Northwestern is one of the best wrestling programs in the country and is often slept on. When you have wrestlers like Ryan Deakin taking home National Titles, it’s time to admit Northwestern is for real. A big part of that team is 2 time All-American, Michael DeAugustino. Wrestling at 125 pounds, DeAugustino managed to come back after a hand injury early in the year to make it to the round of eight in the 2022 NCAA Championships.
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For DeAugustino, he was happy to have been able to compete after his injury early in the season. He hopes to win the National Title every year, but he is also happy with how the team finished on the year and is very ready for what he has to bring to the table in his fifth season with Northwestern.
“Pretty happy, but the end goal is always to win a national title. I’m happy the way it ended with the way the team ended. I thought it all came together at the right time. Especially since I missed the first half of the season with an injury. It was a good season to finish the way it did and I’ll still be hungry for next year.”
For 2022, Northwestern has finished eighth in the country, the best since Michael DeAugustino has been there. Northwestern isn’t the biggest program in the world of D1 wrestling when looking at Penn State, Iowa, and Ohio State. DeAugustino points to the small size of the program is something they benefit from and makes a tight knit and cohesive unit of a team.
“Our team only consists of 25 guys and if you look across the board at other BIG 10 schools and other programs that are finishing in the top ten, they have likd 40, 50 guys. I think what separates us is every guy on our team is a big part of our team. There’s 25 guys, but every guy is special. There’s not certain groups on the team where this group hangs out with this guy and that group hangs out with that guy. We’re like one big family. 25 guys, I don’t think I’d change a thing. We’re pretty close, everyone is tight knitted. We all just support one another and feed off one another. Also, that kind of happens when you have Ryan Deakin leading the way with that momentum.”
Continuing on Ryan Deakin, DeAugustino thinks that Deakin has set a new normal for Northwestern and he’s looking to take those lessons learned from Deakin and other wrestlers before him to teach to the next generation of Wildcats. But it’s not just how to wrestle. For Michael DeAugustino, the fact that Deakin didn’t jump ship to another program shows him that Northwestern has become less of a stepping stone for wrestlers and more of a destination.
“One thing huge about Ryan I think that people might see is that Northwestern has had a bit of a history of people transferring out after their four years. Nothing against whoever has done it. Some people have felt it’s their time to move on. But I think that was a culture change is Deakin staying for a sixth year. There hasn’t been too many guys who have had the opportunity for a sixth year, and there hasn’t been too many guys that even with the opportunity of a fifth year who did do that. I think it goes to show that Northwestern is a place where people can build. This is a place to be. You don’t have to go to another Penn State or Iowa to transfer out and be successful. Everything you need is here. I think that was a big thing that he showed our team and him staying showed that these are guys competing for a national title. That really got the team buying in. Not that the team didn’t see it before, but it just helps along the way.”
And with those changes, DeAugustino is excited to be a wrestler at Northwestern. With the additions of several coaches and the accomplishments from Deakin and company, he believes that the future for Northwestern is bright.
“I’m going to stay here and be a Wildcat. The program has been great to me. We’ve been through a lot of stuff together. Even through the lows, we’ve always come out on the top end of the way. Coach Storniolo and Coach Howe has done an awesome job of being here the whole time and building this program. We’ve also had great additions with Joe Colon and Joe Rau this year. I think we have the best coaching staff in the country top to bottom covering all areas. I don’t really see the need to go anywhere else. This has been the place for me and I think it’s shown. We’re not even a team with 40 guys and we’re getting it done.”
Michael DeAugustino and the Future of Northwestern
As for what’s next, the future is up for Michael DeAugustino and Northwestern’s wrestling program. While Ryan Deakin is graduating and will try his hand at the international stage, DeAugustino says the lessons learned from Deakin will continue to grow the program long after he’s gone.
“It’s fun. No one thinks Northwestern can do it and we should be a team in the top six in the country. Next goal is to get a trophy. I think this team can do it. It’s obviously tough that Deakin’s gone but Ryan Deakin isn’t really gone because the stuff that he’s taught us is still in the team. I’m excited for this program because it’s fun to be the underdog. It’s a team of guys in purple getting after it and not black and yellow for once.”
Michael DeAugustino is taking it upon himself to take up that leader position at the University of Northwestern. While those who helped him in the past may not have been the same size, the lessons still apply. DeAugustino plans on elevating his team to make Northwestern that much better.
“For me, help the other guys build to where I was. I had a lot of help along the way like Sebastian Rivera and Deakin. They’re not my same class or size but the older guys still helped me when I was young and on my path. That’s one of my goals is to help the younger guys build and train along side of them and get it done. But keep winning and build the momentum of this team.”
And for next year, 125 is going to be tough. From the return of Spencer Lee, Pat Glory, and more, the weight is deep. But DeAugustino isn’t worried at all. He’s of the opinion to keep his head out of what everyone else is doing and looks to simply be the best version of himself he can be instead.
“Honestly, I’m not a guy who looks at that stuff. I kind of just show up and wrestle. When I show up to a tournament, there’s just a guy in front of me. I usually don’t look at the brackets and anything like that. Some people are like you should be prepared and be ready. But you’re your own worst enemy I always say. You get inside your own head and it’s going to be hard to beat that guy. I don’t listen to the outside noise and I’m not on social media too much during the season and just doing what I need to do and focus on what Michael DeAugustino has to do and not the other guys.”
Regardless of what the season brings, Michael DeAugustino will have made his mark at Northwestern. Already a two time All-American, and with two seasons ahead of him, he has the opportunity to achieve that much more.