No. 1 Penn State will look to get back to their dominant ways against No. 7 Nebraska this Sunday in Rec Hall. The dual will begin at 1:00 p.m., and will be broadcast live on BTN+ and Flo Wrestling. Penn State struggled in their last outing against No. 19 Wisconsin, which led to a 24-13 win for the Nittany Lions. In that dual, No. 6 Nick Lee and No. 10 Brady Berge were both upset, but Cael Sanderson's heavy hitters were able to continue the nation's longest dual winning streak.
Nebraska comes to town with one of the deepest lineups in the country, as they feature eight ranked wrestlers, including four in the top-10. They also have a lot of promising young talent with some savvy veterans as well. Head coach Mark Manning is building a very talented program in Lincoln, and they could be a very difficult team to handle in the coming years. Penn State will be favored as always, but Cael Sanderson will preach to his team that anything can be possible after last week's rough showing in a 24-13 win over Wisconsin.
At 157 pounds, No. 1 Jason Nolf has another marquee matchup this week, as he will take on No. 2 Tyler Berger. These two have faced each other three times, with Nolf winning all three by bonus points. Nolf has quietly put together an impressive Hodge Trophy candidate season with a 100 percent bonus rate, including a very impressive major decision against No. 3 Ryan Deakin (Northwestern) last weekend. Berger has improved over his career at Nebraska, but Nolf is probably going to be a tough mountain to climb in this one. Expect a big win for Nolf and another great win for his Hodge Trophy resumé.
At 165 pounds, No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph is expected to be back this week after missing last week due to illness, but with how close to the vest Cael Sanderson keeps things who knows. Joseph could be seeing No. 6 Isaiah White in a rematch of their NCAA Tournament quarterfinal from last season. That match went to Joseph in a 4-2 win in sudden victory. White's athleticism and strength make him a very tough matchup for Joseph because he's very difficult to score on, and doesn't get outmuscled easily. Another tight one could be in store for the Rec Hall crowd.
The other main question for Penn State at this point is will we see Gavin Teasdale? He did not wrestle at the Southern Scuffle or last weekend, but could he be thrown into a match with No. 13 Zeke Moisey on Sunday? Moisey, a grad transfer from West Virginia is a veteran, and made the NCAA finals as a true freshman. He's a very talented scrapper, so it would be quite the test if Teasdale is given the call. Only Devin Schnupp was listed on Penn State's match notes, but that does not mean Teasdale cannot get the call.
No. 6 Nick Lee is going to look to get back on track against an old high school foe in No. 19 Chad Red. Lee and Red wrestled a sensational state final back in Indiana that is one of the most talked about high school matches in the last decade. Red prevailed on that day, but Lee is the one who has really taken his game to another level in college. Even though Lee is fresh off of a loss to Tristan Moran (Wisconsin) last weekend, he has really blossomed under Cael Sanderson and has what it takes to get revenge on Red this time around. Even with Red's sometimes inconsistent results, he did manage to defeat two-time champion Dean Heil at the NCAA Tournament last season. He is capable of bringing it at a very high level. Expect a lot of fireworks in this one, it could be an awesome contest.
No. 3 Shakur Rasheed and No. 5 Taylor Venz will battle at 184 pounds and really look to possibly cement themselves as a 2 or 3 seed come the NCAA Tournament. It's going to be a big help for whoever gets to avoid No. 1 Myles Martin (Ohio State) until a potential final. Rasheed appears to have the upper hand here given their performances so far, even though Venz looks to build on last year's fourth place finish at NCAAs. Venz finds his way in tight matches frequently, so this could easily be a one or two takedown match. Look for Rasheed to come out of the blocks early on this one to work his top game against Venz.
The other featured matchup is at 174 pounds between No. 1 Mark Hall and No. 9 Mikey Labriola. Hall has really been strutting his stuff since winning his rematch over No. 2 Zahid Valencia (Arizona State) back in December. Labriola is a former District 11 and Bethlehem Catholic standout who is having a very impressive redshirt freshman season. He is looking like a legitimate podium contender and potential All-American. That said, it's tough to see where Labriola's offensive points are going to come from in this one as Hall has just been so tough to score on.
Expect No. 13 Roman Bravo-Young to continue his inner quest to dominate wrestlers from top like Zain Retherford. Bravo-Young will be a massive favorite against Jevon Parrish, and a tech fall or fall is very much possible in this one.
No. 10 Brady Berge will also look to get back to his winning ways against Collin Purinton. Berge has struggled to get his offense going for much of the season, but he is still looking like a real solid hand and potential All-American. Expect him to win this one, Purinton isn't in his league.
No. 1 Bo Nickal is probably the frontrunner for the Hodge Trophy at this point, and he will look to continue that pursuit against Eric Schultz. Schultz has been a steady hand this season, but you can't really beat Bo Nickal by being steady. Another bonus point win for Nickal would not be a surprise at all.
No. 4 Anthony Cassar will look to pick up another ranked win against No. 14 David Jensen. Cassar has really looked tough to stop this season, and another bonus point win for him could easily be on the cards. Jensen has had a big turnaround this season, but suffered his first loss of the season on Friday against No. 6 Youssif Hemida (Maryland) by a score of 8-6.
Prediction - Penn State 34, Nebraska 3 - Outside of 125 pounds, Nebraska won't be a favorite in any other match. Penn State could easily run the table from 133 pounds to heavyweight and it would not be a shock. Nebraska's key points in this dual will be at 141, 157 and 165. They will need to win at least two of these three to make this dual close, but whenever a path to victory includes beating Jason Nolf and Vincenzo Joseph, you may be a team completely out of options.