Wrestling: Northwestern looks to improve NCAA finish this season

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Wrestling: Northwestern looks to improve NCAA finish this season

Johnny Sebastian stares down an opponent. The junior and the squad are optimistic heading into the heart of conference season.

Johnny Sebastian stares down an opponent. The junior and the squad are optimistic heading into the heart of conference season.

Daily file photo by Jeremy Yu

Johnny Sebastian stares down an opponent. The junior and the squad are optimistic heading into the heart of conference season.

Daily file photo by Jeremy Yu

Daily file photo by Jeremy Yu

Johnny Sebastian stares down an opponent. The junior and the squad are optimistic heading into the heart of conference season.

Alison Albelda, Reporter

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Wrestling


Every match matters for Northwestern as the Wildcats gear up for a Big Ten-heavy schedule before their championship season.

Eight matches remain, with seven of them against fellow conference foes, before Big Ten Championships in early March. Coach Matt Storniolo aims to go into the championships with a winning record.

“These next four weeks are going to be a testament to how hard we worked in the preseason, especially going through with this Big Ten schedule,” junior Johnny Sebastian said. “We are looking forward to that and we are excited.”

NU currently sits at 1-1 in the Big Ten following a 18-17 loss at No. 14 Illinois last weekend. After the Cats fell to the Fighting Illini 28-15 last year, this season’s improvement has led the team to earn the No. 25 spot in USA Today rankings. It is the first time NU has been ranked since 2015.

Sebastian, currently ranked 18th in the 174-pound weight class, noted that though young, NU is strong and not intimidated by imposing opposition. He said every individual plays an important role and is aware of the job they have to do.

“We are not here just to get by,” Sebastian said. “We are here to make a name for ourselves and really bring this program back. We are heading in the right direction.”

Young and strong characterizes the wrestling style of redshirt freshman Sebastian Rivera and true freshman Colin Valdiviez. Rivera sits at 10th in the 125-pound weight class and Valdiviez at 18th at 133 pounds.

Ryan Deakin, a redshirt freshman ranked 4th in the 149-pound weight class, said his focus has been on being aggressive and scoring as many points as possible for the team.

“As a team, we are surprising people this year,” he said. “We are doing really well. I think we are on a positive incline here. By the end of the year, hopefully we will have a good placing at the NCAAs as a team.”

NU will host No.16 Wisconsin on Friday at Patten Gym, the Cats’ home venue for the season due to construction at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

Storniolo said he would like to see NU end up in the top 15 at the NCAAs in March, which would be a big step up from the team’s 48th place finish in 2017. In order to achieve postseason success, he said, the Cats must stay on their offense and work toward putting more points on the board in every match.

“We expect to come away from this weekend with a good heart, (to have) fought (to) win and a good team effort,” Storniolo said. “If everybody approaches the matches with the right attitude, if everybody wrestles up to their potential, the rest should take care of itself.”

Email: alisonalbelda2021@u.northwestern.edu

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