Ryan Deakin’s season began the same way it ended: as a champion. Kicking off the year in Las Vegas at the annual Cliff Keen Invitational, Deakin took down three top-15 wrestlers on the way to his third straight CKLV title. His five-win weekend set the tone for what would result in Northwestern’s first individual national championship since 2014, one that would solidify Deakin as one of the best wrestlers in NU history. Here’s a look back at his historic final season:
Deakin entered the year as a consensus top-3 wrestler in the 157 weight class, with good reason to consider him as the nation’s best. Despite having lost just one match in the two seasons prior, the COVID-19 cancellation of the 2020 NCAA Championships and a stunning upset loss in the 2021 championships prevented Deakin from earning the title of national champion earlier in his college career. With an extra year of eligibility on the table, Deakin took up the chance at one last shot at a national title.
Following his dominant showing in Las Vegas, Deakin didn’t hit the mat again until the team’s Big Ten opener against Wisconsin in Madison, securing an easy 8-3 decision over Garrett Model. Deakin’s appearances would be sporadic throughout the rest of the regular season, but his results stayed consistent — in three bouts, Deakin recorded two falls and a tech fall, cruising to another undefeated regular season.
Entering the Big Ten Championships, Deakin was once again awarded the top overall seed. After a first round bye, Deakin secured quarterfinal and semifinal wins against Ohio State’s Bryce Hepner and Nebraska’s Peyton Robb. Wrestling for his third straight Big Ten championship in the finals, Deakin secured a 7-2 decision over Michigan’s Will Lewan. This win made Deakin one of just three NU wrestlers to ever win three Big Ten titles.
With the Big Ten Championships over and another title secured, the focus shifted solely toward the NCAA Championships in Detroit. Deakin was awarded the second overall seed, with defending champion David Carr of Iowa State earning the top spot.
Deakin started his first day of the championships on pace, picking up a first-round decision over Oklahoma State’s Wyatt Sheets and a second-round decision over Central Michigan’s Johnny Lovett. His day two performance was similar, with another victory and major decision over Lehigh’s Josh Humphreys and Arizona State’s Jacori Teemer, respectively.
Now in the NCAA finals for the first time in his career, Deakin was one win away from earning the title of national champion. Meeting Princeton’s Quincy Monday — the same wrestler he faced three months prior in his season-opening CKLV finals — Deakin put on one final clinic as a Wildcat. After a first-round takedown for Monday, Deakin dominated through the stretch, scoring nine unanswered points. With a final decision of 9-2, Deakin topped Monday for the second time, securing a national title in his final collegiate match.
Deakin finished the season with an overall record of 18-0, a CKLV title, a Big Ten title and an NCAA title, capping an illustrious college career during which he was awarded All-American honors four times and claimed three conference titles, along with a handful of invitational and tournament championships. From November 2019 through March 2022, he compiled a record of 50-1 and held the top ranking at 157 for seven combined months.
As a whole, Deakin put together not only one of the greatest seasons in Northwestern wrestling history, but one of the greatest careers the program has ever seen, as well. With the direction of the program trending upward as well, Deakin’s championship is a huge milestone not only individually, but for the program as a whole. Having been the centerpiece of the program for three seasons and helping them reach their highest national ranking in over a decade, Deakin’s presence will certainly be missed, and he’ll be a wrestler fans won’t soon forget about.