Hoping to play the role of David against No. 9 Nebraska, Duke fell flat to its Goliath in Saturday's home opener.
After strong tournament performances to kick off their season, the Blue Devils dropped their at Card Gymnasium to the Huskers, 45-3. Duke won only one matchup—Marcus Cain’s—and it dropped seven and forfeited two.
“I thought it was rough,” Blue Devil head coach Glen Lanham said. “I felt like our guys were a little tentative. We didn’t get to our offense a lot. We were counter wrestlers out there today, and I think that hurt us in a lot of our matches.”
Forfeiting the 125 and 174-pound weight classes, Duke started in a 12-0 hole. Blue Devil Bailey Jack—making his first career start—was then pinned in the 133 matchup by Eric Montoya, and Duke’s Brandon Gambucci dropped the 141 matchup to No. 15 Anthony Abidin. Just like that, it was 22-0.
“College is different,” Lanham said on Jack’s first career start. “The guys move faster, they’re stronger. And he got to a lot of his offense, but he just stopped wrestling in certain situations.”
Duke’s Marcus Cain—ranked No. 19 and the Blue Devils' lone favored wrestler Saturday—followed with a dominating performance. Tied 2-2, Cain got an escape and a takedown in the second, only to add a third-period takedown en route to a 7-2 victory against NCAA qualifier Justin Arthur in the 149. It was Cain’s 10th win this season.
The next matchup was a heavyweight between Duke’s No. 19 Immanuel Kerr-Brown and Nebraska’s No. 2 James Green. Green recorded a takedown as time expired in the first period to take a 2-0 lead, but Kerr-Brown responded with consecutive escapes. Giving Green a taste of his own medicine, the Blue Devil electrified the crowd with a takedown as the second period came to a close to take a 4-2 lead.
Green, however, came back and notched the score at five, only to take a 7-5 lead off a controversial takedown call.
“I got a little heated on that one,” Lanham said. “You take that away, and it’s still a 5-5 match and we’re going into a good situation… so I thought the call was rough.”
Although Kerr-Brown managed an escape to keep close at 7-6, Green would pull away and ultimately win 11-7, all but sealing Duke’s fate. Kerr-Brown has now lost twice this season, both to ranked opponents.
“I’m upset that I lost, but I wrestled really well. I know what I have to work on and it actually made me excited,” Kerr-Brown said. “If I had won that match, I would have been complacent with how I am now. But knowing I was so close but just fell just a little bit short, it makes me more hungry to keep going.”
Duke’s Jacob Faust and Spencer Neff, wrestling in the 165 and 197 classes, would later fall in major decisions, and Nebraska pinned Jacob Kasper and Brenden Walsh in the 184 and 285 matches.
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Neff was filling in for redshirt junior Connor Hartmann, who is ranked No. 5 but is currently taking the semester off according to GoDuke.com.
Duke will pack its bags and hit the road for two more competitions in the 2014 calendar year, before a January road trip and its second home game this season Jan. 31. The team hopes that, by then, starters Trey Adamson and Randy Roten will have returned to action, as both are currently sidelined with injuries.
“Like I tell these guys,” Lanham said, “Right now it’s winning and learning until ACC’s and nationals, and I‘m going to continue to look at our season like that.”