Northwestern wrestling (2-5) picked up its first ranked win of the year with an 18-17 victory No. 19 Wisconsin (1-6) on Sunday in its final home dual of the season. After a four-meet slide over the course of three last weeks, the victory was much-needed for Matt Storniolo’s squad to get back on track in this short season.
With key absences having plagued the team over the past month, a handful of younger wrestlers stepped up to earn some key points in the tight match, aided by a dominant season debut for top-ranked 157-pound wrestler Ryan Deakin.
Wisconsin got out to a quick start, picking up back-to-back major decisions at 125 and 133 to take an 8-0 lead. NU starters Michael DeAugustino and Chris Cannon, both top-15 wrestlers in their respective weight classes, were unavailable for the weekend. Second-teamers Matt Vinci and Dylan Utterback filled in for them.
NU then struck back, taking four straight matches.
Colin Valdiviez picked up his first victory of the year at 141, securing a high-scoring 14-9 decision over Dominic Dentino to get the Wildcats on the board. Veterans Yahya Thomas and Ryan Deakin followed with two dominant performances in a row, winning their matches 13-4 and 21-4, respectively.
The former Big Ten champion’s debut solidified his place in the rankings with a dominant tech fall victory over another top-25 wrestler. The 157-pounder added another victory on the day during the extra matches as well, suggesting he will be back for good.
David Ferrante finished the ‘Cats’ run with a 6-0 victory over Josh Otto at 165, bringing the team score to a 15-8 NU lead.
Troy Fisher, who has managed to keep many of his matches close this season, had yet another one-point loss at 174, losing 5-4 to Tyler Dow. Jack Jessen then took on sixth-ranked Christopher Weiler at 184, dropping a tough 10-4 decision.
With just two matches remaining, this brought the team totals to 15-14 NU, leaving it up to the heavy classes to finish the job.
Filling in for Lucas Davison at 197, Jon Halvorsen picked up his first win of the year at the best possible moment with a 7-5 decision over Andrew Salemme to secure a 4-point cushion for NU with one match remaining.
Jack Heyob couldn’t finish the night with a win of his own, but his 5-1 loss to top-10 heavyweight Trent Hillger allowed NU to finish with an 18-17 team victory.
Having not won a dual since their January 23 victory over Maryland, this was a huge get for the ‘Cats. Considering they managed to do this without three ranked starters as well, it could be a sign of a team really starting to find itself in what is still a young season.
NU will return to the mat this Friday to take on top-ranked Iowa on the road.