Wrestling Preview: No. 3 Ohio State Faces Another Top-10 Battle On the Road at No. 6 Nebraska

By Andy Vance on February 2, 2020 at 9:52 am
Nebraska's Devaney Center

You have the whole afternoon ahead of you until The Big Game. Fortunately for you, Ohio State wrestling has you covered.

After grinding an outmatched Maryland squad into the Covelli Center mat Friday night, the Buckeyes travelled to Lincoln where they'll face the Nebraska Cornhuskers Sunday at 1 p.m. Ohio State beat Maryland 43-3; it will be a surprise if the score is that lopsided today.

6-3, 1-3 BIG TEN

1 P.M. – SUNDAY, FEB. 2


Nebraska is a much more talented team than Maryland, to put it mildly, and will give Ohio State another chance to show how well the team is developing 46 days out from the NCAA Wrestling Championships. The Cornhuskers have as many ranked wrestlers as do the Buckeyes, and there are a few "could go either way" matches in this battle, on paper at least.

The home team is 5-1 inside Devaney Center this season, but are just 1-3 overall in Big Ten competition with three consecutive losses to Wisconsin, Iowa and Penn State in late January. Ohio State beat one of those teams and will face Penn State later in the month.

For Ohio State, Friday night's dual versus Maryland may not have shown anything noteworthy given the talent disparity at play, but it was notable for the dual-meet debut of Quinn Kinner at 157. Kinner started the season trying to make the cut to 133 after losing the 141-pound wrestle-offs.

When that proved not to be sustainable, he spent the holidays bulking up and wrestling open tournaments at a new weight. He stepped in for Elijah Cleary Friday and secured the tech fall. I wouldn't draw too many conclusions from the result in terms of who ultimately wrestles at 157 for the Buckeyes, but Sunday's meet should provide another datapoint for evaluation.

Much like Rocky Jordan blossomed this season after moving up to 184 and challenging Gavin Hoffman for the spot, we could see Kinner take over for Cleary by providing a more consistent offensive approach.

The Nebraska Cornhuskers

Head Coach: Mark Manning

Probable Matchups
125 Malik Heinselman (10-12, So.) Alex Thomsen (8-9, r-Fr.)
133 No. 21 Jordan Decatur (10-6, Fr.) Zak Hensley (4-2, r-Sr.) -OR-
No. 14 Ridge Lovett (9-6, Fr.)
141 No. 1 Luke Pletcher (21-0, Sr.) No. 6 Chad Red (12-5, r-Jr.)
149 No. 6 Sammy Sasso (19-2, r-Fr.) No. 15 Collin Purinton (12-5, r-Sr.)
157 Elijah Cleary (13-9, r-Jr.) -OR-
Quinn Kinner (10-4, r-Fr.)
Peyton Robb (13-4, r-Fr.)
165 No. 13 Ethan Smith (15-8, r-So.) Dalton Peters (5-4, r-Jr.) -OR-
No. 4 Isaiah White (12-3, Sr.)
174 No. 7 Kaleb Romero (15-3, r-So.) No. 6 Mikey Labriola (14-5, r-So.)
184 No. 24 Rocky Jordan (25-6, r-Fr.) No. 9 Taylor Venz (12-6, r-Jr.)
197 No. 1 Kollin Moore (21-0, r-Sr.) No. 10 Eric Shultz (17-2, r-Jr.)
HWT No. 23 Gary Traub (18-5, r-Jr.) David Jensen (11-3, r-Sr.) -OR-
No. 17 Christian Lance (9-6, r-Sr.)

Mark Manning's 18 years running the show at Nebraska have been some of the most successful in program history. With six Top-8 finishes at the NCAA tournament and 49 individual All Americans, he's coached some incredibly good teams over the past two decades.

Most notably, perhaps, he coached Jordan Burroughs to world freestyle titles in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017, and to Olympic Gold in 2012. Manning was named Freestyle Coach of the Year by USA Wrestling in 2011 and 2015 for his work with Burroughs.

The team's most notable accomplishment to date this season is winning the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, snapping Ohio State's three-year win streak at the prestigious tournament. The Buckeyes had been projected to finish fourth, but came within a point of the 'Huskers after the quarterfinals and finished second overall.

That tournament gives us some idea as to how individual matches may play out Sunday.

Notable Matches

There could be as many as eight ranked-versus-ranked matches Sunday, so each of those is notable in its own way. Here are a few that stand out among the rest.

133 pounds: No. 21 Jordan Decatur vs. No. 14 Ridge Lovett

In a battle of true freshman, we'll have another chance to see how Jordan Decatur is coming along in managing the cut to 133. Although he dropped a close decision Friday night, the loss was mostly the result of a 6-point move in the first period; he had plenty in the gas tank late and came to within a takedown before time expired.

Lovett has a similar record to Decatur and lost in a similar fashion to No. 1 Seth Gross at Wisconsin. He did hold Austin DeSanto to a decision while Decatur gave up the tech, but this still feels like a match Decatur has a good shot to win depending on where the meet starts and how he's handled his nutrition over the weekend.

141 pounds: No. 1 Luke Pletcher vs. No. 6 Chad Red

Pletcher and Red met in December at the Cliff Keen, and Pletcher walked away with the major decision. Since taking the No. 1 spot early in the season, Pletcher has only really been pushed to the limit once despite having faced half of the current Top 10. 

165 pounds: No. 13 Ethan Smith vs. No. 4 Isaiah White

White has been a mainstay in this class for years, and has a pretty good season going this year. He needed extra innings to best Smith at the Cliff Keen, though, and the younger Buckeye looks like he's coming on strong down the stretch.

174 pounds: No. 7 Kaleb Romero vs. No. 6 Mikey Labriola

Romero has inched his way up the rankings in matches like these, beating the man one spot ahead of him on more than one occasion this season. Although got the better end of a 2-1 decision in Las Vegas, Romero has improved steadily this season and if he gets his offense going, this is another match he could add to his collection of highly-ranked wins.

Buckeye Breakdown

Based purely on rankings, Nebraska should have an advantage. Ohio State has the higher-ranked wrestler in just three matches (141, 149 and 197), while Nebraska has the edge in five.

Ohio State could certainly get the better of Nebraska's unranked wrestlers at 125 and 157, and have fair odds to steal an upset or two at 133, 174 and heavyweight. In any event it should be an exciting dual, and great experience for a Buckeye team gearing up for postseason action.

Action in Lincoln gets underway at 1 p.m. The meet streams live on BTN+.

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