Wrestling: Northwestern looking for redemption, hoping to topple Minnesota


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Sebastian Rivera grapples with an opponent. The redshirt freshman will be a key part of Northwestern’s efforts against Minnesota this weekend.

Alison Albelda, Reporter


Following a tough loss by tiebreaker last Friday to No. 18 Nebraska, Northwestern looks to bounce back against No. 14 Minnesota this weekend.

Despite the loss, the Wildcats (7-2, 2-2 Big Ten) sit at No. 20 in the rankings for the second consecutive week.

Six matches remain, five of them against conference foes, for NU to maintain momentum heading into Big Ten Championships in early March. But keeping the pace will not be easy in one of the best wrestling conferences in the nation –– where 11 of 14 teams are ranked.

Sebastian Rivera, a redshirt freshman ranked 10th at 125-pounds, said the Cats need to bounce back from last week’s loss and get a win against another top-20 team.

“I need to wrestle hard for seven minutes,” Rivera said, “and score as many points as possible. We have been working on bottom (positioning) and then riding on top and scoring on top now is (key).”

Redshirt junior Johnny Sebastian, 18th in the 174-pound weight class, has won his past four Big Ten bouts and will look to pick up a fifth Sunday along with a team win.

Against Minnesota (5-3, 2-2 Big Ten), however, that won’t be easy. The Golden Gophers have won every match between the schools in the past 18 years. The teams last met in 2016, which ended in a 22-20 NU defeat.

“They like to wrestle hard and all of their guys are pretty solid,” Sebastian said. “It will be cool to wrestle in a nice atmosphere where they are passionate and it will be a good opportunity for us to knock out a team that is ranked higher than us.”

The Golden Gophers, however, will also be facing a packed weekend schedule, travelling to Penn State on Friday before flying home to host the Cats on Sunday.

That’s not the only reason this year could be different, as the Wildcats have a deeper squad compared to previous years, with four ranked wrestlers in the projected lineup.

Along with Rivera and Sebastian, redshirt freshman Ryan Deakin and true freshman Colin Valdiviez are both ranked at their respective weights. Deakin, after his ninth major decision victory of the season, is the highest-ranked wrestler for NU at No. 5 at 149 pounds; Valdiviez sits in 20th in the 133-pound weight class.

While the Cats have talent at the top of the lineup, coach Matt Storniolo has emphasized the need to get away from evenly splitting the 10 individual matches and getting more positive production from the bottom half of the lineup.

“The ongoing theme is we need a sixth man to step up,” Storniolo said. “We want to come back from this weekend with a minimum of six guys getting their hand raised … and a team win.”

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