Deakin rides confidence from 2017 Junior World silver medal into NCAA season at Northwestern

By Taylor Miller, USA Wrestling | Oct. 20, 2017, 6:15 p.m. (ET)

Photo: Deakin wrestles a Russian opponent in the finals of the Junior World Championships at 66 kg. Photo by Richard Immel.

NCAA fans should start to familiarize themselves with the name Ryan Deakin.

The Northwestern redshirt freshman put together an impressive 12 months that can’t go unnoticed, starting with not placing at the Eastern Michigan Open and wrapping up with a silver medal at the Junior World Championships in Tampere, Finland, in August, giving him bragging rights as the second-best Junior wrestler in the world at 66 kg/145 lbs.

 “I’ve never seen someone that I think truly got better every time he stepped on the mat in competition like I saw with Ryan last year,” Northwestern head coach Matt Storniolo said. “It was something special to witness. He’s always trying to learn and he’s the kind of kid that you want to coach because he’s extremely coachable. He’s prepared to ask questions, and he’s curious and open-minded.”

In the time between losing his first college competition and winning a Junior World medal, Deakin finished third at the Midlands Championships, won the UWW Junior Freestyle national tournament and landed at spot on the Junior World Team.

At Midlands, which is hosted at Northwestern, Deakin collected wins over No. 13 Davion Jeffries, No. 15 Alfred Bannister, No. 17 Jordan Laster, No. 18 Joey Delgado, No. 19 Andrew Crone. Overall in his NCAA season, wrestling unattached, Deakin strung together a 19-4 record and finished the year with the second most wins on the squad.

“Wrestling at the collegiate level is definitely a lot different,” Deakin said. “College guys are more technical, they’re better and they’re stronger. I think it’s just knowing that you have to be prepared for everybody in every match. In college, they wrestle hard to the very last second. You have to be ready for that.”

Upon wrapping up his folkstyle season, Deakin turned his focus to freestyle, traveling to Las Vegas for the UWW Junior Freestyle Nationals in late-April.

The Wildcat dominated his way to the semifinals, recording four wins by technical fall.

In the semis, he edged out two-time Cadet World champion and incoming Cornell freshman Yianni Diakomihalis, 6-4, to go to the finals. There, he put up an 8-6 win over rising star Kanen Storr of Iowa State to win the UWW Junior national title.

With the victory, Deakin earned an automatic bid to the best-of-three finals series of the Junior Freestyle World Team Trials, which were held June 9 in Lincoln, Neb.

Fast forward to June, when Deakin was pitted against two-time Fargo finalist and Iowa transfer Patricio Lugo. Deakin ran away with the series, winning the first bout 9-2 before sealing his spot on the World Team at 66 kg with a 10-0 tech in the second match.

Deakin had punched his ticket to Tampere, Finland, for the 2017 UWW Junior World Championships.

Despite having dedicated a few summers to wrestling freestyle, Deakin said he raised his commitment to the discipline this summer.

“I’ve been to Fargo in previous years and I always took that seriously, but I think this summer was a whole new level of seriousness for freestyle,” Deakin said. “It was a really focused training plan for the whole summer. I was working on wrestling on my feet while also trying to learn more mat wrestling or looking at foreigners and trying to match their underhooks and things like that. By having a tournament to look forward to, it makes the training super focused all summer. It was a really good few months of improving.”

In early August, Deakin, along with Storniolo and Northwestern assistant coach Andrew Howe, headed to Finland for the World teamer’s first international tournament.

Deakin was part of a star-studded team that included eventual Junior World champions Daton Fix, Mark Hall and Gable Steveson and 2017 World medalists Mitchell McKee, Zahid Valencia and Kollin Moore.

“They’re all great guys and a lot of fun,” Deakin said. “I wrestled the second day and it was really cool to be able to watch them and see everybody compete.  It helped me realize that it’s just wrestling and nothing different than any other match I’ve wrestled, so I have to go out there, compete hard and wrestle my match.”

Having never faced a foreign opponent before, Deakin stunned the 66 kg/145 lbs. field. He started with a 13-0 tech fall over Ukraine’s Oleksandr Rybalko.

In the quarterfinals, Deakin stormed back from a 6-0 deficit to claim a 7-6 victory against Temuulen Enkhtuya of Mongolia.

He was on to the semifinals, where he faced 2017 Freestyle Asian Championships runner-up and 2016 Greco-Roman Asian champ Amirhossein Hosseini of Iran, who he defeated in a 10-2 battle.

The 66 kg finals were set and Deakin met up with 2014 Cadet World Champion and Russia Nationals bronze medalist David Baev of Russia, who took the match with a 10-0 tech fall. Deakin walked away with a silver medal and invaluable experience.

“I had a lot of fun. It was cool getting to travel to Europe and get to know everybody. I really enjoyed it,” Deakin said. “You know that foreigners have a different feel, but when you’re wrestling, you really recognize that sometimes they even do things a lot differently than you expect. I had to do some adjusting on the fly and figure guys out as the match went on.”

As a squad the U.S. earned seven of eight possible medals and won the World team title for the first time since 1984, edging out powerful Russia by one point.

Now with a World silver medal on his resume, Deakin, a 149-pounder, enters his redshirt freshman season for the Wildcats with assurance of great things to come.

“It’s definitely a confidence booster and makes me feel like I can wrestle with anybody. I truly believe that, but it also reminds me that there is still work to be done and this is just a stepping stone. I still have a lot of wrestling. It was a great summer, but now it’s time to do it for the next four years,” Deakin said.

The coaching staff behind him also have high hopes and believe Deakin will impress this season.

“I think the sky is the limit for Ryan,” Storniolo said. “If he keeps improving at the same rate that he did last year, then he’ll be a national finalist. If he continues to work hard and keep the right attitude, then I don’t think there’s a limit for him.”