The third-ranked Nebraska wrestling team finished third at the 2021 Big Ten Championships with 105.5 points for the program’s seventh top-five finish at the event and sixth in as many years.
Nebraska was led by second-place finishes from Ridge Lovett (149), Taylor Venz (184) and Eric Schultz (197) and eight Huskers clinched automatic bids to the NCAA Championships.
In the Huskers’ first title match of the day, Lovett met Ohio State’s top-seed Sammy Sasso. Lovett scored first with a takedown a minute into the bout. Sasso added an escape and a takedown in the final minute to take a one-point edge into the second period. Starting on top, Lovett held on to add to his riding time but Sasso managed a reversal to extend his lead. The two would go scoreless in the final period and Sasso ultimately took the match by 5-2 decision. Lovett finished five spots above his tournament seed for his best result at the Big Ten Championships.
Venz took the finals mat next, facing Penn State’s top-seed Aaron Brooks. Venz was first on the board with a takedown but Brooks scored an escape and takedown for a 3-2 lead at the end of the first three minutes of the match. Venz added three escape points, but it would not be enough to defeat Brooks, who took the bout by 10-5 decision. Venz’s runner-up finish is his best career finish at the conference tournament.
Schultz met Myles Amine of Michigan in the 197-pound final for Nebraska’s last title match of the tournament. Schultz was unable to land any shots on Amine as the Wolverine took the match by 7-3 decision. Schultz’s second-place finish is his second in as many years.
Mikey Labriola earned the Huskers’ next highest finish with a third-place result at 174 pounds. In the consolation semifinals, Labriola earned an 8-4 decision over Donnell Washington (Indiana) to advance to the third-place match. In his final bout of the tournament, the Husker earned his fifth major decision of the year, defeating Michigan’s Logan Massa 11-3.
In the 141-pound consolation semifinals, Chad Red Jr. earned his third major decision and second matchup against Northwestern’s Colin Valdiviez of the tournament. Red Jr. met three-seed Sebastian Rivera (Rutgers) in the third-place bout and finished fourth as Rivera managed to score the deciding escape to take the match 4-3.
Peyton Robb registered a 6-3 decision over Gerrit Nijenhuis (Purdue) in the consolation semifinals to wrestle for third place. Robb met Michigan’s four-seed Cameron Amine in the battle for bronze, but Amine would come away with the hardware. Robb finished the tournament 3-2 overall.
In the Huskers’ final match of the day, Christian Lance (HWT) earned a 3-2 win over Ohio State’s Tate Orndorff. Lance fell to Penn State’s Greg Kerkvliet in the consolation semifinals to put him in the fifth-place match and finished the tournament 3-2 overall.
At 157 pounds, Caleb Licking finished seventh in his first Big Ten Championships appearance. He took the seventh-place bout with a win by forfeit over Michigan’s Will Lewan. Licking finished the tournament 2-2.
Liam Cronin (125) and Tucker Sjomeling (133) both finished ninth at the conference championship. Cronin earned a 9-5 decision over Dylan Shawver (Rutgers) to in the ninth-place semifinal match. In the ninth-place bout, he earned his second pin of the season, defeating Wisconsin’s Eric Barnett by fall in 2:02. After advancing to the 133-pound ninth-place bout by forfeit, Tucker Sjomeling earned an 11-6 decision over Michigan’s Jack Medley for the top-10 finish.
Nebraska now sets its focus to the 2021 NCAA Championships, which will be held March 18-20 at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Mo.