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Wrestling Preview: No. 1 Penn State vs. No. 11 Nebraska

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The Nittany Lions return home this week to take on their first ranked opponent since defeating then-ranked Wisconsin pretty handily--and this one is much better.

After cutting a wide swathe through the state of Indiana, Penn State comes back to Rec Hall for the first dual meet this weekend to take on the Cornhuskers, who are sitting pretty in the Big Ten so far this year after surprisingly starting off their Big Ten season with a loss to Rutgers and following that up with dominating wins over Maryland, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Nebraska has a number of ranked wrestlers, and Penn State hasn't wrestled them in a few years--it's been three seasons since the two teams matched up, and when they last did, the Lions smoked the Huskers 33-9 in Lincoln. While Nebraska is a very good team, this PSU squad is the best they've faced on the season and it isn't even close--and while they'll be taking on the Buckeyes on Sunday, it won't be close the rest of the year.

As for what will happen on Friday night, I'm expecting some grind it out-type matches and not as many bonus points as this team is used to scoring, though the final score should be fairly one-sided.

How To Watch

What: #1 Penn State (8-0, 3-0 Big Ten) vs #11 Nebraska (9-1, 3-1 Big Ten)

Where: Rec Hall, University Park, PA

When: Friday, 7 pm ET

Audio: Free Jeff "Ironhead" Byers, via GoPSUSports

Video: No regular tv;  internet tv is  BTN+

Projected Lineups

No. 1 Penn State WT No. 11 Nebraska
#4 - Nico Megaludis (Sr., Murraysville, PA) 125 #9 - Tim Lambert (Jr., Forest Hills, MI)
#5 - Jordan Conaway (Sr., Abbottstown, PA) 133 #12 - Eric Montoya (Jr., Albuquerque, NM)

#13 - Jimmy Gulibon (Jr., Derry, PA)

OR Kade Moss (So., South Jordan, UT)

141 #20 - Anthony Abidin (Sr., Dix Hills, NY)
#1 - Zain Retherford (So., Benton, PA) 149 #5 - Jake Sueflohn (Sr., Watertown, WI)
#3 - Jason Nolf (Fr., Kitanning, PA) 157 #17 - Tyler Berger (Fr., Prineville, OH)

#16 - Shakur Rasheed (Fr., Coram, NY)

OR Geno Morelli (Jr., DuBois, PA)

165 #14 - Austin Wilson (Sr., Hastings, NE)
#1 - Bo Nickal (Fr., Allen, TX) 174

#14 - Micah Barnes (Jr., Inver Grove Heights, MN)

OR UR - Dustin Williams (Fr., Gardner, KS)

#13 - Matt McCutcheon (So., Kiski Area, PA) 184 #5 - TJ Dudley (Jr., Irmo, SC)
#1 - Morgan McIntosh (Sr., Santa Ana, CA) 197

#16 - Aaron Studebaker (Jr., Raymond, NE)

OR UR - Derek White (Fr., Edmond, OK)

UR - Jan Johnson (Fr., Mohnton, PA) 285 #17 - Collin Jensen (Jr., Mobridge, SD)

125 LBS - Match of the Meet #1

Lambert's had some good wins on the year--including over Lehigh's Darian Cruz, and North Dakota State's Joshua Rodriguez. His two losses on the year both come at the hands of the current #6 wrestler, Oregon State's Ronnie Rios--and the second was a 2nd period pin at the Midlands tourney after a narrow one point decision in the teams' dual meet earlier in the decision. Lambert is a good wrestler (two-time NCAA qualifier), but Megaludis is even better than Rios. The final score in this one should be a decision, but it won't feel as close as that as Nico controls it from the opener and likely will be frustrated as Lambert will just be attempting to not be majored.

Prediction: Nico by Dec

Score: PSU 3, Nebraska 0

133 LBS 

Jordan is the one wrestler who would keep winning and fall in the rankings, because of course that would happen to him. Iowa's Cory Clark lost to Zane Richards last week, and didn't fall behind Conaway--Richards bumped up from number 7 to number two, and Clark fell to number three. Not completely illogical, but still a little disappointing for Lions fans; Jordan will have his chance next week when PSU visits Champaign.

