Wrestling vs. North Carolina 11.17

Nebraska’s Mikey Labriola (red) wrestles against his opponent during their match against North Carolina at the Bob Devaney Sports Center on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

The Nebraska wrestling team certainly hopes its success at the Cliff Keen Invitational follows it back to Lincoln. Seven Husker wrestlers advanced to at least the semi-finals, three advanced to the finals and Mikey Labriola won the 174 pound class.

The Cliff Keen Invitational, held in the Las Vegas Convention Center, featured 27 wrestling teams from all over the country. Action commenced on Friday morning with the rounds of 32 and 16. 

The only Husker to fall in the first round was freshman Bubba Wilson, who had an unfavorable 165 pound matchup against Michigan sophomore Cameron Amine. Wilson kept it close against Amine, the No. 4 overall seed in the weight class, but ultimately lost 5-3. Wilson strung together a nice run in the consolation bracket and finished in 8th place overall. 

Wilson and freshman Jeremiah Reno were the only two Huskers not to advance to the quarterfinals.

Seven Huskers advanced to the quarterfinal round, which was held on Friday afternoon. By the conclusion of the day, all seven had advanced to the semifinals. Nebraska also held the overall lead with 79.5 team points. 

The semifinals, which began Saturday morning, presented the first big challenge for multiple Husker wrestlers.

Senior Chad Red Jr. held an early 3-1 lead over Cornell freshman Cole Handlovic, but ultimately lost in extra time 6-4.

Sophomore Ridge Lovett suffered a similar fate against another Cornell wrestler, junior Yianni Diakomihalis. Lovett faced a 4-2 deficit before scoring with a powerful reversal to tie it up with a minute remaining. He was able to stay on top of Diakomihalis for the remainder of the third period to force overtime. Lovett was defeated 45 seconds into extra time, though, on a 2-point near-fall.

The Huskers’ Saturday misfortunes continued with a third consecutive semifinal loss, this time from sophomore Peyton Robb. After suffering an injury one minute into the 157 pound bout, he gave a valiant effort against the No. 2 seed, Princeton junior Quincy Monday. However, Robb was never able to take the lead and lost 9-6. 

Robb took a medical forfeit in the consolation bracket. 

Senior Christian Lance was the 4th Husker wrestler to lose in the semifinals. In the heavyweight bout, Lance wrestled senior Gary Traub from Oregon State. The score was knotted up 1-1 at the end of the 3rd period, after a Traub takedown was waved off. Traub got his takedown in overtime, handing Lance the loss and the Huskers their third overtime loss of the day.

Of the seven Nebraska wrestlers to reach the semifinals, three advanced to the finals.

Facing off against Ohio State senior Ethan Smith, Labriola was the first of the three Huskers to wrestle in his final matchup. Labriola fought through an open cut above his eye, wrapped it up, and overcame a 5-3 deficit. The extremely competitive bout was tied up 5-5 after the third period. An aggressive and feisty overtime period ended with a Labriola pin to secure the victory. 

The Huskers finished 1-2 overall in finals matchups.

Senior Taylor Venz lost his matchup to Ohio State senior Kaleb Romero, who dominated throughout, 7-3. 

After a strong run through the tournament, senior Eric Shultz also fell short in his final matchup. Wyoming junior Stephen Buchanan proved too powerful for Shultz and took the victory 7-3.

Lance, Red Jr. and Lovett all took third in their respective weight classes.

Nebraska will travel home for its next match against South Dakota State on Dec. 18th.