Wrestling: Northwestern prepares for upcoming season after top ten finish at NCAA Championships


Daily file photo by Kelsey Carroll.

Senior Yahya Thomas wrestles.

Lawrence Price, Reporter

Going into the 2021 season, things looked bleak for Northwestern after losing top wrestler and two-time Big Ten champion Sebastian Rivera to Rutgers while preparing for a shortened season due to COVID-19. 

For coach Matt Storniolo and his Cats, though, this was a hurdle that could be overcome. 

Though the team struggled during the regular season with a record of 2-6, placing eleventh in the Big Ten and a middle of the pack finish during the conference championship, the challenges only prepared them for the biggest stage ahead: the national championship.

Led by graduate player Ryan Deakin, who secured a top-three finish and his second straight Big Ten championship, the team snagged a top ten national finish — the best since 2014. Alongside Deakin’s third straight conference honor, two other NU wrestlers, redshirt sophomore Chris Cannon and redshirt senior Yahya Thomas, were named All-Americans. With this, NU secured its second straight season of at least three top-eight national finishes since 2014. 

After sending seven players to the NCAA championships, four Wildcats also earned top five individual finishes during the conference championship.  

Competing in a tough conference — one that boasts 35 All-Americans and has five programs finishing among the top 10 in the national championship — poses a test for the Cats. But the team’s late season performance provides hope for a promising future.

While the Big Ten will not get any easier, a core group of top wrestlers and Deakin bring hope that the team can only get better.

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