The first duel of the new year ended in disappointment for Nebraska.
After being inactive since early December, the Huskers welcomed No. 18-ranked Purdue to begin Big Ten play. Coming into the night, Nebraska had won eight straight meets against the Boilermakers, but that streak came to an end.
The Huskers gave a valiant effort despite being without multiple starters, but Purdue wrestled tough throughout the night, and wasted no time jumping on top.
The 125-pound bout featured Husker freshman Jeremiah Reno against heavily favored Purdue senior Devin Shroder. Shroder dominated throughout, winning with a technical fall 17-0 against the less-experienced Reno. This victory set the tone for the Boilermakers, and they stuck with it. After going up 5-0, Purdue never relinquished the lead.
The Boilermakers extended their lead to 12-0 after two wins by freshman Matt Ramos and senior Parker Filius. In the 141-pound matchup, Filius beat Husker junior Tucker Sjomeling, the backup to the inactive senior Chad Red Jr.
Nebraska responded well with a 10-3 victory from sophomore Ridge Lovett over Purdue sophomore Trey Kruse.
One of the few bright spots of the night for the Huskers was a 5-3 extra time win from Nebraska sophomore Jevon Parrish over sophomore Cooper Noehre. Parrish, who normally backs up sophomore Peyton Robb, stepped up when his name was called and delivered a victory.
Going into the intermission, Nebraska had narrowed the margin to 12-6. With a stronger second half of the lineup on the way, the energy steadily increased inside the Bob Devaney Center. Up to this point in the year, the Husker’s strength had been the heavier weight classes.
Nebraska freshman Bubba Wilson narrowed the deficit even further with a close win over sophomore Hayden Lohrey 3-1. With arguably their best wrestler junior Mikey Labriola up next, a comeback was in sight for the Huskers.
Purdue sophomore Gerrit Nijenhuis had other plans. Nijenhuis wasn’t intimidated by third-ranked Labriola and came out firing with an early take down to go up 2-0. Knotted up 4-4 in the final minute, Nijenhuis secured a take down. In a huge upset, Nijenhuis won 6-4 over Labriola, much to the delight of the Purdue bench.
This put Purdue up 15-9 going into the final three bouts.
The Boilermakers were not finished with the upsets, however, as immediately after Nijenhuis Purdue senior Max Lyon pulled off an upset of his own over Nebraska senior Taylor Venz. In a must-win bout for the Huskers, Lyon led throughout. An early takedown put him up 2-0, and he didn’t look back. Three total takedowns secured a surprisingly dominant 7-2 upset win over the No. 10 ranked Venz.
With only two bouts remaining, the Huskers fell down 18-9.
Husker senior Eric Shultz was able to avoid an upset against junior Thomas Penola, but couldn’t manage any bonus points. Shultz won 5-2 on a minor decision bringing the score to 18-12, but it was too little too late for the 197-pound wrestler.
Going into the final bout, a surprising opportunity for a Husker victory remained. Heavyweight senior Christian Lance needed a pin against Purdue senior Micheal Woulfe if Nebraska wanted any chance. Although there were a few moments that gave the crowd hope, Lance was only able to win on minor decision 11-4.
A disappointing performance for the Huskers, falling to Purdue 15-18 in Lincoln.
Nebraska wrestling will travel to Minneapolis this week, where it will face Minnesota on Friday, January 14th at 8 p.m.