Wrestling: Northwestern looks to take down Nebraska


Daily file photo by Jeremy Yu

Mitch Sliga grapples with an opponent. The senior hopes to help the Cats win their second-straight ranked conference showdown against Nebraska on Friday.

Alison Albelda, Reporter


Fresh off a win last week against No. 16 Wisconsin, Northwestern looks to take down its second consecutive ranked opponent in No. 18 Nebraska at Patten Gym on Friday.

The Wildcats earned their first ranked win in four years by beating the Badgers. That victory boosted the team to No. 20 in this week’s rankings, the highest NU (7-1, 2-1 Big Ten) has been since January 2015.

Coach Matt Storniolo praised the staff’s hard work over the past two years to help “turn the program around.” In order to continue on that upward trajectory, he said the team will have to maintain consistency.

“(We need) more of the same, gritty performances.” Storniolo said, “We are going to have to out work some guys and be ready to compete when they blow the whistle.”

Seven matches remain, six of them against conference foes, for the Cats to keep their momentum rolling into Big Ten Championships in early March.

In one of the best wrestling conferences in the nation — where eleven of fourteen teams are ranked — that confidence won’t be easy to maintain. Sebastian Rivera, a redshirt freshman ranked 10th in the 125-pound weight class, said keeping the same mindset as last week will be key for NU.

“My goals are to go out there, score points and win that match,” Rivera said. “I need to keep on getting better in every position, ride these guys, get better on bottom and keep on improving my feet, and then everything else will take care of itself.”

Rivera’s not the only touted wrestler for the Cats grappling for victory. Even after picking up a major decision win against Wisconsin’s Jens Lantz, true freshman Colin Valdiviez moved down one spot from his ranking last week to the 19th spot for the 133-pound weight class.

He said there is a “lot of room for improvement” and his progress is far from over, noting this week’s match is an opportunity to continue his development.

“I want to put points on the board,” Valdiviez said, “and just be exciting to watch for our home crowd, and promote our program. Just get the win for our team. Be offensive, be aggressive, wrestle the way I know how and good things will happen.”

Along with Valdiviez and Rivera, redshirt freshman Ryan Deakin and junior Johnny Sebastian are each ranked at their respective weights, with Deakin all the way up to No. 4 at 149 pounds, making him NU’s highest ranked wrestler.

The Cats are looking to pick up their second straight home victory in one of only four such opportunities this season. Storniolo spoke highly of the home fans last week and the positive impact of their support.

“We have been really happy with the crowd turnouts,” Storniolo said on Thursday. “It has been a nice surprise to have a little bit more of the student body coming and supporting us. I know the guys really appreciate that.”

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