Penn State Continues Big Ten Play Against No. 8 Nebraska
Top-ranked Penn State’s Big Ten season continues marches on, as the seventh-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-2, 1-1 Big Ten) visit Rec Hallon Sunday, January 20. Of the 10 ranked Big Ten teams, only No. 2 Ohio State, No. 4 Iowa No. 5 and Michigan outrank this season’s Cornhusker squad. Nebraska’s previous two Big Ten duels were against Northwestern, who fell to the Cornhuskers and against the Wisconsin Badgers who edged out Nebraska by a sole team point. (Rankings are in accordance with FloWrestling).
This duel will not be for the light-hearted, as many top opponents from both sides will face off with their toughest competition so far this season. Starting at 125 pounds, we get Devin Schnupp versus 15th-ranked Zeke Moisey. Moisey’s senior campaign has started slow, though he is ranked 15th in the country; Moisey holds a record of 7-5, and only gained bonus points for his team in one match all season. This could be the duel where Rec Hall’s faithful fans get to see Schnupp get a signature win to turn his year around. The crowd will be rowdy for the entire match and starting off the day with an upset would be a great way for the Nittany Lions to bounce back from a rocky start in their last duel. Also, the possibility for Gavin Teasdale debuting in Rec Hall could also occur which would be equally as exciting as Teasdale is a four-time Pennsylvania state champion.
Roman Bravo-Young will square off against another freshman in Jevon Parrish. Parrish has only competing in one dual all season with the rest of his matches coming in open tournaments. Bravo-Young, now ranked 14th, has remained stunning in his first season at Penn State; his only miscue this year to this point was getting pinned by Austin Gomez of Iowa State in the Southern Scuffle. Bravo-Young is a very talented athlete and has the potential to be what Zain Retherford was for this school for his four years on the team.
The 141 pound match has the ability to steal the show on Sunday because of the history built into the matchup. Let’s travel back to 2016 when both Nick Lee and Chad Red we're in high school; both were undefeated and met in the 132 pound Indiana State finals. Lee built a 4-0 lead over Red, but Red persevered and downed Lee with a score of 6-5 to finish, and ended an incredible high school career going 183-0 in four years of high school competition. Lee was ranked fourth in the nation at the time of this bout. These two incredible athletes will stand toe-to-toe on Sunday with both men having something to prove.
Moving to 149 pounds, Brady Berge is coming off a loss Wisconsin’s ninth ranked Cole Martin which may result in Jarod Verkleeren getting the start against Collin Purinton of Nebraska. Purinton is unranked this year and has not faced either Berge or Verkleeren in collegiate competition. Berge could come off his loss, looking to score big against Purinton or Coach Cael Sanderson could be looking to stir up the 149 debate some more by giving the nod to Verkleeren.
157 pounds brings the second “1 versus 2” matchup of the Penn State season as top-ranked Jason Nolf battles second ranked Tyler Berger. Nolf has had Berger number in college, outscoring Berger 47 -15 in their three prior matchups. Both Nolf and Berger’s last match was against Northwestern’s Ryan Deakin, both having beaten the Northwestern wrestler. Berger secured the 6-3 decision victory while Nolf controlled the matchup the entire time and cruising to a 19-7 major decision. The first “1 versus 2” match up this season saw Mark Hall regain the top seed in the 174 pound division as he got his revenge against Zahid Valencia from Arizona State, regardless this matchup will be another exciting storyline to follow.
The 165 pound match up will keep the fans on the edge of their seats as well as Vincenzo Joseph gets to face a petsky old foe in Isaiah White. White is ranked sixth by FloWrestling and has proven to be on the skill level of Joseph. The two met last year in the NCAA tournament where sudden victory was need for a winner to be determined. Joseph was able to beat White with a score of 4-2, but White does hold a victory over Joseph in the Iron Man Finals in yet another overtime period. Joseph did not compete this past weekend as Bo Pipher and Mason Manville got some action at 165 pounds therefore look for Joseph to be fresh and ready to tackle his toughest opponent this season.
Mike Labriola comes into Rec Hall to face Mark Hall for the first time in his collegiate career. Labriola is the lone freshman in the top 10 of the 174 pounds class and eight of the 10 athletes are juniors. This will be a great test for both Hall and the young Labriola as one looks to show why they are the most dominant wrestler at the 174 pound class, as the other looks to shake up the rankings and give a glimpse into what the future of the 174 pound class.
The drama continues with the 184 pound division as Shakur Rasheed looks to put the doubters to rest again fourth ranked Taylor Venz. Rasheed has been impressive in his move from 197 down to 184 pounds, but he has not escaped his critics. Rasheed's critics claim he has not had a tough match since his transition. Rasheed and Venz have one common opponent in Mason Reinhardt from Wisconsin; Venz eked out a 6-5 win while Rasheed blanked Reinhardt by a score of 5-0. Rasheed is the second ranked wrestler at 184, but Venz will give him a run for his money this Sunday.
Bo Nickal will look to chase teammate Jason Nolf for the all time pin record as Nickal will Eric Schultz on Sunday. Nolf currently holds the record with 54 pins while Nickal is just behind his teammate with 51. Nolf's competition is much tougher than Nickal with Eric Schultz being ranked 12th. This pin race will be a underlying storyline to keep an eye on for the rest of the season.
Finally, the heavyweight clash between third ranked Anthony Cassar and 15th-ranked David Jensen looks to be a great close to an intense day of wrestling. Jensen, also a junior like Cassar, has been a heavyweight his entire collegiate career composing a 43-21 record through four years. Jensen has started this season by going 11-0 with two wins this season coming via pins in only one minute and 16 seconds. Cassar and Jensen’s match will be the first meeting of the two heavyweights.
Match Prediction: Penn State over Nebraska 34-4
Ryan Simpson is a senior majoring in statistics and minoring in sociology. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.