St. Cloud State meets Rangers on Thursday before welcoming Vikings to Halenbeck Hall on Sunday
ST. CLOUD, Minn. – 2023 NWCA National Duals Champion and No. 3 St. Cloud State Wrestling open their 11-year running NSIC Championship title defense as conference duals begin with No. 9 UW-Parkside on Thursday and (RV) Augustana on Sunday at Halenbeck Hall. Thursday’s dual is scheduled to start at 7:00 p.m. CT with a 3:00 p.m. CT first bout on Sunday.
SIZING UP THE RANGERS
No. 9 UW-Parkside provides a true test for the Huskies in their NSIC opener, entering the week 3-0 with an early-December conference win over then-No. 17 Northern State. Six Rangers are ranked in the latest NWCA poll, led by unanimous No. 1 and 2022 NCAA DII runner-up Shane Gantz at 165 pounds. Three-time NCAA DII Champion Nick Becker is in his second year leading UW-Parkside and is the younger brother of three All-American Becker’s – his brother and fellow NCAA Champion Craig serves as his top assistant on the Parkside staff. The Huskies are 9-1-1 all-time against the Rangers in a series that began in 1975-76.
SIZING UP THE VIKINGS
(RV) Augustana enters the week 5-6 with a home dual against (RV) Minot State on January 12. The Vikings went 1-3 at the NWCA National Duals, dropping matches to No. 1 Central Oklahoma, No. 14 Gannon and No. 16 Colorado Mesa with a win against No. 18 Mercyhurst. Augie brings two ranked wrestlers to the table with No. 5 Jaxson Rohman at 125 and No. 10 Miles Fitzgerald at 157. Jason Reitmeier enters his 20th season at the helm of Augustana and is the reigning NSIC Coach of the Year.
HOME SWEET HALENBECK
St. Cloud State has won their last 53 home duals at Halenbeck Hall entering the week, with their last home loss coming on February 14, 2010, against No. 3 Upper Iowa. Under Steve Costanzo, the Huskies are 67-7 at Halenbeck Hall – good for an incredible .905 winning percentage.
ON THE VERGE OF HISTORY
SCSU head coach Steve Costanzo enters the week with a 99-5 record (.952) in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference duals, just one win away from reaching 100 NSIC wins. Across his 17-year career leading SCSU, including two seasons of North Central Conference membership, the Huskies are 100-10 in conference duals with 11 conference championships.
“We have UW-Parkside on Thursday – a tough team, another well-coached team, a team with a lot of redshirt sophomores. They’re very strong at 165 pounds with the No. 1 ranked wrestler in the country and they match up really well with us. Fortunately for us it’s a home match, and we should be excited about that. We should be energized by that to go out and compete well. Sunday we’ve got Augustana, a traditional rival for us. I know they’re excited to wrestle us. They always highlight St. Cloud State on their schedule as we do with them. We have to be ready to go. They didn’t have the best National Duals tournament, but that really doesn’t mean anything. What it comes down to is matchups. They match up well against us, they’re another well-coached team, and they’re going to come out here ready to go. We’ve got to be firing on all cylinders against these two teams and be ready to compete like we did this past weekend.”
“The guys were in a great mood when we got on the bus Saturday night, which makes that long trip much easier. We gave them a day off on Sunday as we got home early in the morning then had a little strength training on Monday. We were back on the mat Tuesday looking for a high energy level and staying consistent. If we can keep doing that, we’ll have a very successful season.”
“These guys had high energy when they competed last weekend. They were relentless on their attacks. The thing that impressed me the most was win or lose, we were wrestling for seven minutes. That’s something that is hard to do, it’s something coaches are always trying to get their guys to do. Our guys did a tremendous job, we’re really happy with the way they competed.”
On Nick Novak earning NSIC Wrestler of the Week honors… “He’s just gritty. He’s a competitor. He’s really looking good at this weight class – he’s a lot fresher at this weight, more energized, stronger at this weight than he was at 149. I think he’s focusing more of his energy on getting better at wrestling versus losing weight. If you can keep a guy like Nick healthy and hungry – which I know he is – he’s going to be tough to beat down the stretch.”
“Paxton had a great weekend. He came out with a lot of energy, I like where his head is at – it’s a tough thing to do. Alyeus at 141 was 3-1 on the weekend but for a redshirt freshman he’s really wrestling lights-out for us and giving us a great effort. Getting Joey back at 149 has been a blessing for us. I know it’s a new weight class for him and he’s trying to figure that out. I think every match he steps out there it’s going to get better and better for him, he’s looking healthy at the same time. We like where he’s at. 165, you’ve got Anthony Herrera who was 2-2 this past weekend, two close matches, one-point matches with top-ranked guys. Again, Anthony’s a guy who has had to move up a weight class and is figuring it out. If he keeps doing what he’s doing, towards the end of the year he’s going to start winning those close matches. Although he’s not happy with where he’s at right now, we’re not panicking with Anthony and we are very confident with him. Of course at 174 we’ve got Abner – he’s just starting to get going. The more we put him out there, the better he’s going to be. We’ve just got to keep him healthy. Over time, match after match, he’s just going to get better and better. We’re still trying to figure out 184 with a couple guys, maybe three guys, it’s a wide-open weight class with three good options. We’re just looking for somebody to take that class over, ‘This is my weight class, I’m going to be the guy.’ 197, Dom, what can you say. He’s a great performer. He didn’t have the best day on Friday at the National Duals, came back, put it together mentally and had two significant wins for us on Saturday to help us win the National Dual title. At heavyweight, Elijah is just a true freshman and already has 14 wins. We’re really pleased with what he’s doing, the maturity level he has for being so young. His competitive nature and spirit have been very impressive.”
