NEB WRES: Huskers Clash with Nation’s Elite at Cliff Keen Invitational

Posted By: Sports

Courtesy: UNL Media Relations

No. 13 Nebraska Cornhuskers at Cliff Keen Las Vegas Collegiate Wrestling Invitational
Friday, Dec. 1-Saturday, Dec. 2 – 11 a.m. (CT); 11 a.m. (CT); Las Vegas, Nev. (Las Vegas Convention Center)

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Huskers Clash with Nation’s Elite at Cliff Keen Invitational

Nebraska looks to prove its place among the top teams in the nation this week at one of the premier events on the NCAA wrestling schedule, the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Collegiate Wrestling Invitational this Friday and Saturday.

Action at the Las Vegas Convention Center is set to begin at 11 a.m. (CT) both Friday and Saturday. The early rounds of the championship and consolation brackets will be contested in the first session starting at 11 a.m. on Friday, with the championship and quarterfinals quarterfinals set to begin at 8 p.m. Friday. The championship quarterfinals and the fifth- and seventh-place matches will begin at 11 a.m. (CT) on Saturday, while the finals and third-place matches are scheduled for 5 p.m.

Over 40 teams are expected to participate at the loaded tournament, and more than 100 nationally-ranked wrestlers will be in attendance. 14 of the nation’s top-25 teams in the latest NWCA poll will take the mat in Las Vegas.

The 13th-ranked Cornhuskers are coming off a 28-13 dual win over West Virginia last Saturday in Morgantown, W.Va. Isaiah White (165), Taylor Venz (184), Eric Schultz (197) and David Jensen (HWT) each won their matches by bonus points. Colton McCrystal (149) picked up a decision to move to 2-0 on the dual season and 6-0 on the year.

Four Huskers come into the Cliff Keen Invitational rated in the latest InterMat rankings. Tyler Berger is the highest-ranked Husker, as he comes in at fourth at 157 pounds, while Colton McCrystal held steady at No. 5 at 149 pounds. Chad Red Jr. is ranked seventh at 141 pounds, and Isaiah White comes in at 11th at 165 pounds.

Last Time Out: Nebraska defeated West Virginia, 28-13, last Friday

Up Next: The Huskers will return to action on Friday, Dec. 15 to host No. 6 NC State at 7 p.m., before welcoming North Carolina to the Devaney Center on Sunday, Dec. 17 at 2 p.m.

Returning NCAA Qualifiers Back to Business
Nebraska’s returning NCAA qualifiers Tyler Berger and Colton McCrystal have both picked up where they left off last season, and each own unblemished records through the first three competitions of the season.

Berger, an All-American at 157 pounds a season ago, knocked off his third-consecutive ranked opponent as he took down No. 17 Archie Colgan of Wyoming by a 5-4 decision. Berger won the Daktronics Open title, which included decisions over No. 20 Luke Zilverberg of South Dakota State and No. 10 Jake Short of Minnesota. Berger was Nebraska’s wins leader with 36 last season, and sports a career record of 65-19, which puts him on pace to become the next member of Nebraska’s 100-win club.

McCrystal, who advanced to the round of 12 at 141 pounds at the NCAA Championships last season, is off to a great start as he moved up a weight class to 149 pounds this year. He defeated No. 7 Steve Bleise of Minnesota in the championship match at the Daktronics Open, and scored his first dual win of the season with a 7-3 decision over Sam Turner of Wyoming. McCrystal also won a 6-4 decision over Kyler Rea of West Virginia last week.

New Contributors Record First Dual Wins
With six starters, including three All-Americans, lost to graduation from a season ago, Nebraska’s starting lineup is dramatically different than it was a season ago. New contributors, including sophomores, redshirt freshmen, and veterans who have paid their dues to earn starting spots, are now featured heavily in the lineup.

Seven Huskers saw their first dual action of their careers in a Nebraska singlet in NU’s first two duals, as Kris Williams (125), Mitchell Maginnis (125), Brian Peska (133), Chad Red Jr. (141), Isaiah White (165), Taylor Venz (184) and Eric Schultz (197) were each inserted into the starting lineup for the first time.

Five Huskers picked up their first dual wins of their careers so far this season, as Williams, White and Schultz, each won by decision against Wyoming, while Venz and David Jensen (HWT) both won by technical falls in the Wyoming dual. White, Shultz, Venz and Jensen each moved to 2-0 with wins in the West Virginia dual.

Venz Picks Up Fall After Fall After Fall
Redshirt freshman Taylor Venz has won all six of his matches at 184 pounds so far this season, and each one has come by bonus points. He won his first three matches at the Daktronics Open by pin, and defeated Brady Ayers of South Dakota State by a 17-1 technical fall in the championship match. In the Wyoming dual, Venz defeated Chaz Polson by technical fall, 18-2. He won a 17-5 major decision over Brenden McRill of West Virginia last week.

