Nebraska 157 lber Peyton Robb (Photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
Wrestling returned to the Big Ten Network in a big way on Tuesday as a pair of top-15 teams met to kick off the network's year of collegiate coverage. #15 North Carolina traveled to #9 Nebraska for an exciting dual that will surely shake up the national rankings next week. While there were some individual upsets, the balanced Husker lineup cruised past their ACC counterparts, 27-6.
141 through 157 lbs featured three matches between ranked competitors. In each instance, the lower-ranked wrestler ended the match by getting his hand raised. The most notable of which came at 157 lbs, as returning national champion, #2 Austin O'Connor (North Carolina), was knocked off by #16 Peyton Robb (Nebraska). Both are wrestling at different weights from the 2021 season, as O'Connor has moved up from 149 and Robb was at 165 last season. Facing a 2-1 deficit early in the third period, O'Connor decided to cut Robb for an escape rather than trying to ride for an entire period to earn a tying riding time point. With just over a minute remaining in the bout, Robb sucker dragged out of a front headlock attempt by O'Connor to notch his second takedown of the match. Shortly thereafter, O'Connor escaped bringing the margin to 5-2. He would push for another score but never got it. The Husker faithful exploded in the waning second of the match, as Robb registered the biggest win of his collegiate career.
The win has forced Robb into the conversation as one of the key contenders at 157 lbs. This may not be surprising as the Husker star just recently returned from a stint at the U23 World Championships, where he finished 11th at 74 kg. He handed O'Connor his first loss since December 29th, 2019, when the Tar Heel was edged by Pat Lugo (Iowa) at the Midlands.
The upset-filled night started at 141 as #13 Kizhan Clarke (North Carolina) took out #5 Chad Red Jr (Nebraska) in sudden victory, 3-1. Aside from a late flurry in the third period, neither wrestler made a serious attempt at a leg attack throughout most of regulation. In sudden victory, Red Jr appeared to be on the verge of scoring; however, Clarke kept his balance after getting elevated with a leg attack. The new Tar Heel then pushed the pace and finally broke through with a double leg for the win.
A match later, it was Nebraska turning the tables with an upset of their own. A third period escape from #14 Ridge Lovett (Nebraska) propelled him past returning All-American, #6 Zach Sherman (North Carolina), in a back-and-forth tilt that could have been worthy of "Match of the Night" status in an ordinary dual meet.
While the first seven matches featured competitive bouts, the Husker flexed their muscles from 184-285 lbs. The final three members of Nebraska's vaunted lineup (Taylor Venz, Eric Schultz, and Christian Lance) all put away their UNC opponents via major decision.
Nebraska 27 North Carolina 6
125 - Liam Cronin (Nebraska) dec Spencer Moore (North Carolina) 3-1
133 - Jaime Hernandez (North Carolina) dec Alex Thomsen (Nebraska) 10-4
141 - Kizhan Clarke (North Carolina) dec Chad Red Jr. (Nebraska) 3-1SV
149 - Ridge Lovett (Nebraska) dec Zach Sherman (North Carolina) 4-3
157 - Peyton Robb (Nebraska) dec Austin O'Connor (North Carolina) 5-2
165 - Bubba Wilson (Nebraska) dec Sonny Santiago (North Carolina) 3-2
174 - Mikey Labriola (Nebraska) dec Clay Lautt (North Carolina) 3-2
184 - Taylor Venz (Nebraska) maj Hunter Queen (North Carolina) 15-2
197 - Eric Schultz (Nebraska) maj Mark Chaid (North Carolina) 16-3
285 - Christian Lance (Nebraska) maj Brandon Whitman (North Carolina) 17-6