Nebraska Wrestling Prepares for Showdown with Top Ranked Iowa

The seventh-ranked Nebraska wrestling team will look to get back to its winning ways on Saturday night when the Huskers square off against top-ranked conference foe Iowa. BTN will televise the meet from Carver-Hawkeye Arena beginning at 8 p.m. with Tim Johnson providing play-by-play commentary and National Wrestling Hall of Famer Jim Gibbons serving as the analyst.

The Hawkeyes (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) come into the matchup undefeated in dual meet competition and firmly entrenched atop the national rankings. Iowa features top-rated wrestlers Spencer Lee (125) and Pat Lugo (149) and eight other grapplers ranked inside the top ten of their respective weight classes.

Nebraska (5-1, 0-1 Big Ten), meanwhile, is coming off its first loss of the season, as Wisconsin defeated NU 25-18 on Jan. 12. Despite the loss, the Huskers enjoyed strong performances from Peyton Robb (157), Taylor Venz (184) and Eric Schultz (197), all of whom recorded technical fall victories against the Badgers.

Saturday’s dual promises to feature high-level wrestling, as 19 ranked wrestlers are slated to compete. If all projected starters wrestle, there will be four top-10 matchups, each of which will involve one of the Huskers’ returning All-Americans: Chad Red Jr. (141), Isaiah White (165), Mikey Labriola (174) and Taylor Venz (184).

Last Time Out: No. 8 Wisconsin defeated No. 2 Nebraska 25-18 at the UW Field House in Madison, Wis., on Jan. 12.

Up Next: The Huskers will host No. 2 Penn State (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) at the Devaney Center on Friday, Jan. 24. The meet will begin at 6 p.m. and be televised by BTN.

Nebraska’s Projected Starters*
125: Alex Thomsen RFr. • Neola, Iowa (6-8)
133: #13 Ridge Lovett Fr. • Post Falls, Idaho (8-4)
141: #9 Chad Red Jr. Jr. • Indianapolis, Ind. (10-4)
149: #16 Collin Purinton Sr. • Banks, Ore. (10-4)
157: #11 Peyton Robb RFr. • Owatonna, Minn. (12-2)
165: #5 Isaiah White Sr. • Chicago, Ill. (12-1)
174: #6 Mikey Labriola So. • Easton, Pa. (13-3)
184: #5 Taylor Venz Jr. • Farmington, Minn. (11-4)
197: #14 Eric Schultz Jr. • Tinley Park, Ill. (14-2)
285: #15 Christian Lance Sr. • Nixa, Mo. (9-4)
*InterMat rankings used

Quick Notes
• Nebraska has outscored its six dual oppoents by a combined score of 185-56
• NU has won 44 of 60 (73.33%) individual dual meet matches this season.
• Team leaders by category among starters:
Dual Record: Eric Schultz (6-0) and Peyton Robb (5-0)
Dual Points: Eric Schultz (28 pts)
Dual Takedowns: Eric Schultz (52)
Pins: Taylor Venz (5)
Technical Falls: Eric Schultz (5)
Major Decisions: Mikey Labriola (4)
Quickest Pin: Mikey Labriola (0:13)
• With the win over Northern Iowa on Nov. 24, Coach Manning picked up his 250th victory at Nebraska.

Robb, Schultz Shine for Huskers
Peyton Robb (5-0) and Eric Schultz (6-0) are undefeated against dual meet competition this season.
Robb (157), a redshirt freshman from Owatonna, Minn., has scored 27 dual points for the Huskers and has recorded three pins and three technical fall victories, both of which rank second among NU’s starters.
Schultz (197), a junior, leads the team with five technical fall victories and has amassed 52 dual takedowns while yielding only three. The Tinley Park, Ill., native has also scored a team-high 28 dual points for the Big Red.

NU Looks to Turn Tide Against Hawkeyes
Nebraska is looking for its first win over Iowa as a member of the Big Ten Conference. Saturday marks the seventh time the border schools have met on the mat as conference foes. Overall, the Hawkeyes have won ten straight duals in the series. The Huskers will look to register their first victory over the Hawkeyes since the 2005-06 campaign, when they defeated Iowa 24-13 on Jan. 14, 2006, at the National Duals in Iowa City, Iowa.

