugustino is 9-2 on the year, beating Iowa’s #6 Drake Ayala 2-1 in tiebreakers last time out. His only real loss was a 5-1 decision to Penn State’s #2 Braeden Davis.

This match should be a microcosm of the night’s dual — differing styles with razor-thin margins.

133 pounds

One of Nebraska’s biggest underdogs of the night will be #29 Jacob Van Dee as he takes on #4 Dylan Ragusin. Van Dee (15-6 on the year) started with a 4-0 conference record but fell to unranked Anthony Madrigal of Illinois 8-3 last weekend.

On the flip side, Ragusin is 17-0 this year. Since getting his Olympic redshirt pulled, Ragusin has pinned #5 Aaron Nagao of Penn State, majored #10 Nic Bouzakis of Ohio State, and beaten #9 Dylan Shawver of Rutgers and #15 Braxton Brown of Maryland. Ragusin looks like a true title contender.

I’ve see a lot to like out of the redshirt freshman Van Dee, but this is a true mountain for him to climb. I think he’s capable of getting it done, but it’ll take his best performance to date.

141 pounds

In another “match of the dual” candidate, Nebraska’s #7 Brock Hardy will take on red-hot Michigan freshman #13 Sergio Lemley, who just beat #1 Real Woods of Iowa via 14-2 major decision. In reality, he stuck him for the pin, but the official never slapped the resilite.

Hardy is 13-5 on the year after a rough start, but he’s now 3-1 in Big Ten action with his only loss an 8-2 decision to Woods. Much like “styles make fights”, they do the same in wrestling. Lemley has a very burst-ey, big-move style, and that seemed to work really well against Woods’ style of getting a takedown and controlling things while securing tilts. I’m just not sure that that style works against Hardy who uses solid leg defense and scrambling to get counter takedowns and put guys on their backs. He’s also really good on top.

Obviously, Lemley is beatable with his 12-4 record, but so is Hardy. That’s what makes this sport so fun. The Wolverine is 4-1 in Big Ten duals, his only loss coming to new #1 Beau Bartlett of Penn State 7-5.

This match will not only go a long way in determining this dual, but conference seeding at 141 is certainly on the line here.

149 pounds

This has to be the most anticipated matchup of the year for Nebraska’s #1 Ridge Lovett. Facing a guy that beat him twice two years ago, Lovett will take on Michigan’s Wisconsin transfer #6 Austin Gomez. The former All-American, Gomez is 5-0 on the year after announcing his return to NCAA wrestling for his final season of eligibility.

Also wrestling for Team Mexico as he tries to qualify 65 kg for the Olympics, Gomez was already wrestling at Cliff Keen at Michigan when he was approved for a medical redshirt. A former Iowa State Cyclone and Wisconsin Badger, Gomez has one of the craziest college wrestling journeys I’ve ever seen. Already in Ann Arbor, Gomez also filled a weight class of need for the Wolverines, so the union was an easy one.

In 2022, Lovett and Gomez met twice. The first time, Gomez won a 4-2 decision. The second time, at Big Tens, Lovett was caught in double-unders, thrown to his back and pinned in just 20 seconds. I’m expecting he wants to avenge that loss.

This is by far the most intriguing match of the dual. Also, the one I’m most looking forward to watching. These two boys go big so make sure you’re pinned to your seat for this one.

157 pounds

In a rematch from CKLV, Nebraska’s #14 Peyton Robb will take on Michigan’s #12 Will Lewan.

Robb started the year 14-0, downing Lewan 8-2 on the way to a Cliff Keen title. After January hit, he lost four-straight matches, including his first three Big Ten duals to #5 Jared Franek, #4 Michael Blockhus and #19 Joey Blaze. He then took a weekend off while true freshman Ethan Stiles filled in admirably, returning this past weekend to down Illinois’ Joe Roberts via 10-1 major decision.

For Lewan, he’s 8-4 on the year but just downed Iowa’s Franek 3-2 in tiebreakers. He also wrestled #1 Levi Haines of Penn State tough in a 2-1 decision. A two-time All-American, Lewan has a career 80-31 record.

If Robb is truly back to form, he should be able to beat Lewan, even though Lewan is amazing at keeping matches close and often forcing overtime. Lewan has been bonused just twice in his career by NCAA champs David Carr and Austin O’Connor (shout out to Kelby Bachman for looking that up while I was on his podcast last night). You should check it out here as we previewed this dual.

165 pounds

One thing is for sure, Nebraska will be sending out #15 Antrell Taylor. Who Michigan will send out isn’t so certain.

The Wolverines have #8 Cam Amine on the roster, but he hasn’t wrestled since a sudden-victory win over Rutgers’ Luke Gayer (8-9 on the year). The three-time All-American is just 8-4 on the year and was also just bonused 11-1 by Penn State freshman #7 Mitchell Messenbrink. With him missing time, it’s possible he’s injured, so there’s no way to expect him to toe the line on Friday night.

Lately, Michigan has gone with true freshman Beau Mantanona. He’s 14-6 on the year but 0-2 in Big Ten duals. He lost matches against both Iowa and Ohio State recently.

Taylor has been impressive this season as a redshirt freshman. He’s 15-4 on the year with a 4-2 Big Ten record. His only losses have come to #5 Dean Hamiti and #6 Michael Caliendo — both by decision. Last time out, he beat Illinois’ Chris Moore 4-1 in sudden victory.

