Wrestling: Sebastian Rivera becomes a Big Ten champ, Ryan Deakin finishes 5th


Daily file photo by Alison Albelda

Sebastian Rivera spars with an opponent. The No. 1 ranked sophomore took third place in the 125-pound championship bracket.

Greg Svirnovskiy, Reporter


A battle of the best. That’s where sophomore Sebastian Rivera, the No. 1 ranked wrestler in the 125-pound weight class, found himself Saturday night when he was matched up against No. 2 Spencer Lee, last year’s NCAA champion, to determine this year’s Big Ten winner.

It ended, perhaps fittingly, in overtime, as the two wrestled their way to a 4-4 tie at the end of regulation. From there, Rivera responded to Lee’s takedown attempt, pushing him off and onto the ground, sending Minnesota’s Maturi Pavilion into pandemonium.

“It was awesome, how loud it got,” Rivera said. “Nobody really likes (the) Hawkeyes, so it was kind of cool to hear those cheers.”

Lee led 3-0 heading into the third frame, but Rivera’s takedown with 16 seconds remaining gave him a 4-3 lead, and the match only went to overtime because of Lee’s advantage in riding time. From there, Rivera’s strength steered him to a first career Big Ten title.

Rivera, who finished fifth at the Big Ten Championships last year, said he learned lessons from the bout which will help him at Nationals.

“Just to get on my offense quicker,” Rivera said. “Once I get on my offense, it’s hard to stop. So I just need to get on my offense quicker and we don’t have to go to overtime anymore. That should’ve been done in regulation.”

Coach Matt Storniolo said the come-from-behind win was a culmination of years of effort on the part of Rivera and Northwestern’s staff.

“That’s why Sebastian competes — to win titles,” Storniolo said. “He’s not doing it to place in tournaments. He wants to be the best every time he steps out there on the mat. It’s great for him and it’s great for the program.”

Senior Conan Jennings and sophomore Ryan Deakin both finished fifth in their weight classes at 285 and 157 respectively. Shayne Oster also finished seventh in the 149-pound weight class. Those individual performances helped NU place eighth at the Championships with 53.5 points, two spots higher than the team’s 10th place finish a year ago, and the highest the Cats have placed since the Big Ten expanded to 14 teams.

Still, Deakin’s showing in the tournament left something to be desired. He finished fifth, losing to Michigan’s Alec Pantaleo before dominating Minnesota’s Steve Bleise in his final match, winning a 10-1 major decision.

Storniolo said despite the obvious disappointment in Deakin’s final placement, he was proud of the sophomore’s resilience and doggedness in the fifth-place match.

“It’s always tough to battle back after a loss,” Storniolo said. “That just speaks to the character that Ryan has and his maturity to be able to put the last match behind you and refocus and reset your sights on what’s ahead.”

Deakin, who finished sixth at last year’s Big Ten Championships, said he was happy to gain valuable insight on the different ways he can grow as a wrestler before Nationals.

“At tournaments, you’ve just got to kind of move on, keep wrestling,” Deakin said. “Still got some things to work on. I think definitely I’ll just look over some film and get ready.”

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Twitter: @GSvirnovskiy