Lovett Sheds Redshirt, Enters Starting Lineup
Freshman Ridge Lovett (133) had his redshirt pulled when he entered the starting lineup at Northern Iowa on Nov. 24, 2019. An undefeated four-time state champion at Post Falls High School in Post Falls, Idaho, Lovett came to Nebraska a highly-touted recruit but was expected to redshirt this season. An injury to Tucker Sjomeling altered those plans, however.
Since being inserted into the starting lineup, Lovett has defeated a top-ten rated opponent (Utah Valley’s Taylor LaMont) and placed third at the Cliff Keen Invitational.

Returning All-Americans Anchor Huskers
Nebraska welcomed back four wrestlers from the 2018-19 squad who have earned All-America accolades during their careers. Much was expected from them and so far, the quartet has lived up to its billing.
Chad Red Jr. (141) has a 4-1 mark in dual meets this season. Isaiah White (165) is 12-1 overall, including 4-1 against ranked competition, and added a second consecutive Cliff Keen Invitational individual title to his resume in December. Mikey Labriola (174) leads the team in major decision victories and has scored 24 dual points while yielding only three over the course of the season. Lastly, Taylor Venz (184) has registered the most pins among the starters and has scored bonus points in his last two dual meet bouts.

Huskers Top Beavers 32-3
Nebraska scored bonus points in five matches and won eight of nine bouts overall to defeat Oregon State (2-1, 0-0 Pac-12) at the Devaney Center on Dec. 20.
#6 Mikey Labriola (174) started the night off in dominant fashion, racking up six takedowns and eight near-fall points to defeat Colton Beisley by technical fall, 20-5. #5 Taylor Venz (184) picked up right where Labriola left off, picking up a 9-0 major decision over Colt Doyle. #10 Eric Schultz (197) gave the Huskers three consecutive bonus-point victories to start the evening when he replicated Labriola’s 20-5 technical fall victory against the Beavers’ J.J. Dixon.
The night’s most exciting match took place at heavyweight. #15 Christian Lance (HWT) led JaMarcus Grant 3-1 late in the third period when Grant earned a one-point escape and two-point takedown to seize a 4-3 lead. Lance responded with a takedown as time expired. An official’s review confirmed the takedown, and Lance was victorious by decision, 5-4.
Action then shifted to the lighter weights. A double forfeit was declared at 125 as NU’s Alex Thomsen was too ill to wrestle and Oregon State’s Brandon Kaylor suffered a concussion only days previously. Devan Turner used takedowns in the first and third periods to top #10 Ridge Lovett (133), 6-2. Returning All-American #6 Chad Red Jr. (141) earned a 6-2 decision of his own, topping Beaver grappler Grant Willits. #12 Collin Purinton (149) gave up a reversal after taking down Lane Stigall in the first period, but did not look back after that, earning an 8-4 decision.
The final two bouts of the night saw the Big Red rack up more bonus points. #14 Peyton Robb (157) scored 10 points in the first period on his way to a technical fall victory over Logan Meek before returning All-American #4 Isaiah White (165) used riding time and six third-period points to earn a major decision victory over Aaron Olmos.

Big Red Persevere Against Panthers
Nebraska picked up bonus points in four of their five match victories to defeat then-No. 17 Northern Iowa 23-19 at the West Gym in Cedar Falls, Iowa, on Nov. 24.
The Huskers’ first road trip to Northern Iowa in nearly a decade started off unevenly. Alex Thomsen (125) scored three takedowns and led then-#9 Jay Schwarm 6-2 before the Panther grappler put Thomsen in a cradle and took the Husker redshirt freshman to his back. Schwarm’s pin gave the home team a quick 6-0 advantage.
Ridge Lovett (133) had his redshirt pulled and saw action in his first dual meet of the season. Lovett scored a takedown less than one minute into the first period, but yielded four near-fall points and a late takedown, ultimately falling 8-2 to Jack Skudlarczyk.
Chad Red Jr. (141) turned the tide with a dominant technical fall victory over UNI’s Michael Blockhus. Red scored six near-fall points less than one minute into the match and secured an 18-0 victory in less than three minutes of action.
With the team score 9-5 in favor of the Panthers, Collin Purinton (149) went toe-to-toe with then-#3 Max Thomsen in the first of three matchups between ranked wrestlers. Thomsen led Purinton 6-4 after two periods. Purinton then scored a third-period takedown to tie the score at six. Thomsen earned an escape but one point was rewarded to Purinton for stalling, evening the score at seven at the end of the third period. In the sudden victory period, Purinton scored a takedown to walk away with a 9-7 decision.
Peyton Robb (157) and Isaiah White kept the positive momentum going for the Big Red. Robb took Keaton Geerts to his back and won by fall in the first period, giving NU a 14-9 lead at intermission. When action resumed, White tallied five takedowns and two near-fall points to earn a 13-5 major decision victory over Austin Yant.
In a matchup of returning All-Americans, UNI’s then-#7 Bryce Steiert defeated Mikey Labriola (174) 2-1. Neither grappler recorded a takedown, with Steiert’s two points coming via an escape and a locked hands call. Then-#7 Taylor Lujan led Taylor Venz (184) 6-4 after Period 1 and did not allow Venz to record a takedown the rest of the match, instead tallying three takedowns of his own en route to a 15-6 major decision victory.
With Nebraska clinging to an 18-16 lead, Eric Schultz (197) dominated Noah Glaser, piling up 11 takedowns in 24-9 techincal fall victory which gave the Huskers an insurmountable 23-16 advantage.
In the final bout of the afternoon, Carter Isley defeated David Jensen (HWT) 6-2.

