Nebraska wrestling continued its winning streak on Sunday with a hard-fought 21-15 victory over Wisconsin at the Devaney Center.
Before the match, the Huskers paid tribute to Christian Miller, a junior Nebraska wrestler who died in a car accident in November. The team held a moment of silence, while a tribute video to Miller played. On the sideline, Husker wrestlers wore shirts honoring Miller, as well as a special shoe design.
The match showed all the signs of being exciting early. At the 125-pound weight class, Nebraska’s No. 11 senior Liam Cronin trailed Wisconsin junior Ethan Rotondo 3-2 after two periods, thanks to a takedown and escape by Rotondo. Cronin would battle back in the third, using an escape and a takedown with 36 seconds to go to take a 5-3 lead. The match wasn’t over, however, with Rotondo scoring his own escape and takedown combination with 19 seconds to go. This put himself in front once again 6-5. Cronin still had enough time to decide the closely fought match, and his reversal with five seconds left usurped the 7-6 win by decision and put Nebraska up 3-0.
The 133-pound weight class had another close match. Junior Tucker Sjomeling took the mat for Nebraska, replacing sophomore Alex Thompson after his slow 1-3 start to the season. Opposite Sjomeling on the mat was Wisconsin redshirt freshman Kyle Burwick, who in his true freshman year achieved an 11-3 record in total.
After a scoreless first period, Burwick had a late takedown with 27 seconds left in the second to take a 3-1 lead into the third. Burwick was called for a locked hands violation with 25 seconds left in the final period, cutting his lead to 3-2 and giving Sjomeling the chance to tie or take the win. Burwick did not give him the chance to do so, staying on top of Sjomeling for the entire 25 seconds for a 3-2 win by decision, tying the match at 3.
In the 141-pound weight class, Nebraska’s No. 5 senior Chad Red Jr. had a dominant win over Wisconsin sophomore Dominic Dentino. Red Jr. had three takedowns and almost four and a half minutes of riding time in his 8-3 win by decision. Nebraska went up 6-3, but it would lose a point after the score was adjusted because of a mat violation after the 125-pound match. Nebraska’s lead was changed to 5-3.
The 149-pound match featured another exciting finish at the wire. Nebraska’s No. 16 freshman Brock Hardy trailed Wisconsin sophomore Drew Scharenbrock 5-4 late in the third period, before a reversal with nine seconds left put him in front 6-5. The late lead would not last long, as just four seconds later Scharenbrock would score the final reversal for the 7-6 win by decision. The team point loss was already proving to be costly for the Huskers, as this win gave the Badgers a 6-5 lead.
Wisconsin would extend its lead at the 157-pound weight class, with No. 21 junior Garrett Model getting the pin on Nebraska senior Caleb Licking. The pin came halfway through the second period, and the win by fall put Wisconsin in front 12-5.
Nebraska would answer with a big pin of its own at the 165-pound weight class. No. 16 sophomore Peyton Robb pinned Wisconsin freshman Josh Otto just 1:31 into the match. The win by fall closed the Wisconsin lead to 12-11, but a mat violation on the Husker sideline cost the team another point and Wisconsin’s lead was adjusted 12-10.
The first ranked vs. ranked matchup of the afternoon happened at the 174-pound weight class with Nebraska’s No. 5 junior Mikey Labriola facing Wisconsin’s No. 25 sophomore Jared Krattiger. Labriola used four takedowns, an escape, and the riding time bonus for a 10-4 win by decision, putting Nebraska back in front 13-12.
Wisconsin had a crucial victory at the 184-pound weight class. Nebraska’s No. 7 senior Taylor Venz was dominant against Wisconsin’s No. 9 senior Chris Weiler early, with a takedown and a four-point near fall giving him a 6-0 lead in the first period. Weiler would bounce back with two reversals, cutting Venz’s lead to 8-4 by the end of the period. Weiler’s second-period reversal and third-period takedown cut the lead to 9-8, but his dominant performance secured him the riding time bonus point.
With the bonus point in his pocket, Weiler moved to an aggressive strategy, letting Venz escape to make the lead 10-8 before a late takedown by Weiler tied things up at 10. The addition of the bonus point handed Weiler a 11-10 win by decision, and the lead flipped back in Wisconsin’s favor, 15-13.
Needing a spark at the 197-pound weight class, Nebraska’s No. 2 senior Eric Schultz delivered with an impressive performance against Wisconsin sophomore Andrew Salemme. Schultz had an impressive 14 takedowns against Salemme, leading to a 30-13 win by technical fall. Nebraska would go back in front 18-15 as a result, meaning Wisconsin would need a win by bonus points to win outright and not by tiebreaker criteria.
The heavyweight class went down to the wire as well in what was perhaps the most competitive matchup of the day. Nebraska’s No. 23 senior Christian Lance had an early takedown to go up 2-0 over Wisconsin’s No. 6 junior Trent Hillger, but two escapes by Hillger tied it at 2 going into the final period. In the third, Lance almost had a takedown against Hillger, but was unable to get his feet in the right position. Time ran out, and the match went to sudden victory overtime. In the overtime period, Lance was in a similar position to get a takedown on Hillger. Hillger fought hard, but Lance prevailed with a takedown to lock up the 21-15 victory for the Huskers.
Nebraska is back in action on Saturday, Feb. 6, with three matches against Indiana, Michigan State and Rutgers. Next weekend’s meet is set to take place in Bloomington, Indiana.