On to Friday, when Conaway takes on a dangerous Husker wrestler (Montoya narrowly missed All-American status last year at the NCAAs) who's 17-3 on the year, with losses to a trio of wrestlers in ODU's Saavedra, Maryland's Alexander, and a major decision loss to Nahshon Garrett, who also majored Jordan.

Prediction: Jordan by Decision

Score: PSU 6, Nebraska 0

141 LBS

Abidin was seeded 9th at last year's tourney and wrestled to seed; this year, he's not wrestling quite as well, 13-7 on the season and just now cracking the top-20 rankings. He's fallen to Rutgers' Anthony Ashnault and Lehigh's Randy Cruzh, and was majored by Kade's victim last week, Purdue's Danny Sabatello. He did tech fall Wisconsin's Luke Rowh last week, and if Jimmy was at 100% all of this year I'd think this one would be bonus points on bonus points for Gulibon, but I'm not sure he'll be able to keep Abidin from scoring enough to bonus here.

Prediction: Jimmy by Decision

Score: PSU 9, Nebraska 0

149 LBS - Match of the Meet #2

Can there be pain when there's no bonus points?  Will we find out today? I think maybe. I expect this one to be close in points though not in feel, and if Sueflohn's smart he won't choose bottom. I'm not sure he's that smart.

Prediction: ZPain by Decision

Score: PSU 12, Nebraska 0

157 LBS

This is the match that I think all the bonus points on Penn State's side comes from. Berger and Nolf were part of the same wrestling recruiting class, and he was a four-time Oregon state champion before redshirting his first year in Lincoln. He's 17-4 so far this season, with a pair of losses to Lewis of Rutgers, one to Mascola of Maryland (both ranked) and a loss to an underrated Bryce Steiert of Northern Iowa--but he hasn't faced Jason Nolf Yet. Nolf is still stuck in third place at this weight, with a chance to move up next week. He'll use this week as practice.

Prediction: Nolf by Tech

Score: PSU 17, Nebraska 0

HALFTIME

This is likely a doozy, so you'll want to stretch your legs on this one.

165 LBS

Shakur may have solidified his starting spot last week against Purdue when he decked Welch in the first period. Though this is technically still an "or", he is the most explosive guy Penn State has at this weight, and even though he's facing an experienced guy who has qualified for the NCAAs three times in a row, he should be able to take him. It's either going to be a really close decision, or a pin.

Prediction: Rasheed by Decision

Score: PSU 20, Nebraska 0

174 LBS 

Poor Micah Barnes--you get Bo Nickal after his first loss in a PSU singlet. Bo bounces back big. Even though his opponent is ranked, it won't really matter--this one won't feel like it's much in doubt. The score will look much closer than it really is. Barnes hasn't wrestled since the Midlands--and if it's actually Williams who goes instead, look for this one to be a pin.

Prediction: Bo by Major

Score: PSU 24, Nebraska 0

184 LBS - Match of the Meet #3

This is the absolute best test of Mouse's season. I sure hope he's back to 100%, because Dudley sure as heck will be; a returning All-American, he lost to David Taylor in the finals of the Midlands (who wouldn't) but kept it to a decision. That kind of says it all right there.

Prediction: Dudley by Dec

Score: PSU 24, Nebraska 3

197 LBS

Studebaker beats the wrestlers he should beat, and loses to the wrestlers who are ranked ahead of him. Today will be no different. Morgan is probably the most unheralded great wrestler on this squad--seriously, how do we not talk more about him? He's 16-0, dominates all of his opponents, yet we never say his name. Morgan McIntosh. Morgan McIntosh. Morgan McIntosh. He's making the podium this year, and Aaron Studebaker is just another notch on his belt on the way to that.

Prediction: Morg by Major

Score: PSU 28, Nebraska 3

285 LBS

After a great Friday showing, Jan Johnson got pinned when he got gassed on Sunday. He's facing someone who could easily do that same thing to him in Jensen, a two-time NCAA qualifier. Keeping this to four points, and looking competitive, is a victory for this squad at this weight.

Prediction: Jensen by Major

Score: PSU 28, Nebraska 7

Side note: Intermat currently has Nebraska ranked at number 11 for tournaments, and number 9 for dual meets. Not that it makes much of a difference, but the Penn State athletic department usually uses the tournament rankings in its releases. We traditionally follow what PSU releases, unless they don't rank a team that Intermat has ranked in one of its rankings.