NU Claims Cliff Keen Team Title
Isaiah White (165) won his second consecutive individual title and the Nebraska wrestling team won their third Cliff Keen Invitational team title in program history on Dec. 7 at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nev. White was one of nine Huskers who placed as NU amassed 118 team points, the most among the 32 schools competing. The team title is Nebraska’s first since 2008; the Huskers also took home the title in 2003. In both seasons, Nebraska went on to record Top-5 finishes at the NCAA Championships.
Ridge Lovett (133) went 5-1 over the course of the weekend, including a win against then-#9 Taylor LaMont of Utah Valley, to finish third. Mikey Labriola (174) also went 5-1 to finish third, picking up a win over then-#14 Kaleb Romero (Ohio State) in the process.
Returning All-American Chad Red. Jr (141) pinned then-#12 Tariq Wilson of NC State on his way to a fifth-place finish. Taylor Venz (184) recorded three pins and three wins over ranked foes en route to a fifth-place finish of his own. Eric Schultz (197) rounded out the trio of fifth-place finishers, as he went 5-2 over the course of the tournament.

125: Alex Thomsen DNP (1-2)
133: Ridge Lovett 3rd (5-1)
141: #6 Chad Red Jr. 5th (4-2)
149: #13 Collin Purinton 8th (3-3)
157: Peyton Robb 7th (4-2)
165: #4 Isaiah White 1st (5-0)
174: #5 Mikey Labriola 3rd (5-1)
184: #6 Taylor Venz 5th (5-2)
197: #10 Eric Schultz 5th (5-2)
HWT: #13 Christian Lance 6th (3-3)

Scouting Iowa:
• 2019-20 Record: 6-0
Wins (6): Tennessee at Chattanooga (39-0), #11 Iowa State (29-6), #6 Wisconsin (32-3), Princeton (30-9), Indiana (41-0), #18 Purdue (41-0)
Losses (0)

• Spencer Lee (125) (16-0), Austin DeSanto (133) (10-0), Alex Marinelli (165) (20-0), Abe Assad (184) (2-0), and Tony Cassioppi (HWT) (3-0) are undefeated in their careers in Big Ten duals.
• Spencer Lee (125) improved to 8-0 with eight bonus-point wins after defeating #5 Devin Schroder (Purdue) on Jan. 12
• Austin DeSanto (133) notched his 10th win of the season, and eighth bonus-point win against Purdue’s Travis Ford-Melton on Jan. 12.
• Alex Marinelli improved to 12-0 with his team-high seventh pin of the season on Jan 12. He has pinned seven of his last nine opponents.
• Iowa has won 42 straight matches over the course of its last three duals.

Iowa’s Projected Starters*
125: #1 Spencer Lee Jr. • Murrysville, Penn. (8-0)
133: #2 Austin DeSanto Jr. • Exeter, Penn. (10-1)
141: #5 Max Murin So. • Ebensburg, Penn. (10-0)
149: #1 Pat Lugo Sr. • Homestead, Fla. (12-0)
157: #4 Kaleb Young Jr. • Punxsutawney, Penn. (9-2)
165: #2 Alex Marinelli Jr. • Miamisburg, Ohio (12-0)
174: #2 Michael Kemerer Sr. • Murrysville, Penn. (6-0)
184: #9 Abe Assad Fr. • Carol Stream, Ill. (18-3)
197: #5 Jacob Warner So. • Tolono, Ill. (10-2)
285: #3 Tony Cassioppi Fr. • Roscoe, Ill. (11-0)
*Highest ranking among InterMat, TrackWrestling and WIN Wrestling used