Photo by James Wooldridge

Previewing the Huskers' Opponents at the NCAA Championships

March 14, 2018
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The Nebraska wrestling squad will compete at the NCAA Championships this Thursday through Saturday inside the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.

Seven Huskers qualified for the national tournament. Each will battle through their respective weight classes in hopes of finishing inside the top eight for a spot on the podium as an All-American.

Here is a preview of each Nebraska wrestlers’ first-round opponent and potential second-round or wrestlebacks opponent, as well as how they have faired against other qualifiers this season.

133 pounds: Jason Renteria (Fr.)

After struggling to keep his weight down earlier this season, Renteria figured things out late in the season and proved he’s a threat, even as a true freshman.

Renteria will face No. 13 seed Bryan Lantry of Buffalo in the first round. Lantry, a junior, finished second at the MAC Championships and is a three-time qualifier.

Lantry advanced to the NCAA’s Round of 12 last year.

Depending on the result of his first-round match, Renteria will face either the winner or loser of No. 4 seed Kaid Brock of Oklahoma State vs. Dylan Duncan of Illinois.

Brock finished second at the Big 12 Championships and is a returning All-American.

Duncan, a redshirt freshman, beat Renteria at the Big Ten Championships by decision 9-8.

Because of his previous issues with weight, Renteria has only wrestled 12 matches so far this season, but four of those opponents are in the 133-pound field. Renteria is combined 3-4 against those qualifiers, with each of his three wins coming against Scott DelVecchio of Rutgers.

141 pounds: Chad Red Jr. (RFr.)

Red has had an up-and-down season. He’s proven he can compete with some of the best in his class, but also dropped a few matches he was favored in.

Red will face No. 7 seed Brock Zacherl of Clarion in the first round. Zacherl, a junior, finished second at the EWL Championships and is a three-time NCAA qualifier.

Depending on the result of his first-round match, Red will face either the winner or loser of No. 10 seed Mason Smith of Central Michigan vs. Thomas Thorn of Minnesota.

Smith qualified for the NCAA tournament last season, while Thorn is a three-time qualifier and returning All-American.

Red beat Thorn at the Daktronics Open earlier this season by sudden victory 5-3.

The 141-pound class is stacked with a handful of wrestlers capable of taking home the title. Red has wrestled 12 of the other 32 qualifiers in his bracket this season, going 8-9.

James Wooldridge
Redshirt freshman Chad Red Jr. works on a takedown against North Carolina earlier this season.

 

149 pounds: No. 13 seed Colton McCrystal (Sr.)

McCrystal came up one-win shy of being an All-American at 141 pounds last season. Based on his seed, he will have some work to do if he wants to close out his Nebraska career on the podium.

McCrystal will face Jarrett Degen of Iowa State in the first round. As a redshirt freshman, this is Degen’s first NCAA tournament.

If McCrystal wins his first match, he will likely face No. 4 seed Troy Heilmann of North Carolina. Heilmann, a senior, beat McCrystal by major decision 13-4 on Dec. 17. Heilmann finished first at the ACC Championships and is a three-time NCAA qualifier.

Heilmann’s first round opponent is Tyshawn Williams of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

McCrystal is 21-5 this season with all five loses coming against 149-pound qualifiers. He also owns seven wins against wrestlers in the field.

157 pounds: No. 8 seed Tyler Berger (Jr.)

Berger finished fifth last season at the NCAA Championships and is Nebraska’s only returning All-American. He is positioned to take home another honor in his third NCAA appearance.

Berger will wrestle Joseph Velliquette of Pennsylvania in the first round. Velliquette, a senior, is making his NCAA debut.

In the second round, Berger will likely face No. 9 seed Archie Colgan of Wyoming. Colgan finished first at the Big 12 Championships and is a two-time NCAA qualifier.

Berger narrowly defeated Colgan on Nov. 17, edging out a 5-4 decision.

Colgan’s first round opponent is Hunter Willits of Oregon State. Willits is a true freshman making his NCAA debut.

Berger is 8-8 against 157-pound qualifiers this season, with zero wins against wrestlers seeded above him and three losses against wrestlers seeded below him.

Berger has little room for error if he wants to finish on the podium for the second straight season.

165 pounds: No. 11 seed Isaiah White (So.)

White isn’t new to the big stage. Prior to transferring to Nebraska, he was a Division II National Champion at Notre Dame College last season. Now, he will look for similar success at the Division I level.

White’s first round opponent is Demetrius Romero of Utah Valley. Romero, a sophomore transfer from Boise State, is making his NCAA debut.

Depending on the result of his first-round match, White will face either the winner or loser of No. 6 seed Richie Lewis of Rutgers vs. Quentin Perez of Campbell.

Lewis is a two-time NCAA qualifier and reigning U23 World Trial Champion. Previously at 157 pounds, Lewis moved up a class midway through this season.

On Jan. 21, Lewis needed tiebreakers to beat White 2-1.

Perez, a junior, is a two-time NCAA qualifier.

White has 10 wins against 165-pound qualifiers this season compared to just five losses. In the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten Championships, White pushed the eventual four-time Big Ten champion Isaiah Martinez of Illinois to the brink, eventually losing by decision 7-4.

James Wooldridge
Redshirt freshman Taylor Venz following a dual win against North Carolina in December.

 

184 pounds: No. 7 seed Taylor Venz (RFr.)

Venz enters his first NCAA Championships as Nebraska’s highest seeded wrestler. His first round match is against Chaz Polson of Wyoming. Polson, a senior, is making his NCAA debut. On Nov. 17, Venz defeated Polson by technical fall 18-2.

Regardless of the first round results, Venz will see another previous opponent in the second round or the first round of wrestlebacks.

The No. 10 seed Emery Parker of Illinois faces Chip Ness of North Carolina in the first-round match below Venz’s.

Venz is 1-1 against Parker and 1-0 against Ness this season. Venz beat Ness in sudden victory 13-11 on Dec. 17 and recently avenged an early-season loss to Parker at the Big Ten Championships.

Overall, Venz holds a 9-7 record against wrestlers in 184-pound bracket this season. Three of those losses are to No. 5 seed Dominic Abounader of Michigan. Venz and Abounader are on opposite sides of the bracket, but could face each other in wrestlebacks.

197 pounds: Eric Schultz (RFr.)

After coming up one-win shy of an automatic bid at the Big Ten Championships, Schultz was one of 47 wrestlers in the country to receive an at-large selection to the NCAA Championships.

Schultz will face No. 14 seed Cash Wilke of Iowa in the first round. Wilke, a sophomore, is a two-time NCAA qualifier and finished sixth at the Big Ten Championships. Schultz finished seventh.

Depending on the result of his first-round match, Schultz will face either the winner or loser of No. 3 seed Jared Haught of Virginia Tech vs. Jacob Seely of Northern Colorado.

Haught is a two-time All-American and two-time ACC Champion. Seely, a sophomore, is making his NCAA debut after suffering a season-ending injury last year.

Schultz owns an 18-9 overall record this season. Seven of his nine losses were to 197-pound qualifiers. One of his other two losses was against Kevin Beazley of Michigan who withdrew from the NCAA tournament because of injury.

Schultz has faced a number of top-notch wrestlers this season, but hasn’t quite overcome the hump. He will need to do so if he wants to finish on the podium.

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