Wrestling: Rivera finishes third at NCAA Championships, Deakin sixth


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


Sophomore Sebastian Rivera didn’t lose in the Big Ten Championships, when he rallied against reigning NCAA champion Spencer Lee in the third frame’s dying seconds and won in overtime He didn’t lose in the 125-pound weight class in the regular season, when he won 22 matches as Northwestern (5-10, 2-7 Big Ten) stumbled through a conference rut in which the team won only two of nine duals.

He doesn’t lose.

But sometimes, in the rarest of occasions, he does.

The Wildcats’ only Big Ten champion and the top-ranked wrestler at 125 heading into the national tournament lost shockingly to Virginia’s Jack Mueller in the semifinals Saturday night, ending his bid for first place in the nation.

“I’m the type of guy that doesn’t like to be talked (to) after losing so it was a lot of lonely time crying by yourself,” Rivera said. “It was tough. Mueller came to wrestle, I didn’t, that was the bottom line.”

But he responded, reeling off two straight wins Sunday morning against Princeton’s Pat Glory in the consolation semifinals and Cornell’s Vitali Arajau in the third-place bout. Rivera’s third-place finish at the Championships was a threespot improvement from his spot last year.

Rivera had never before won in any major tournament after falling in the semifinals. This time, he pushed through.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever taken third in my life,” Rivera said. “In high school I lost twice in the semis, sixth place every time. I’m not good at losing. I think I found it in myself.”

Coach Matt Storniolo said he was most proud of how Rivera wrestled Sunday morning, knowing he wouldn’t win the championship.

“I think it speaks to his character and the type of competitor that he is,” Storniolo said. “After first place was off the table he reset his mindset as was determined to come back and finish as well as he could.”

Rivera was one of NU’s two All Americans this season, joining sophomore Ryan Deakin, who finished sixth in the tournament after also falling in the quarterfinals.

Storniolo said he expects Deakin’s finish and All-American honors to push the 157-pound wrestler to new heights next season.

“Ryan’s a great competitor, he was even capable of winning it. But there’s no disappointment in Ryan taking sixth,” Stoniolo said. “I’m extremely proud of him that he got All-American honors. He got that monkey off his back.”

Senior Conan Jennings wrestled past the first round and junior Shayne Oster and freshman Tyler Morland made appearances in their respective weight-class’ tournament as NU’s team score placed it 22nd in the nation, up from 24th a year ago.

Storniolo said while the Cats’ placement was an improvement, the team could have finished even higher if the right pieces had fallen into place.

“It’s still moving the program forward but it’s not quite what our top end was going into the tournament,” Storniolo said. “We wrestled well enough at high enough placements to be a top-twenty team. We just didn’t score the bonus points that we needed to jump in front of a couple of those teams. All in all, proud of the way we competed.”

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