Wrestling: Ryan Deakin wins second straight Big Ten crown, five others qualify for National Tournament in St. Louis


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Ryan Deakin wrestles an opponent. The senior won his second consecutive Big Ten title over the weekend, and now looks ahead to the National Tournament.

Greg Svirnovskiy, Sports Editor


After senior Ryan Deakin won his second straight Big Ten wrestling crown in an easy victory over Iowa stalwart Kaleb Young, he shook hands with the opponent and rushed off to the locker room to cool down. Then, he sought out his parents.

They’d made the journey from Colorado to the Big Ten Tournament in State College, Pennsylvania to watch their son from the stands, socially distanced and decked out in masks.

“My parents have been so supportive and just amazing my whole life,” Deakin said. “In life in general, not just in wrestling. They’re always there.”

They almost couldn’t make it. The Big Ten adjusted its tournament audience rules several times in the run up to Championship weekend. The Deakins had to cancel flight tickets booked weeks in advance when the Big Ten announced families could no longer observe the competition live.

“On the Tuesday before (the Big Ten Tournament), we were told parents could actually come now,” Deakin said. “They had to scramble and rebook everything three days before they were supposed to leave. They made it work and got to come out.”

The Deakins were treated to a slate of dominant performances from their son. He swept his way to the top of the Big Ten, continuing an undefeated streak which started all the way back in October 2019 and has left two perfect seasons in its wake.

Deakin’s 6-0 win over Young included two takedowns and an escape early in the second period — to go along with an astonishing four minutes of riding time. Deakin kept Young, one of the best offensive wrestlers in the Big Ten, entirely on the defensive.

“Ryan didn’t just win that match,” coach Matt Storniolo said. “He ran away with it. Got that takedown in the first period, early escape in the second, another takedown. And then just rode him like a pony.”

A number of Deakin’s teammates made their presences felt. Five players, Michael DeAugustino, Chris Cannon, Colin Valdiviez, David Ferrante and Lucas Davison, all automatically qualified for the 2021 NCAA Championships, set to be held in St. Louis.

Particularly impressive were freshmen Cannon and Ferrante. Cannon, wrestling in his first ever Big Ten Tournament, made it all the way to the semifinals before falling to Penn State’s Roman Bravo-Young. Cannon came back with another victory in the consolation semifinal to place fourth in the entire 133-pound weight class. Ferrante wasn’t seeded highly coming into the tournament. But he went on a tear when the going got tough, winning three straight in the middle and then again in the seventh place match.

“(Ferrante) wrestles with a ton of heart,” Storniolo said. “Really happy to see those guys step up and find a way to qualify.”

Deakin’s win means that a Northwestern wrestler has finished atop the Big Ten podium for a third straight year. In 2019, it was Sebastian Rivera, who has since transferred to Rutgers, winning at the 125-pound weight class.

The Cats’ team score put them in seventh place in the Big Ten, behind the likes of Iowa and Minnesota but ahead of perennial cellar dwellers Indiana and Maryland.

“We competed well as a team,” Storniolo said. “It would’ve been nice to finish a place or two higher but we were right there in the mix for a fifth place finish. It just reinforces that we’re a solid program that’s going to compete with the best in the country come March. ”

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Twitter: @gsvirnovskiy

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