Kevin Jack celebrates after winning his third-place match at the NCAAs (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
On Friday, No. 8 NC State travels to Lincoln to take on No. 11 Nebraska. The predicted matchups feature 10 ranked wrestlers, and the inter-conference meet might play a significant role when it comes to seeding at the NCAA tournament. The following is a weight-by-weight preview of the dual meet. The lineups are a prediction of each team's best squad.
125: Tommy Cox (NC State) vs. Kris Williams (Nebraska)
No. 8 Sean Fausz currently represents NC State in the InterMat rankings. However, he has spent most of the season out of the lineup possibly due to weight issues. Instead, Cox has wrestled in all duals at 125. The sophomore from New York has gone 13-4 this season. In his last match, he scored a first-period fall over De'Andre Swinson (Appalachian State).
Williams competed exclusively in open tournaments last year as he sat behind Tim Lambert. This season, he looks to be the starter after defeating teammate Mitchell Maginnis at the Daktronics Open. Williams has gone 7-3 this season with his losses coming against No. 7 Sean Russell (Edinboro), No. 16 Louie Hayes (Virginia) and No. 43 high school recruit (Patrick McKee).
Even though Williams lost to Russell at the Cliff Keen International, the bout went to overtime and eventually ended in sudden victory. Throughout his career, Williams has shown the ability to compete against tough wrestler by keeping the score low. He should be able to do that here and pick up the win.
Prediction: Williams (Nebraska) dec. Cox (NC State)
133: Tariq Wilson (NC State) vs. Brian Peska (Nebraska)
Wilson has dropped a pair of matches against teammate Jamel Morris, but he has still been the starter in the team's last two dual matches. Outside of the two bouts against Morris, Wilson has won all 12 of his matches. The Ohio native went 21-7 last year during his redshirt season and won the Appalachian State Open.
Peska has had a tough start to this season. His record currently stands at 6-5, and he lost both of his dual meet matches by a combined score of 21 to 7. Peska recently went 1-2 at the Cliff Keen International with his only victory coming over Ryan Friedman (Harvard).
Wilson is still early in his career, but he came in as a blue chip prospect and has shown that the status was deserved. He should be able to put it on Peska and pick up bonus.
Prediction: Wilson (NC State) major dec. Peska (Nebraska)
141: No. 2 Kevin Jack (NC State) vs. No. 8 Chad Red (Nebraska)
Jack is a three-time NCAA qualifier and two-time All-American. So far this season, he has gone 7-0 with five victories coming with bonus points. In his lone decision win, he defeated No. 13 Alex Madrigal (Old Dominion).
After redshirting last year, Red gets the chance to start for Nebraska this year. He has already built a 9-3 record. Red holds signature victories over No. 16 Nick Zanetta (Pittsburgh), No. 20 Eli Stickley (Wisconsin) and No. 10 Tommy Thorn (Minnesota).
This could turn out to be the match of the dual. While Red has looked outstanding so far this season, he has dropped a pair of matches against Jack's chief rival No. 4 Bryce Meredith (Wyoming). Those results are a pretty good barometer of Red's status, which makes Jack the favorite to win a close match.
Prediction: Jack (NC State) dec. Red (Nebraska)
149: No. 17 Beau Donahue (NC State) vs. No. 8 Colton McCrystal (Nebraska)
There might be a little extra on the line on Friday for Donahue. Despite finishing his degree, Donahue will skip NC State's fall graduation to travel to Nebraska. He has gone 8-1 this season with his only loss coming against teammate Jamal Morris at the Wolfpack Open. In those eight wins, he has picked up four falls.
McCrystal burst onto the scene last year and ended up qualifying for the NCAA tournament. He failed to reach All-American status, but he picked up several top wins and had a solid season. This year he has gone 9-1 and split his bouts against ranked competition. He dropped a major decision against No. 3 Justin Oliver (Central Michigan) and defeated No. 15 Zander Wick (Wisconsin).
Donahue has looked sharp to start the season. However, McCrystal appears to be in another tier of competitors. When faced with competitors on the fringes of the rankings, he is almost always able to to pick up the win.
Prediction: McCrystal (Nebraska) dec. Donahue (NC State)
157: No. 16 Hayden Hidlay (NC State) vs. No. 7 Tyler Berger (Nebraska)
Hidlay joined NC State as the No. 13 recruit last season. During his redshirt season, he went 22-3 with his only losses coming against No. 3 Michael Kemerer (Iowa), No. 6 Josh Shields (Arizona State) and Dylan Cottrell. So far this season, Hidlay has gone 7-0 and bonused everyone.
With some close matches against Kemerer last season, Berger put himself into the discussion to be one of the top 157 pounders behind No. 1 Jason Nolf (Penn State). He ended up finishing fifth at the NCAA tournament with a victory over Dylan Palacio in the fifth-place match. This season, Berger has gone 10-2. Both of his losses have come against respectable opponents: Shields and No. 4 Alec Pantaleo (Michigan).
Despite suffering only two losses this season, Berger has already gone to sudden victory four times. He is playing with fire and that will eventually catch up to him. Hidlay seems to be hitting his strike and should be able to put up enough points to score the upset here.
