Ryan Deakin excelled on the mats during his high school career at Legacy, becoming a four-time state placer, three-time state finalist and two-time state champion. His success resulted in him getting the opportunity to continue his wrestling career at Northwestern University.
Last weekend, Deakin added to his resume by becoming an NCAA All-American at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships in Pittsburgh.
"It was really cool," Deakin said. "It was a crazy experience and a lot of fun. I wanted to be a national champion and finish higher up, but it was cool and fun. I'm excited to build off of this."
Deakin earned All-American status for the first time in his NCAA career after making his second appearance in the NCAA Championships tournament. He worked his way to a top-eight finish in the 157-pound bracket to earn the honor.
Coming in ranked sixth in the preseason polls at 157 pounds, outsiders joined Deakin in placing high expectations on himself. He moved up as high as No. 2 in the polls and entered the NCAA Championships coming off a fifth-place finish at the Big Ten Championships in Minneapolis.
Having success during the regular season in the Big Ten is what garnered Deakin his attention in the polls. Northwestern wrestled eight conference duals against top-25 ranked programs, five of which were against a top-10 opponent. The conference proved to be elite at the NCAA Championships with Penn State winning its eighth title in nine years, Ohio State finishing in second and five other teams finishing in the top-10 team standings.
"The Big Ten is awesome and was a big reason for going to Northwestern," Deakin said. "Competing in that conference, every week you have a great opponent. You have to strap it up and give it your best. There are no easy weeks and it prepares you well for the end-of-season stuff. It's what you want to wrestle. It's been cool to be able to compete in this conference."
The run in Pittsburgh began with a 7-4 decision win over Christian Labrie of Brown and a 9-0 majority decision win against Griffin Parriott of Purdue to reach the quarterfinal round. There, he would drop a 7-5 decision in sudden victory to Kaleb Young of Iowa and was bounced to the consolation bracket.
Shortly after his loss, Deakin returned to the mats to face Joshua Humphreys of Lehigh with a spot on the podium and All-American status on the line. He would bounce back with a 9-2 decision win to come back on Saturday to determine where he would place.
"It really was the little things and reminding myself I could do this," Deakin said. "I'm blessed with a great support system, coaches, teammates and friends. There is not a lot of pressure when you have great people beside you. I just had to have the mindset to fight and look to score points and have fun with it."
A 5-0 decision win over Larry Early of Old Dominion put him in the consolation semifinals to guarantee no worse than sixth place. He would go on to loss 8-2 vs. Hayden Hidlay of NC State and drop another 7-5 decision in sudden victory to Young to finish sixth.
While happy in becoming an NCAA All-American for the first time, Deakin says there is more work to do now entering his final two seasons at Northwestern.
"It means a lot, but I do have mixed feelings about it," Deakin said. "It was a great year and I had a lot of fun, and I'm proud of some things, but I didn't do everything I wanted to do. These are good building blocks for the next few years."
Proud back home in Broomfield
Legacy wrestling coach Mike Thompson was disappointed he could not make the trip to Pittsburgh to watch his former star like he expected to, but he was glued to the TV all weekend long watching Deakin make his run to All-American status.
To him, it was no surprise to see Deakin achieve the high honor this year.
"He's got an awesome work ethic and great character," Thompson said. "He's a great kid and a great wrestler who doesn't take anything for granted."
When Thompson saw Deakin place at the state tournament his freshman season, he knew the special talent he had in his room. Along the way, he secured three more spots on the medal podium at state, two of which were at the top. He also became an NHSCA All-American, a two-time Fargo Junior Greco All-American and a Fargo Junior Freestyle All-American during his days in high school.
Seeing him place last weekend is something Thompson says gives his team a positive role model to look up to for the athletes with his program today.
"It's always good to see kids from your hometown be successful, but it's his work ethic and character that they see," Thompson said. "They see that you can work hard and get that same success."
As for the next couple of years, Thompson says he will continue to follow Deakin at Northwestern and plans to see him at NCAA Championships a few more times before his career is over.
"I'll be going out the next two years to watch," Thompson said.