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Wrestling: Big Ten Championships Preview

The ‘Cats will look to have a big weekend before the NCAA Championships get going.

2019 NCAA Division I Men’s Wrestling Championship Photo by Justin K. Aller/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

With the college wrestling regular season coming to its end last week, it’s officially time for champions to begin being crowned. Northwestern’s first stop this March will be in Piscataway, NJ, as Rutgers hosts 2020’s edition of the Big Ten Wrestling Championships. With pre-seeds and brackets set, let’s look at what to expect from the ‘Cats this weekend.

After a 38-9 shellacking of SIUE in their final dual of the year on Feb. 23, NU managed to find themselves with six wrestlers ranked in the top 20 of their respective classes by Intermat Wrestling, with 157-pound stud Ryan Deakin retaining the top spot in all ranking services. Entering Saturday, the ‘Cats found themselves with three top-five BTT pre-seeds, with Deakin taking the no. 1 spot at 157, and Sebastian Rivera and Lucas Davison taking the #5 seeds at 133 and 197, respectively.

Following those three, Michael DeAugustino has been seeded sixth at 125, Alec McKenna 10th at 141, Yahya Thomas ninth at 149, Shayne Oster sixth at 165, Tyler Moreland ninth at 174, Jack Jessen 12th at 184, and Jack Heyob 13th at heavyweight.

Saturday will consists of sessions one and two, bringing the field down to four wrestlers heading into Sunday. As to what to expect from Northwestern through the first two sessions, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a handful of ‘Cats in the semifinals.

Aside from Deakin being the favorite to win at 157, multiple NU wrestlers have shown they have the ability to make a solid run in the Big Ten Championships before NCAA’s. The most interesting name to look for this weekend will be Sebastian Rivera, who despite being placed at the fifth seed, certainly has the ability to make a run towards a second Big Ten Championship.

Rivera’s stock may have been hurt due to persistent injuries and other reasons for absence — he’s only wrestled in 11 NCAA-sanctioned matches this season — but he’s certainly shown over the years that he is one of the nation’s top wrestlers, regardless of what class he’s wrestling in.

Lucas Davison will be another wrestler to watch at 197, as he’s shown the ability to compete with some of the very best wrestlers at his weight in the country. While he’s had a few slip-ups over the course of the year, if he can show himself to be the same wrestler that we saw against Christian Brunner earlier this season (among others) then he could certainly make a run at a top-three finish in the Big Ten.

Additionally, it’s definitely possible to expect other wrestlers to finish higher than their pre-seeds might suggest: Thomas is likely better than the ninth-best wrestler at 149 in the Big Ten, as is Morland at 174. While they may not finish at the top of the podium in their respective classes, I definitely wouldn’t be surprised to see them finish above expectations, giving NU a boost in team points.

Speaking of team points, Northwestern’s team finish might be one of the hardest things to predict this weekend. While the Wildcats have the skill to finish among the top five teams in the conference, their consistency is what may hold them back from doing so.

If every wrestler is on their A-game this weekend, they could certainly find themselves with a load of guys still alive on Sunday. If not, they could find themselves finishing in the middle of the pack for a second straight year.

In my estimate, we’ll see the former. I think that this is a group full of underrated talent that have shown flashes of talent throughout the year, and after back-to-back duals full of NU dominance, this group should be full of confidence heading into the weekend. If Storniolo’s group can channel that confidence into production, it should be a pretty sight for this squad.

The Big Ten Championships will be held this weekend, March 7-8, in Piscataway, NJ. Coverage will be provided by Big Ten Network.