Another week, another ranked opponent.
Such is life wrestling in the Big Ten, a conference with six of the top seven and 10 of the top 19 teams in this week’s InterMat national rankings.
For No. 6 Nebraska, this will be the sixth straight ranked opponent. The opponent this week is No. 2 Ohio State. The Huskers face the Buckeyes in Columbus, Ohio, at 1 p.m. Sunday.
“We’re going to see them at the Big Ten tournament. We’re going to see them at nationals. It’s not a big deal to us,” Nebraska coach Mark Manning said of the dual.
Sunday also is Nebraska’s final Big Ten dual this season — the Huskers host Stanford on Feb. 23 before entering the postseason. Nebraska’s only losses during this seven-week stretch have been to No. 1 Penn State and No. 3 Iowa.
On Feb. 8, the Huskers erased a 14-point deficit to edge No. 7 Minnesota 21-18.
“We expected to win. We expected to win the week before, too (against Iowa),” Manning said. “It’s the mentality. There’s the belief and confidence you have that extra 10 percent in you.”
Freshman Mikey Labriola, NU’s starter at 174 pounds, got a confidence-boosting win against 12th-ranked Devin Skatzka in the Minnesota dual. After trailing 5-1 after two periods, Labriola got a reversal and a four-point near-fall on his way to a 7-6 win.
During the second half of the season, Labriola has made a habit of turning tight matches into decisive wins by controlling the third period. He scored nine points in his final period against Illinois, 10 against Iowa and 11 against Rutgers. All three of those matches ended with Labriola winning by major decision.
“When you have a redshirt freshman in a very competitive weight class, you’re going to have some ups and downs,” Manning said. “What I see in Mikey is that he’s starting to establish his consistency, and that’s really going to be relevant going forward to the Big Tens and nationals.”
Manning’s team looks to keep building toward March by taking on an Ohio State lineup that features ranked wrestlers at every weight class, including four in the top three.
Ohio State is led by Myles Martin, who is ranked No. 1 at 184. He’ll face No. 6 Taylor Venz. OSU’s Kollin Moore is ranked second at 197 and will take on No. 13 Eric Schultz. Joey McKenna (141) and Micah Jordan (149) are ranked third in their weight classes.
Ohio State’s only dual losses have been to No. 5 Michigan and top-ranked Penn State, which rolled past the Buckeyes 28-9 last weekend. Nebraska lost to the Nittany Lions 25-6 four weeks ago.