2x NCAA Champion Carter Starocci (photos courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
The most competitive and powerful conference in college wrestling was just too big for a regular-sized preview, so we've divided it into two-parts. Our two Big Ten correspondents, Kevin Claunch and Lauren Muthler, have previewed seven schools a piece. Their names are next to the school's they've written about below.
The preview has teams listed in alphabetical order, so was Illinois-Minnesota in Part One.
Team: Nebraska (Lauren Muthler)
Nebraska is coming off a stellar season, placing fifth at NCAAs with eight All-Americans, led by 149-pound runner-up Ridge Lovett. While they've lost some staples of their lineup, including All-Americans C.J. Red, Taylor Venz and Eric Schultz, the Cornhuskers have the distinction of being the only Big Ten team to start the season with wrestlers ranked in all 10 weight classes by InterMat. In addition to its tough Big Ten slate, the Cornhuskers will also host Arizona State, last year's fourth-place NCAA finisher, in what should be an electric dual. Nebraska fans have a lot to look forward to.
Lovett has quickly become a fan favorite. It started in 2021, when he went from the No. 7 seed to place second at the Big Ten Championships in State College. Then he did it again last season, going from the 10th seed to national runner-up. His NCAA semifinal match against Virginia Tech's Bryce Andonian was one of the most exciting of the tournament. Lovett showed off his athleticism and confidence in his attack as the two rolled around for a solid seven minutes without much break in the action. While he's the national runner-up at 149 pounds, he's still ranked behind Big Ten foes Austin Gomez, of Wisconsin, and Sammy Sasso, of Ohio State, and is still looking for a win over either. Gomez is the defending conference champ, but it's a new season and the race between these three for the Big Ten crown is set to be one of the most exciting.
Lovett isn't Nebraska's only returning All-American. Mikey Labriola, at 174 pounds, is the veteran on the team, and as a three-time All-American, provides a steady presence. Peyton Robb finished last season strong with a fourth-place finish at 157 and will be looked to increase his consistency and help make up for some of the points lost from Red, Venz and Schultz.
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