Mark Manning always thought Eric Schultz had the physical tools to be an All-American.
Now Nebraska’s wrestling coach is seeing Schultz make strides on the mental side, as well.
“Just knocking down some barriers,” Manning said of NU’s starter at 197 pounds the past three seasons. “When you get big wins, you do that. Now it’s (about) taking another jump, going to another level. Not just winning the match, but winning it decisively.”
Added Schultz: “I think my approaches to matches are a lot better this year.”
Schultz is a two-time NCAA qualifier, finishing 2-2 at nationals both years. This season, he’s off to a 17-2 start and leads the team in dual wins (nine), dual takedowns (55) and technical fall wins (five).
His most impressive win came two weekends ago at Iowa, where he used a takedown in the final seconds to beat fifth-ranked Jacob Warner 3-1. Schultz followed with a 3-1 decision over 19th-ranked Shakur Rasheed of Penn State. Those wins boosted him to sixth in InterMat’s 197-pound rankings.
On Sunday, Schultz will get the chance to knock down another barrier when third-ranked Ohio State and No. 6 Nebraska meet at the Devaney Center at noon.
The Buckeyes have the country’s top-ranked wrestler at 197 in three-time All-American Kollin Moore. Sixteen of Moore’s 20 wins this season have come with bonus points.
“Eric Schultz has got to outexecute him,” Manning said. “Everyone in the country is saying Kollin Moore is one of the most dominant wrestlers. He has been, no one has challenged him. The way I look at it, we have three opportunities to wrestle him — one Sunday, another time at Big Tens and another time at nationals.”
Schultz is familiar with Moore, going 0-2 against him as a freshman and sophomore. In their last meeting a year ago at Ohio State, Schultz tied the match 5-5 before Moore won in sudden-victory.
“The key is just to do what I’m good at and just have fun,” Schultz said. “I think in past matches, I may have been too focused on something he may do.”
In the past three weekends, Nebraska faced No. 1 Iowa, No. 2 Penn State and now the No. 3 Buckeyes. And Sunday’s dual will have other matchups between top-10 opponents.
Ohio State’s other top-ranked wrestler is unbeaten Luke Pletcher at 141. He’ll face eighth-ranked CJ Red.
At 174, NU sophomore Mikey Labriola, rated sixth, goes against No. 7 Kaleb Romero.
Ohio State’s dual losses this season are to Virginia Tech (21-15) and Iowa (24-10). Iowa defeated Nebraska 26-6.