Wrestling: Northwestern ends 22-year drought with win against Minnesota


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Ryan Deakin grapples with an opponent. The redshirt freshman came up with a match-winning pin against Minnesota on Sunday.

Alison Albelda, Reporter


With one individual match remaining, Northwestern trailed Minnesota 18-14. Then Ryan Deakin stepped up to the mat.

Deakin needed to win by 10 points to give the No. 20 Wildcats (8-2, 3-2 Big Ten) a win over the No. 14 Golden Gophers, and to do so he would need to get as many bonus points as possible. Within three minutes the bout was over. Deakin had pinned his opponent.

The pin, which is scored as a fall and counts as six points for the team, edged NU to a 20-18 win. Minnesota was the highest-ranked opponent the Cats have defeated in nearly seven years.

“The only thing I said to Ryan before his match was, ‘Don’t try to wrestle the whole match at once,’” coach Matt Storniolo said. “We had enough confidence in Ryan that if he just went out there with a workmanlike attitude and wrestled the match like we knew he could that the rest of it was going to take care of itself.”

The last time NU beat Minnesota was in the 1996 season, and Storniolo said the performance Sunday reflects the program’s trajectory.

“I am extremely proud of the team and the way we were able to find a way to win this match, “ Storniolo said. “It was a true team performance, and this was the grittier wrestling that we needed to see to put this in the right column.”

A redshirt freshman, Deakin is ranked No. 5 in the 149-pound weight class. In his first year in team competition, Deakin has stood out for the Cats all year, racking up a perfect 10-0 dual record.

He said that the team win was “awesome” and that the win indicates NU’s potential.

“We are finally starting to turn some heads,” Deakin said. “People are finally starting to realize that we are a great program. … (The win) is a great thing to build off of, but it is not something to be satisfied over.”

Deakin wasn’t the only one to pull off an impressive victory Sunday. Sebastian Rivera, a redshirt freshman ranked No. 10 for the 125-pound weight class, also dominated his match, picking up his 20th win of the season with a major decision.

Junior Conan Jennings shut out his opponent with an 11-0 win in the heavyweight division. He said that high of a score is uncommon for such a high weight class.

“I got out there and got the takedown three seconds in, and after that I just broke him,” Jennings said. “(That score) reflects complete and utter dominance in the match.”

The Cats also got wins from senior Mitch Silga and junior Johnny Sebastian. Sebastian, sitting in at No. 18 in his 174-pound weight division, picked up his fifth consecutive conference win.

With three dominant wins, a series of other encouraging performances and close losses, Storniolo said his team deserves to be in the conversation with some of the top teams in the nation.

“We’re happy to have this win today and I think it shows the direction that this program is going in,” Storniolo said. “It is a testament to the kids on the team, the staff and them buying in and realizing that we are a tough team and compete with the best in the country.”

Email: [email protected]