Tyler Berger, Taylor Venz pin ranked opponents to lift No. 7 Nebraska past No. 13 Illinois

LINCOLN — Taylor Venz had been waiting for this match.

Nebraska’s starter at 184 pounds lost two of three matchups against Illinois’ Emery Parker a season ago.

On Sunday, facing Parker for the first time this season, Venz led 5-2 before getting the Illini senior on his back. The fifth-ranked Venz finished his win with a pin 33 seconds into the third period against second-ranked Parker.

“I know he’s talented and stuff like that, but my approach was to be tougher than he is and put it on him,” Venz said. “I told myself I want to own space in this guy’s head. I want him to feel my presence.”

Venz’s victory was part of a strong finish by the seventh-ranked Huskers, who won the final seven matches for a 30-9 dual victory over No. 13 Illinois.

Last season, Venz lost a 9-7 regular-season decision to Parker after he led 7-1 in the third period — “the first loss against him was kind of heartbreaking,” Venz said. Venz then won 9-4 in the Big Ten tournament before Parker’s 8-1 victory in the NCAA tournament’s third-place match, when Venz competed on an injured ankle.

But Sunday, Venz led 3-2 after the first period, recorded a reversal in the second to hand Parker his first loss this season.

“You got to keep wrestling, and that’s what Taylor did today,” coach Mark Manning said.

That was one of three pins for Nebraska, which trailed 9-0 after three matches. Tyler Berger, ranked second at 157, and No. 12 Eric Barone were tied 1-1 after two periods before Berger recorded a pin with 23 seconds left. Heavyweight David Jensen finished the dual with a second-period pin against Deuce Rachal.

There were five matches pitting ranked wrestlers, with NU going 3-2 in those Sunday.

“I’ve been preaching all the time that we have more in us,” Manning said. “We’ve got guys growing up right in front of our guys.”

Nebraska returns to action Friday at No. 14 Rutgers before hosting No. 4 Iowa on Feb. 3.

Individual results: 125: Travis Piotrowski, I, dec. Zeke Moisey, 6-5. 133: Dylan Duncan, I, dec. Jevon Parrish, 10-7. 141: Mike Carr, I dec. CJ Red, 4-3 TB-1. 149: Jordan Shearer, NU, dec. Christian Kanzler, 7-3. 157: Tyler Berger, NU, pinned Eric Barone, 6:37. 165: Isaiah White, NU, dec. Joey Gunther, 7-2. 174: Mikey Labriola, NU, major dec. Carver James, 16-7. 184: Taylor Venz, NU, pinned Emery Parker, 5:33. 197: Eric Schultz, NU, dec. Andre Lee, 2-1. 285: David Jensen, NU, pinned Deuce Rachal, 3:32. Att.: 934.

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