LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - The No. 7 Nebraska wrestling team battled No. 2 Penn State to the bitter end but ultimately it was the Nittany Lions (7-1, 4-0 Big Ten) who secured a 20-18 triumph in front of record-breaking crowd of 5,960 fans at the Devaney Center on Friday night.
The No. 7 Nebraska wrestling team battled No. 2 Penn State to the bitter end but ultimately it was the Nittany Lions (7-1, 4-0 Big Ten) who secured a 20-18 triumph in front of record-breaking crowd of 5,960 fans at the Devaney Center on Friday night.
The meet started off positively for the Huskers (5-3, 0-3 Big Ten). Freshman Alex Thomsen (125) snapped a four-match losing streak against dual meet competition, defeating Penn State freshman Alex Meredith 3-1 in sudden victory. Following a scoreless first period, the grapplers exchanged escapes in the second and third period. Tied 1-1, Thomsen wasted no time in the sudden victory period, working his way around Meredith to secure a takedown and a hard-fought 3-1 decision victory.
No. 13 Ridge Lovett (133) faced his third top-three opponent in the last three dual meets (No. 1 Seth Young (Wisconsin) on Jan. 12; No. 2 Austin DeSanto (Iowa on Jan. 18)) when he met Penn State's third-ranked Roman Bravo-Young. Lovett fought hard and faced a 4-3 deficit after Bravo-Young gave up a stalling point with 50 seconds left in Period 3. The Nittany Lion sophomore persisted, however, and scored a takedown and four near-fall points in the waning seconds of the match. A point for riding time gave Bravo-Young an 11-3 major decision win.
No. 8 Chad Red Jr. (141), coming off a top-five victory over Iowa's Max Murin on Jan. 18, could not sustain his positive momentum, as Penn State's No. 2 Nick Lee tallied a takedown in all three periods and piled up over three minutes of riding time in a 9-1 major decision victory.
What followed was perhaps the most exciting match of the night. No. 14 Collin Purinton (149) battled Jarod Verkleeren, holding only a one-point advantage in the third period when Verkleeren escaped to make the score 3-2 in favor of the Husker senior from Banks, Ore. Purinton then shot, Verkleeren countered, and in the resulting scramble, Purinton was able to put the Penn State grappler on his back and record a fall at the 5:50 mark of the match. The record-setting crowd roared in approval as Purinton slapped the mat and rejoiced.
Having regained the team score lead, the Huskers turned to No. 11 Peyton Robb (157). The redshirt freshman from Owatonna, Minn., scored a takedown and gave up a reversal to Bo Pipher in the first period,, but then scored a reversal of his own in the second period to break a 2-2 tie. Robb also accumulated over two minutes' worth of riding time on his way to a 5-3 decision win.
No. 5 Isaiah White (165) then had a chance to avenge a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Penn State's No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph on Jan. 20, 2019. Joseph had other plans, however, scoring a takedown, earning a point for stalling, and piling up two minutes of riding time en route to a 5-1 decision victory.
Like White, No. 6 Mikey Labriola (174) had a chance to return the favor against a top-rated Nittany Lion. No. 1 Mark Hall defeated Labriola 5-3 in State College, Pa., back in January 2019. Following a Hall takedown that was originally called on the mat but overturned following a Nebraska challenge, the Penn State grappler never looked back. Hall scored a takedown in the first period, a reversal in Period 2 and two takedowns in the third period. His second third-period takedown proved to be critical, as Hall locked up Labriola in a cradle and was able to secure a pin at the 6:52 mark of the bout.
Now facing a five-point team score deficit, No. 8 Taylor Venz (184) went to work against Penn State freshman Aaron Brooks. Venz gave up an early takedown but fought his way to a 3-3 tie at the end of Period 1. The junior from Farmington, Minn., used an escape and takedown to build a 6-3 lead heading into Period 3. Venz scored another takedown in the third period and piled up over two minutes of riding time throughout the match. A late Brooks reversal was inconsequential as Venz earned the 9-5 win.
No. 8 Eric Schultz (197) continued his undefeated streak in dual meet competition by grinding out a 3-1 win over Nittany Lion senior No. 19 Shakur Rasheed. Neither Schultz nor Rasheed ceded much ground in this bout, but Schultz was able to score a team-leading 54th takedown at the end of Period 2 and that ultimately proved to be the difference as he helped Nebraska regain the team score lead, 18-17.
The meet's outcome was decided in the night's final bout. No. 15 Christian Lance (HWT) and Penn State freshman Seth Nevills were scoreless after Period 1. Lance chose down to start the second period and Nevills proved tough on top, controlling Lance for the entire period and racking up two minutes of riding time. Nevills escaped early in Period 3 to effectively make the score 2-0 in his favor and Lance was unable to get the bout-tying takedown he needed. The Husker senior from Nixa. Mo., came close on a couple different occasions, but Nevills fought off each shot and scored an emphatic takedown to post a 4-0 win and give Penn State the two-point victory.
The Huskers will be back in action on Sunday against Michigan State. Dual meet action is slated to begin at 2 p.m. and will be streamed online via BTN+ (subscription required). Sunday's dual will be part of Tumble N' Rumble, a combined event featuring the Nebraska wrestling and men's gymnastics teams competing simultaneously. There will also be a giveaway on Sunday, with free t-shirts being given to the first 500 fans and free pop sockets given to the first 300 fans.