“Coming off a long trip to Kentucky, being home, I hope it’s going to be a benefit for us. Parkside has been out for a while, they’re a highly energized team and will be coming in looking to knock us off. They’re healthy. We just have to be ready to go and excited not only to compete, but also to be at home. We compete well here, we have historically, and we need to do so this weekend.”
SURVEYING THE RANKS
St. Cloud State enters the National Duals ranked No. 3 by the NWCA and No. 2 by The Open Mat in tournament formats, No. 1 by Intermat and at No. 1 in duals by The Open Mat. 11 Huskies are currently ranked, with eight receiving notice by the NWCA: No. 6 Paxton Creese (125), No. 12 Caleb Meekins (133), No. 8 Alyeus Craig (141), No. 4 Joey Bianchini (149), No. 4 Nick Novak (157), No. 10 Anthony Herrera (165), No. 1 Abner Romero (174) and No. 4 Dominic Murphy (197). The Open Mat has 10 Huskies recognized: No. 4 Paxton Creese (125), No. 11 Caleb Meekins (133), No. 5 Alyeus Craig (141), No. 3 Joey Bianchini (149), No. 2 Nick Novak (157), No. 16 Anthony Herrera (165), No. 1 Abner Romero (174), No. 17 Shaeden Scheidt (184), No. 8 Dominic Murphy (197) and No. 19 Elijah Novak (HWT). Intermat’s December rankings place No. 6 Paxton Creese (125), No. 2 Joey Bianchini (141), No. 4 Nick Novak (149), No. 4 Colby Njos (157), No. 10 Anthony Herrera (165), No. 1 Abner Romero (174) and No. 5 Dominic Murphy (197).
|149||Joey Bianchini||4||3||2 (141)|
|157||Nick Novak||4||2||4 (149)|
LAST TIME OUT
No. 3 St. Cloud State defeated No. 1 Central Oklahoma 19-16 in the Finals to earn the 2023 NWCA National Duals Championship on Saturday afternoon at the Kentucky Expo Center. The National Duals Championship is the program’s NCAA DII-leading seventh – all under the direction of head coach Steve Costanzo – and their fifth in the last six tournaments. St. Cloud State’s win over UCO was their first over a team ranked No. 1 by the NWCA since they upended Pitt-Johnstown on November 9, 2019.
TRICKY NICKY EARNS NSIC NOTICE
St. Cloud State sophomore 157-pounder Nick Novak has been named NSIC Wrestler of the Week by the conference office following his 4-0 weekend at the 2023 NWCA National Duals. The weekly honor is the first of Novak’s collegiate career. Novak served a critical role in St. Cloud State’s National Duals Championship, going 4-0 at 157. The New Prague, Minnesota product earned three of his wins against All-Conference opponents, two against NCAA Qualifiers and two against wrestlers nationally ranked by the NWCA. The sophomore earned major decisions over All-PSAC foe Max Stedeford of Mercyhurst and Jackson Rolfs of Upper Iowa on Day One of the Duals, then won a 5-2 decision over two-time NCAA DII All-American Braydon Huber of Mary in the Semifinal. Novak closed out his performance with a last-second 6-5 decision over No. 2 Gabe Johnson of Central Oklahoma in the Final to help the Huskies earn their seventh NWCA National Duals Championship. Currently ranked No. 4 in the country at 157 pounds by the NWCA, Novak is 15-0 this season with six major decisions, a tech fall and one pin.
NORTHERN SUN NOBILITY
The Huskies have won the last 11 NSIC Championships, last dropping a conference dual on January 27, 2011 at then-No. 2 Augustana. Since that loss, St. Cloud State has won 88 straight Northern Sun duals. SCSU leads all programs in NSIC and NIC Championships with 16, three more than MSUM.
MILESTONES TO WATCH
Four Huskies are on the cusp of reaching significant win milestones entering conference duals: Anthony Herrera is three wins away from his 75th collegiate victory, Joey Bianchini and Abner Romero are four and five wins away respectively from No. 70 while Caleb Meekins is four victories from his 50th.
UNDISPUTED TOP DOG
2021 NCAA DII 174-pound Champion Abner Romero is the unanimous No. 1 wrestler at 174 pounds entering conference duals, beginning his Huskies career 9-0 with four wins over ranked opponents. Romero joined St. Cloud State this season for his final collegiate campaign after three years at Lindenwood.
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