Haven’t we met before? That will be the common theme throughout the dual taking place Saturday afternoon when the sixth-ranked University of Central Oklahoma travels to take on the third-ranked University of Nebraska-Kearney. These two teams met earlier this month at the NWCA National Duals tournament and it was a war. The Central Oklahoma team won that meeting 18-13 to finish in third place. The Broncs won six of the 10 matches and scored bonus points at 149. There will be a new addition to the Loper lineup at that weight that could swing this dual the opposite direction. Either way, this is setting up to be an instant classic in these two teams’ history.
This dual could feature 14 ranked athletes with ranked wrestlers meeting at five different weights. To win this dual for the second time this year, Central Oklahoma will need to find a way to a breakthrough in Nebraska, they are 0-4 in their visits to Kearney. Head coach Todd Steidley has led a resurgence of the program and helping to pilot the construction of a new state of the art wrestling facility. He has his team poised to compete for a team trophy this March and they will challenge for the Super Regional IV crown. They are coming off a big win over Regional rival Lindenwood and should be set for this match. Coach Dalton Jensen will look to have his team ready to defend their home mat and his semester additions of Anthony Mancini and now Sam Turner has put the Lopers in the trophy hunt. He has done a great job of recruiting Division I athletes and then unleashing them on the Division II world, and this season, it will be his difference-maker. And let us not forget his team features four returning national finalists.
This dual could end up being split five matches apiece and that could favor Nebraska-Kearney when all is said and done. Follow as I break down the matches and make my predictions. And be sure to tune in Saturday to watch.
Here’s a breakdown of the probable matchups and TOM’s predictions, along with projections from WrestleStat.
When last these two met, Josh Portillo was the newly crowned number one lightweight wrestler in the country. Tanner Cole was unimpressed and found a way to secure the takedown in SV1 and earn the 8-6 upset. That win evened their series at one win each and Saturday will be the rubber match between two athletes who could meet again in the Division II quarterfinals. Portillo feasts on opponents he can ride but often struggles against wrestlers who do not give him the chance to dominate with his mat wrestling. Tanner Cole is very good on his feet and his best shot at repeating their last result is to push the pace from neutral. If Portillo wants his chance to turn Cole, he will probably have to choose top when it is his opportunity. This is going to be another close match between them, but I am going with Portillo. I am high on Tanner Cole, but I think that Portillo makes the adjustments from their last meeting and earns the win.
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