In a 28-4 redshirt season last year, Venz pinned eight opponents, defeated seven by tech fall and won six major decisions.

Jensen Wins First Dual Pin
David Jensen notched Nebraska’s first pin of the dual season last Saturday, as he pinned Brandon Ngati of West Virginia in 3:17. The pin was also Jensen’s first of the season in any competition. The sophomore picked up eight wins by pin in 2016-17.

Five Huskers Win Daktronics Open Titles
Four Huskers in the lineup for the Cliff Keen Invitational have already won a tournament title this season, as a total of five Huskers won titles at the season-opening Warren Williamson/Daktronics Open in Brookings, S.D., on Nov. 5. Chad Red Jr. (141), Colton McCrystal (149), Tyler Berger (157) and Taylor Venz (184) each went 4-0 at the tournament hosted by South Dakota State. Isaiah White (165) and Eric Schultz (197) both finished second. Mikey Labriola also won the 174-pound bracket at the Daktronics Open competing unattached.

Nebraska Taking Non-Starters to Bob Smith Open
A total of 13 Huskers will also be in action at the Bob Smith Open in Hays, Kan., this Sunday, beginning at 9 a.m. The list of Huskers in attendance includes Dylan Gowin (125), Mitchell Maginnis (125), Zak Hensley (133), Tucker Sjomeling (133), Christian Miller (141), Jordan Shearer (149), Luke Weber (149), Zemua Baptista (157), Johnny Blankenship (165), Dalton Peters (165), Mikey Labriola (174), Colton Wolfe (197) and Wyatt Wriedt (HWT).

Huskers Working Through Tough Schedule
Nebraska will face seven teams in dual action in 2017-18 that finished in the top 25 at the NCAA Championships last season: Michigan (10th), Illinois (11th), Wisconsin (13th), NC State (17th), Rutgers (19th), Wyoming (21st) and Stanford (24th).

In addition, NU has seven teams on the slate currently ranked in the USA Today/NWCA Coaches Poll: NC State (6th), Michigan (9th), Rutgers (11th), Illinois (15th), Wisconsin (18th), Purdue (20th) and Stanford (25th).

Last Time Out
Nebraska 28, West Virginia 13
Nov. 25, 2017, Morgantown, W.Va.

Bonus-point wins at the three upper weights powered 13th-ranked Nebraska to a 28-13 win last Saturday at the WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, W.Va.

With Nebraska holding a 13-6 lead entering the intermission following the 174-pound bout, Taylor Venz won a 17-5 major decision over Brenden McRill at 184 pounds, before Eric Schultz unleashed a scoring barrage on the way to a 22-5 technical fall over Hunter DeLong at 197 pounds.

In the heavyweight bout, sophomore David Jensen gave NU a 28-6 lead in the match after he recorded Nebraska’s first pin of the dual season, as he pinned Brandon Ngati in 3:17.

Isaiah White, the 11th-ranked wrestler in the nation at 165 pounds according to InterMat, dominated his match at 165 pounds, scoring a total of seven takedowns and a reversal, as he cruised to a 17-7 major decision over Ryan Lopez.

Fifth-ranked Colton McCrystal picked up a decision at 149 pounds, as he came back from an early deficit to defeat Kyler Rea, 6-4.

No. 7 Chad Red Jr. began the day with a win by forfeit to give Nebraska an early 6-0 lead.

West Virginia recorded wins at 157, 174, 125 and 133.

All Time at Las Vegas Invitational
Nebraska has competed at the Las Vegas Invitational a total of 22 times, finishing first in both 2003 and 2008. NU has also finished second five times, in 1992, 1995, 2000, 2004 and 2013.

Last Time: 2014 Cliff Keen Invitational
Dec. 5-6, 2014, Las Vegas, Nev.

Four Huskers placed in the tournament, with All-American Robert Kokesh claiming the top spot at 174 pounds to highlight the weekend for Nebraska, which finished sixth overall with 89 points. James Green took runner-up honors at 157 pounds. Justin Arthur (149) notched a fourth-place finish and TJ Dudley (184) finished seventh.

All-American Robert Kokesh captured the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational crown at 174 pounds, as he defeated fifth-seeded Blaise Butler of Virginia, 6-2, in the final.

Green, the No. 2 seed at 157 pounds, went 4-1 on the tournament, but dropped a 4-3 decision to No. 1 Dylan Ness of Minnesota in the finals.

Arthur (149) battled through the consolation bracket, but fell to Iowa State’s Gabe Moreno, 6-1, in the third-place match. Arthur went 6-2 on the weekend.

Dudley (184) notched a pin in the seventh-place match against 11th-seeded Austin Gabel of Virginia Tech in 4:41 to cap a 5-2 weekend.