Skatzka shines for Gophers in loss to Nebraska

Minnesota dropped their regular season finale 29-12 to the Cornhuskers.

Sophomore Gable Steveson celebrates after a winning a match during the meet against Nebraska at the Maturi Pavilion on Friday, Feb. 21.

Liam Armstrong

Sophomore Gable Steveson celebrates after a winning a match during the meet against Nebraska at the Maturi Pavilion on Friday, Feb. 21.

Nolan O'Hara

Redshirt senior Devin Skatzka shined for the Gophers wrestling team on senior night, earning a top-10 upset win on a night Minnesota otherwise struggled, falling to Nebraska 29-12 and losing its third straight dual. 

After Minnesota dropped the opening match of the dual at 165 pounds, Skatzka electrified the crowd at Maturi Pavilion, winning his top-10 matchup over No. 6 Mikey Labriola. After a scoreless first period, Skatzka scored off an escape in the second for the first point of the match. Labriola quickly answered with a takedown, but Skatzka added another escape, making it 2-2 after two. 

“We were laughing about it later, he didn’t realize it was tied and that if he had the riding time, he would win,” head coach Brandon Eggum said. 

Tied at two, Skatzka was able to take Labriola’s back in the third, securing four near fall points and still adding the point for riding time. He won in a 7-2 decision.

“It felt great. We’ve had a lot of back and forth battles, I’d seen him like five times last year,” Skatzka said. “It feels great to go out on top in my last dual meet.” 

With the dual tied 3-3, Nebraska started to gain momentum, winning the next two matches, one by way of major decision. With Nebraska up 10-3, the Gophers needed bonus points from their top-ranked heavyweight Gable Steveson. Steveson stayed undefeated on the season, landing eight takedowns, including one right before the buzzer en route to his 19-7 major decision over Christian Lance. 

“We talked after the Iowa dual about finishing periods on top, and he did that,” Eggum said of Steveson. 

After Steveson’s win, the Gophers trailed 10-7 and intermission followed, where Minnesota honored its graduating class. 

“I love being a Gopher, I mean the fans are awesome. I didn’t have any of this at Indiana,” Skatzka said. “I just really tried to go out there and have as much fun as I could today because I knew it was the last time.” 

After each of the Gophers’ seniors received their plaques, the dual was back on at 125 pounds. Redshirt freshman Jake Gliva was in for the Gophers for Patrick McKee, but lost in a 9-1 major decision to Alex Thomsen. Minnesota took a forfeit at 133 pounds with junior Boo Dryden unable to compete with a skin issue. Down 20-7, the Gophers needed wins and bonus points in their remaining three matches. 

Minnesota wouldn’t get them. Nebraska notched an upset at 141 pounds, where No. 6 Chad Red Jr. stunned senior Mitch McKee, pinning him in the second period. Taking the 26-7 lead, Nebraska clinched the dual with two to go. 

Redshirt freshman Brayton Lee momentarily brought some life back for the Gophers with a dominant performance at 149 pounds. Lee had nine takedowns in his match where he secured a 23-8 technical fall over Christian Miller. In the end, it wasn’t enough for Minnesota. Nebraska secured the last victory of the dual at 157 pounds, solidifying their victory. 

Minnesota finishes its season with a 9-8 record in duals, and will have some time off before the Big Ten Championships, March 7-8.