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Wrestling: Confident Jensen helps Huskers past Illini
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Wrestling: Confident Jensen helps Huskers past Illini

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Collin Jensen beat a ranked wrestler for the first time since November, scored a pin for the first time since early December and took very little time to celebrate.

The Nebraska heavyweight grabbed the leg of Brooks Blake, quickly turned him to his back and scored a pin in just 34 seconds to lift the No. 8 Huskers to a 30-10 victory against 13th-ranked Illinois on Friday night at the Devaney Sports Center.

Jensen won’t have much time to ponder his quick pin.

The 18th-ranked Husker faces top-ranked Nick Gwiazdowski of North Carolina State on Saturday when Nebraska hosts the third-ranked Wolfpack at 7 p.m.

“You see what happens when you get fear out of the way,” NU coach Mark Manning said. “Collin showed that wrestling with confidence can help a lot.”

Jensen, a junior from Mobridge, South Dakota, improved to 17-10 and evened his Big Ten mark at 3-3. His last four losses were to defending NCAA champion Gwiazdowski, No. 2 Kyle Snyder of Ohio State, No. 7 Sam Stoll of Iowa and then-No. 7 Michael Kroells of Minnesota.

Jensen said he lets coaches look ahead.

“I just work on what they tell me is coming, but I worked on this guy (Blake) tonight and I’ll work on Gwiazdowski Saturday night,” he said. “I’m a lot better than I was last week and certainly a lot better than I was in November. I worked on things I could fix and that’s what everybody does every day around here.”

The Huskers counted on a third-period takedown by 197-pound junior Aaron Studebaker in a 6-4 decision, and a decision by TJ Dudley at 184 to start a run of five straight Husker victories.

Studebaker, ranked 14th, scored a quick escape to start the final period and tie the match. He then took down Jeff Koepke with a high-crotch move and fought to the finish for the win.

“I must have done that a dozen times this year, score late like that,” said Studebaker, a former state high school champion at Raymond Central. “I made such a big mistake to start because I came out slow and shot myself in the foot. You can’t come out on the mat and take it slow and expect to win. I should have been building scores. We need every point every night out if we plan to fight for the national title.”

NU’s Eric Montoya won by forfeit over second-ranked and undefeated Zane Richards, who was reported to be ill. Montoya upset Richards by major decision in the NCAA Tournament last season.

Manning said he hoped for more team points from winners Tim Lambert and Dudley. He said 174-pound freshman Micah Barnes also did not have a great match in an 11-3 loss to No. 4 Zac Brunson. Barnes scored a stunning takedown quickly in the match and rode out the first period. But Brunson (16-1) rallied with a tangled-up takedown and rolled his way to three more takedowns.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7313 or khambleton@journalstar.com.

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Ken grew up in Chicago and is a Doane College grad. His Mr. Sportsknowitall column appears Sundays, and he covers a variety of beats.

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