The Daily Northwestern

Wrestling: Northwestern aims for success at Big Ten Championships

Ryan Deakin takes down his opponent. The redshirt freshman leads the team with 8 pins this season.

Ryan Deakin takes down his opponent. The redshirt freshman leads the team with 8 pins this season.

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Ryan Deakin takes down his opponent. The redshirt freshman leads the team with 8 pins this season.

Alison Albelda, Reporter

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Following a dominating win against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville one and a half weeks ago, Northwestern will try to carry momentum into this weekend’s Big Ten Championships in East Lansing, Michigan.

After a 36-10 win, its last one of the regular season, the No. 17 Wildcats (11-4, 5-4 Big Ten) will face tough conference competition.

In one of the best wrestling conferences in the nation — where 11 of 14 teams are ranked — that momentum will not be easy to maintain.

The Cats are led by redshirt freshman Ryan Deakin, NU’s highest-ranked wrestler who is seeded third in the 149-pound weight class.

“(I am focused on) just going out there and doing what I love to do,” Deakin said. “Not making it bigger than it needs to be, just wrestling like any other match. … (I will be) constantly looking to score and get to my offense and try and improve my positions all the time.”

Deakin ended the regular season with a team-leading eight pins and lost only one Big Ten bout, to second-seeded Brandon Sorenson of Iowa, during the dual campaign.

Junior Johnny Sebastian also had one loss in conference competition. He holds the fifth seed for the 174-pound weight class and will be looking to improve on last year’s seventh place finish.

Sebastian Rivera, who holds the fourth spot in the 125-pound weight class, is looking to take down Nick Suriano of Rutgers and Spencer Lee of Iowa. The redshirt freshman said he wants to avenge losses from earlier in the season.

“The two guys I lost to are in this tournament,” Rivera said, referring to Suriano and Lee. “(My goal is) to go in there, wrestle hard and make those adjustments that I need to make to beat him. … They cannot go for seven minutes hard. Just break them.”

Conan Jennings, a junior, and Zack Chakonis, a sophomore, are both seeded as well for the weekend tournament. Jennings holds the sixth spot for the heavyweight division and Chakonis is in seventh for the 197-pound weight class.

Jenning’s weight class is one of the most contested in the tournament, with every wrestler seeded above him in the top six in the country.

Coach Matt Storniolo said the team has been preparing all year for this moment.

“We have been practicing all year,” Storniolo said. “Even competition is really practice leading up to the Big Tens in some ways. So now it is time to execute. … They need to believe in themselves and believe in the training and know that they are ready for this, and realize that this is a big challenge in front of them, but they are ready for it and we expect them to rise to that occasion.”