If Amine is healthy after some time off, Taylor could struggle against him. Against Mantanona, the battle between freshmen could be fun to watch, but Taylor should be considered the favorite.

174 pounds

After wrestling tough against #6 Edmond Ruth of Illinois in a 4-0 decision loss, things don’t get any easier for #20 Bubba Wilson against Michigan’s #3 Shane Griffith.

Both former 165-pounders, these two have met before. At last year’s NCAA tournament, Griffith beat Wilson via 10-0 major decision.

This year, Wilson is 12-8 on the year. He’s 2-4 in Big Ten play, but he always seems to wrestle the better guys really tough despite taking the losses.

A former NCAA Champion from Stanford, Griffith is 11-2 on the year and 5-0 in Big Ten duals. Last time out, he beat #5 Patrick Kennedy via 11-1 major decision.

This would be a monumental upset if Wilson beats Griffith. He can certainly keep things close, but a win would be a big ask.

184 pounds

In a pivotal matchup in this dual, Nebraska’s #3 Lenny Pinto will take on Michigan’s #16 Jaden Bullock in a rematch from Cliff Keen in Vegas that Pinto won 9-6.

Sporting a 16-3 record on the year, Pinto’s losses have come to wrestlers currently ranked #1, #2 and #5. He’s 5-1 in Big Ten duals with his only loss a 4-1 decision to #5 Isaiah Salazar — a match with some questionable officiating where Pinto had Salazar taken down on his back for multiple seconds but no takedown was called. Check it out for yourself.

Regardless, we move on and Pinto has won four straight, but he has a big match ahead of him against Bullock, who is 12-6 on the year. He’s 3-2 in Big Ten duals and lost a 4-1 decision to #7 Bernie Truax of Penn State last time out. Against Iowa, Michigan went with the junior Joseph Walker who fell to Iowa’s Aiden Riggins 6-5. Pinto beat Riggins 17-5 by major decision.

Assuming it’s Bullock, Pinto should be favored and could be counted on to score some bonus points — the team might just need them.

197 pounds

In the match where Nebraska is probably most heavily favored, #13 Silas Allred will take on either Rylan Rogers or Bobby Strigow.

A redshirt freshman, Rogers is 4-3 this year but 0-2 in Big Ten duals. Last time out, Rogers fell to #23 Luke Geog of Ohio State 9-4. As for the senior Strigow, he’s 4-7 this season with a 0-4 conference mark. Last time out, he lost to #12 Zach Glazier via 19-4 tech fall. Allred fell to Glazier 11-2 by major decision. Glazier is 15-0 this year and racking up tech falls and he’s on a collision course with #1 Aaron Brooks of Penn State this Friday right after the Nebraska dual when #1 Penn State takes on #3 Iowa right after the Nebraska-Michigan dual on BTN.

After a shaky start to the year, Allred has won five straight since that loss to Glazier and is 18-4 on the year (5-1 in Big Ten). In his last four matches, he has three tech falls and a pin.

Regardless of who is sent out for Michigan, Nebraska NEEDS bonus points here in what could easily be a one-point dual.

285 pounds

It’s unclear if Nebraska intends to start Nash Hutmacher or Harley Andrews here. Both have been used in conference duals. Hutmacher is 4-1 on the year (3-1 in Big Ten), while Andrews is 10-9 but 2-0 in Big Ten duals, beating #31 Bennett Tabor 10-7 to seal the Minnesota win and registering a 15-0 tech over Northwestern’s Jack Jessen.

Regardless of who goes here for Nebraska, they’ll have a monumental task against #6 Lucas Davison. The senior transfer from Northwestern, Davison is a two-time All-American and 11-3 on the year. He’s 4-2 in the Big Ten this year with losses to #1 Greg Kerkvliet of Penn State and #9 Nick Feldman of Ohio State — both decision losses. At Cliff Keen, Davison pinned Andrews in the first period, but the Husker redshirt freshman has improved since then.

I think, if Nebraska wants to avoid giving up a pin, then the Polar Bear has to be the guy here. It’s obvious he’s rusty and playing catch-up, but he’s won all his matches except against Iowa’s Bradley Hill, a 4-1 decision. And his sheer size could prevent giving up the six points for a pin, as Davison is a former 197-pounder and isn’t the biggest heavyweight out there. Hutmacher has scored 31 points in his last two marathon wins, so he’s shown the ability to score points, albeit against unranked foes.

In this match, keeping it to a decision should be looked at as a win by either Husker.

Nebraska’s Path to Victory

I think it’s probable that Nebraska loses at 133, 174 and 285. If a Husker pulls out a win at any of these weights, then the dual might just be won right there.

As for weights that Nebraska NEEDs to win, I’d say the two most important wins are at 184 and 197. Nebraska may need at least 8 combined points out of Pinto and Allred to get a win here.

In the matches where Nebraska is a slight favorite, there’s 149, 157 and 141. It’s likely Nebraska will need two of these matches to win this dual.

Then there’s the coin flips/unknowns — 125 and 165. With the uncertainty around Amine at 165, Taylor could likely come out with a win regardless of opponent. At 125, Smith and DeAugustino are a true coin flip.

My prediction, after going through it all.....Huskers win 20-17.