Nebraska senior Mitchell Maginnis hasn’t had a weekend this tough in his entire wrestling career.
The Huskers’ 125-pounder could face two top-10 opponents in a span of just three days.
“I have some pretty stiff competition, but I’m looking forward to it,” Maginnis said. “I think it will be a lot of fun.”
No. 18 Nebraska (4-3, 2-1) will wrestle at No. 20 Northwestern (7-1, 2-1) on Friday at 7 p.m. before returning home for a dual against No. 16 Rutgers (4-3, 1-2) on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Maginnis is one of three Husker wrestlers who could face a pair of ranked opponents in each of their individual matches.
The Grand Island native is projected to face Northwestern’s redshirt freshman Sebastian Rivera, ranked No. 10 in his weight class by InterMat, in Friday’s match and No. 2 Nick Suriano, a sophomore from Rutgers, on Sunday.
Rivera is coming off four straight matches against top-25 opponents. His only loss this season is a 7-6 decision to Suriano.
Suriano, who wrestled for Penn State last season as a true freshman, is undefeated this season with a 16-0 record. Suriano has five wins against wrestlers currently ranked in the InterMat rankings.
Nebraska assistant coach Tim Lambert, who coaches Maginnis and the lighter weights, wrestled against Suriano last season. Lambert lost a narrow 3-2 decision in a January dual against Penn State.
Maginnis said his preparation in practice this week hasn’t been focused specifically on a Suriano matchup, but rather his own craft.
“Mainly just working on my stuff and getting into my ties,” Maginnis said. “If I can do that, then that’s going to work against anybody.”
After four years with the program, including a redshirt season, Maginnis finally got his chance in the varsity lineup. So far this season he holds a 15-7 record, but is just 1-5 in dual matches.
Four of Maginnis’ five dual losses have come by two points or less, meaning he was a takedown or an escape from tying or potentially winning.
“It’s definitely been frustrating,” Maginnis said. “When you lose a close match in general, you really can’t get that moment back. I think moving forward I have to go seize the moment and opportunity. If it doesn’t come out in my favor, I just have to look back on it and learn.”
In his career, Maginnis has faced just two nationally ranked opponents, with one of those matches occurring earlier this month. Maginnis dropped a 4-2 decision to No. 15 Travis Piotrowski of Illinois on Jan. 5.
There’s no denying this weekend will be different from what Maginnis is used to, but he’s not shying away from the competition.
“We’ve been training hard,” Maginnis said. ”Putting in all the work, and all of the hard stuff is kind of out of the way. So now it’s time to go out there and let it fly.”
As a team, the Huskers are looking to continue their momentum built off of back-to-back dual victories, including a 20-15 win on Jan. 12 against No. 22 Purdue.
Northwestern and Rutgers will be the second and third straight top-25 programs Nebraska has faced.
The Wildcats are coming off an 18-14 upset victory against No. 16 Wisconsin, while the Scarlet Knights recently defeated No. 24 North Carolina by criteria 18-17.