Prediction: Hidlay (NC State) dec. Berger (Nebraska)
165: Brian Hamann (NC State) vs. No. 10 Isaiah White (Nebraska)
Last year Hamann went 21-13 and qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time. So far this season, he has gone 8-1 with five bonus-point victories. His only loss came against Demetrius Romero (Utah Valley) in sudden victory.
After spending last season at Notre Dame College and winning an NCAA Division II national title, White transferred to Nebraska for this season. He has gone 10-2 to start the season with his only two losses coming against No. 9 Nick Wanzek (Minnesota) and No. 11 Te'Shan Campbell (Ohio State). However, he also defeated Campbell, No. 17 Andrew Fogarty (North Dakota State) and Lorenzo De La Riva (CSU Bakersfield).
While White has only picked up four bonuses this season, he has averaged over nine points per match. Hamann will be facing an uphill battle here. If White can avoid the ties on the feet, he should be able to score takedowns from the outside and secure the victory.
Prediction: White (Nebraska) dec. Hamann (NC State)
174: Daniel Bullard (NC State) vs. Beau Breske (Nebraska)
Bullard came in last year as the No. 18 recruit and was part of one of the best classes in recent memory for the Wolfpack. During his redshirt season, he went 15-8 overall with the majority of the year spent at 165. He moved up to 174 for the National Collegiate Open and went 4-1 to finish third. This season he has gone 6-2, but he has dropped both of his bouts against ranked competition: No. 20 Forrest Przybysz (Appalachian State) and No. 11 Yoanse Mejias (Oklahoma).
Breske came to Nebraska last year as a top-20 recruit. In his redshirt season, he went 1-2 at the Daktronics Open and did not compete again. So far this season, he has gone 6-2. At the Cliff Keen International, he defeated Austin Bell (Pittsburgh) and Ryan Christensen (Wisconsin) but failed to place in the tournament.
Two years ago this might have been a dream match. Both wrestlers come to college with a lot of fanfare. However, the recent results strongly favor Bullard. Breske has not looked sharp in limited collegiate action and might not even get the nod for the Cornhuskers.
Prediction: Bullard (NC State) dec. Breske (Nebraska)
184: No. 3 Pete Renda (NC State) vs. No. 6 Taylor Venz (Nebraska)
Renda is back for his senior season after redshirting last year. In 2016 he finished third at the NCAA tournament and became an All-American for the first time. During his redshirt season, he defeated multiple ranked wrestlers including No. 11 Max Dean (Cornell), No. 8 Ricky Robertson (Wisconsin) and No. 2 Myles Martin (Ohio State). Renda has started this season with an 8-0 record and a win over No. 15 Bryce Carr (Chattanooga).
Venz had an incredible run at the Cliff Keen International. He finished third with his lone loss coming against No. 2 Myles Martin (Ohio State). Along the way, Venz knocked off three ranked wrestlers, Robertson, No. 7 Zack Zavatsky and No. 10 Drew Foster (Northern Iowa), and he won the tournament most falls award with four.
This is a big match for both competitors. Venz has a chance to show that he is a true contender to the top of the podium, while Renda can remind people that he is right there following a redshirt season. While Venz has been spectacular on the ground, Renda should have the advantage on the feet.
Prediction: Renda (NC State) dec. Venz (Nebraska)
197: No. 7 Michael Macchiavello (NC State) vs. Eric Schultz (Nebraska)
After spending last season at 184, Macchiavello has moved up to 197 for this year. So far he has won all six of his matches with only one victory coming with bonus points. It will be interesting to see how he progresses this season at the new weight. He wrestled only one match at 197 last year and fell in sudden victory against Daniel Chaid (North Carolina).
Schultz has faced a tough schedule so far this season. His record currently stands at 7-3, but his losses have come against No. 6 Nate Rotert (South Dakota State), No. 10 Kevin Beazley (Michigan) and No. 1 Kollin Moore (Ohio State).
This bout is a prime upset candidate. Schultz dropped a one-point match against Moore and lost to Rotert in a rideout. However, at the end of the day, this is still a bout between a top-ten ranked wrestler and an unranked one.
Prediction: Macchiavello (NC State) dec. Schultz (Nebraska)
285: Malik McDonald (NC State) vs. David Jensen (Nebraska)
McDonald took some lumps last year after replacing multiple-time champion Nick Gwiazdowski. However, he still went 20-11 and qualified for the NCAA tournament. This season McDonald has gone 9-1 with five bonus-point victories. In his last match, he defeated Cary Miller (Appalachian State) by decision.
The good news for Jensen is that he has gone 2-0 in dual meets this season. On the other hand, he has gone 6-4 overall. In his only match against a ranked competitor this season, he fell via fall 18 seconds into the match against No. 18 Gage Hutchinson (Eastern Michigan).
McDonald is the clear favorite in this bout. He should be able to handle Jensen. The only question is how many bonus points he will be able to put up.
Prediction: McDonald (NC State) fall over Jensen (Nebraska)
Dual Prediction: NC State 25, Nebraska 9