Pre-Match Breakdown: NC State vs. Nebraska

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This Sunday, the #7 Nebraska Cornhuskers travel to Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, North Carolina, to take on the #5 Wolfpack of NC State.  

While last season this dual ended very quickly with NC State coming away with the victory 29-3, this matchup looks to be one of the toughest of the season for both sides. These two squads have wrestled in a dual against each other every season since 2014, with neither team having a win column at home. We will see this weekend if that streak holds or if the Wolfpack can break the status quo.

Checkout the weight-by-weight breakdown below:

Written by Cohl Fulk

125:  #6 Sean Fausz vs. #12 Zeke Moisey

If this dual starts at 125, this match may be the most important of the dual. While Moisey has dropped a couple questionable matches this year, there is still no doubt he is elite at putting together a 7-minute match against the nation’s best. On the other side, you have Fausz, fresh off his silver medal at the 2018 University Worlds at 61 kilos – and for you non-math wizards out there, that is more than 10 pounds over the weight he plans to make on Sunday for the first time this season. You can bet that Coach Manning and staff will be praying the 125 slot will be pulled to start the dual. 

133:  #4 Tariq Wilson vs. Tucker Sjomeling

This match is a sleeper that could turn out to be pivotal by the dual's end. Tariq “The Freak” Wilson (as coined by NC State’s Director of Ops Melissa Simmons) has been on fire since walking into Lebron’s former home in Cleveland, having only lost one folkstyle match since March of this year – that being an overtime barnburner with eventual NCAA champ Seth Gross. Sjomeling, on the other hand, has not had as much success on the national scene, but his dual win over #12 Montorie Bridges should be one that raises the hairs of the Wolfpack coaching staff. Bridges, who beat Wilson last season, can be considered to wrestle a similar style as Wilson, and the 13-11 decision for Sjomeling in November may just be foreshadowing for another point-scoring fest in Raleigh.

141:  #17 Jamal Morris vs. #15 Chad Red

This bout is going to consist of two guys traveling on two different paths – with Red dropping in the rankings while Morris rises - and this match could be a crossroad that paves the way for the rest of the regular season. Red is remembered for his upset pin over two-time defending national champion Dean Heil in the blood round of the 2018 National Championships, while Morris did not crack the NC State starting lineup last year. Morris has had his own significant win this season, however, defeating Eastern Michigan’s last ever All-American Sa’Derian Perry, who now dons the blue of Steve Martin’s Old Dominion squad. Both wrestlers are lengthy, quick and explosive from their feet, but the big question in this matchup is if Red will be able to get away from Morris, who racked up over 3 minutes of riding time against Perry last month in Norfolk.

149:  #4 Justin Oliver vs. Collin Purinton

Oliver is the newest face on the Wolfpack lineup after coming to Raleigh from Mount Pleasant, Michigan, where he spent three seasons competing for Central Michigan. After an All-American run in his freshman campaign, Oliver is seeking out his second podium appearance in his final season. Purinton, a Junior reigning from Banks, Oregon, has found himself on both ends of the win/loss column but has a respectable win with an 8-6 victory over Wisconsin’s #15 Cole Martin. This match is the first that is heavily favored for the Wolfpack, and bonus will likely be in mind for the redshirt senior Oliver.

157:  #3 Hayden Hidlay vs. #4 Tyler Berger

157 is the premier matchup of the dual on paper. The second- and third-place finishers in last year’s NCAAs square off on Sunday for the third time. Last season in Lincoln, it was Hidlay coming away with a 6-3 decision, notching both takedowns of the match. This was Hidlay’s breakthrough moment last season, as he came into the dual ranked #16 in the country. Berger was red hot last March, coming in as the eight seed and only losing to Hidlay in the quarterfinals by a narrow 3-2 decision. It is safe to say that Berger has more than just his team in mind for this dual – as he plans to gain some revenge against the Mifflin County native. Look for this one to be low scoring, with the man who scores the first takedown most likely coming out on top.

Watch their battle at last year's NCAA tournament:

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165:  #19 Thomas Bullard vs. #5 Isaiah White

Nebraska’s Isaiah White is as hot as ever coming off a championship run at the prestigious Cliff Keen Invitational. While in Vegas, White hit the jackpot by taking down #6 Logan Massa in the semifinals and following it up with a 2-0 shutout in the finals over Virginia Tech freshman phenom #9 Mehki Lewis. White is the definite favorite in this bout, but Bullard is a hard win every time on the mat. In the 2016-2017 season, Bullard took Berger to the brink, losing 6-5.

174:  Daniel Bullard vs. #9 Mikey Labriola

This matchup once again favors the Cornhuskers. Labriola redshirted last year finishing with an impressive 18-2 record. But his second-place finish at UWW Men’s Freestyle Junior Nationals in the loaded 79 kg bracket could trump his success during his folkstyle season. Labriola’s last showing was a fourth-place finish at CKLV, while Bullard is coming off a decision over Flitz of Appalachian State. Look for Labriola and his staff to be pushing hard for bonus points in this one.

184:  #7 Nick Reenan vs. #3 Taylor Venz

In my opinion this match is the marquee matchup of the dual. Venz is obviously successful: a fourth-place finish in last season’s NCAA Championships as a freshman, second place at this years CKLV only dropping a bout to Myles Martin and according to his bio on Nebraska’s website, he was the 2018 Nebraska Lifter of the Year. Reenan, on the other hand, has not seen the same success in folkstyle. He went 0-2 at 174 in his first NCAAs before redshirting last season. Since bumping up to 184 however, Reenan has been a different animal. Last season in redshirt he defeated #5 Zack Zavatsky and finished third at the Scuffle. In the offseason is where Reenan really broke through, winning the trials tournament and finding a spot in Final X against eventual world champ David Taylor. This match is going to revolve around two strong, explosive guys who are experienced in the freestyle scene. The fireworks are already loaded for this one.

197:  Malik McDonald vs. #8 Eric Shultz

Schultz is fresh off a runner-up performance at the CKLV, only falling to Ohio State’s Kollin Moore, while McDonald is coming off a loss to #19 Randall Diabe of App State, a wrestler McDonald had won the last two contests against. While on paper Schultz should seem to be a lock for at least a decision for the Cornhuskers, this should be one to keep an eye on. Schultz isn’t necessarily one to put up large margins of victory, and McDonald tends to keep all matches with ranked opponents very close. I’m expecting this to be a low-scoring match with whoever grabs the first takedown coming away with the win.

285:  Deonte Wilson or Colin Lawler vs. Patrick Grayson

This match is the most unpredictable of the entire dual. Wilson has not seen much success during the dual season, but Lawler, who is currently red-shirting, is fresh off a victory over #7 (now #14) Voss of George Mason. Will we see Popolozio burn a redshirt in an attempt for Lawler to have a repeat performance? While Grayson is not the same caliber as Voss, he still has a few solid wins this season, despite being just 6-4 on the year. This matchup will be pivotal for either side to win, and with this being the only match without a ranked guy on the mat, this could be must-watch TV if the dual ends at heavyweight.

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