No. 3 St. Cloud State wins seventh NWCA National Duals Championship

Huskies down No. 11 Mary in Semis before defeating No. 1 Central Oklahoma 19-16 in the Finals

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – No. 3 St. Cloud State Wrestling 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.

SCSU first met No. 11 Mary in the National Semifinals on Saturday morning, earning a 26-6 win to advance to the Championship match.

No. 6 Paxton Creese opened things up in his match at 125, going to work early with a flurry of takedowns to earn a 14-3 major decision over Chase Milligan. Sam Spencer dropped a 8-3 decision to No. 4 Reece Barnhardt at 133 before Alyeus Craig extended the Huskies’ lead with a 7-4 decision over Lincoln Turman.

No. 4 Joey Bianchini provided bonus points at 149 with a 11-2 major decision over Leo Mushinsky. No. 4 Nick Novak drew a tough opponent at 157 with Braydon Huber, who moved back to 157 after being ranked at 165 to close out 2022. Novak toughed out a 5-2 decision, stretching the Huskies’ lead to 14-3.

At 165, No. 10 Anthony Herrera won a 6-4 decision over Riley Noble. No. 1 Abner Romero gave the fans a treat in a thrilling rematch with No. 3 Max Bruss at 174. Entering the third period tied 1-1, Romero collected a clutch takedown with just over 30 seconds left and hung on long enough to lock in the riding time for a 5-3 decision.

Bryce FitzPatrick lost a 3-2 decision at 184 to Wyatt Lidberg in a match that came down to the final seconds. No. 4 Dominic Murphy drew his third ranked opponent of the National Duals at 197, meeting No. 12 Matt Kaylor for the second time this season. Murphy got to his offense in the third period, breaking down Kaylor for a 7-2 decision.

Elijah Novak wrapped up the Semifinal win with a thrilling SV-1 decision over Luke Tweeton, landing a takedown to earn a 3-1 decision at heavyweight.

No. 3 St. Cloud State 26, No. 11 Mary 6
Jan. 7, 2023 | Kentucky Expo Center | Louisville, Ky.
125: No. 6 Paxton Creese (SCSU) MD Chase Milligan (MARY), 14-3
133: No. 4 Reece Barnhardt (MARY) dec. Sam Spencer (SCSU), 8-3
141: No. 8 Alyeus Craig (SCSU) dec. Lincoln Turman (MARY), 7-4
149: No. 4 Joey Bianchini (SCSU) MD Leo Mushinsky (MARY), 11-2
157: No. 4 Nick Novak (SCSU) dec. Braydon Huber (MARY), 5-2
165: No. 10 Anthony Herrera (SCSU) dec. Riley Noble (MARY), 6-4
174: No. 1 Abner Romero (SCSU) dec. No. 3 Max Bruss (MARY), 5-3
184: Wyatt Lidberg (MARY) dec. Bryce FitzPatrick (SCSU), 3-2
197: No. 4 Dominic Murphy (SCSU) dec. No. 12 Matt Kaylor (MARY), 7-2
HWT: Elijah Novak (SCSU) dec. Luke Tweeton (MARY), 3-1 SV-1

The NWCA National Duals Final presented the Huskies with a significant test in No. 1 Central Oklahoma, the program that snapped St. Cloud State’s 77-dual win streak last season in the 2022 National Duals Final.

No. 6 Paxton Creese opened things with a bang at 125 in his match with No. 10 Studd Morris. Entering the third period leading 1-0 with an escape in the second, Creese and Morris exchanged three reversals with Paxton scampering out for the critical escape point just 15 seconds prior to the final whistle. Knotted at 4-4 and headed to sudden victory, the opportunistic Creese took advantage of a scramble to put Morris on his back and earn the fall at 7:29, locking in six critical team points right out of the gate.

No. 12 Caleb Meekins lost a major decision to No. 2 Dylan Lucas at 133, then No. 8 Alyeus Craig dropped a 9-4 decision to No. 9 Nate Keim at 141 to put Central Oklahoma ahead 7-6.

No. 4 Joey Bianchini stepped up at 149 in his bout with No. 6 Brik Filippo, earning a wild 9-8 decision that featured lead changes aplenty. Bianchini stayed aggressive throughout his bout, finally stretching his lead to three in the third with an escape and a late takedown before shutting down Filippo’s shots over the final 30 seconds.

157 presented a crucial ranked tilt between No. 4 Nick Novak and No. 2 Gabe Johnson with St. Cloud State leading 9-7. Novak found himself down 5-1 entering the third period after a pair of first period takedowns and an escape in the second. Never out of a bout, Novak chose down and escaped in 18 seconds then went to work on Johnson in need of three points and 10 seconds of ride time. Earning a stalling point with 30 seconds to go, Novak used a great shot to drag down Johnson with 11 seconds to go then clamped down to lock in the go-ahead ride time point, earning the 6-5 decision.

No. 10 Anthony Herrera nearly landed a go-ahead takedown before the final whistle but dropped a 3-2 decision to No. 4 Ty Lucas at 165.

No. 1 Abner Romero took the mat at 174 against Anthony Des Vigne with a 12-10 lead in the dual, squaring off with a wrestler ranked one weight class up in the last NWCA poll. Romero showed off his offensive skill, keeping Des Vigne in defensive mode throughout the bout in an eventual 7-3 decision. An 8-5 decision at 184 for Central Oklahoma’s Alex Kauffman over Bryce FitzPatrick brought the team score to 15-13 in favor of St. Cloud State.

At 197, No. 4 Dominic Murphy faced his toughest opponent of the National Duals in defending National Champion and No. 1-ranked Dalton Abney. Staying defensive early, Murphy battled Abney through a few tight tieups before bulldozing him off a scramble to score the first takedown and add two backpoints. On the sequence, Abney suffered an injury that brought the match to a halt. After a lengthy delay, Abney remained in the match in an effort to avoid surrendering the six team points that would have been earned in an injury default. Murphy kept his cool and went to work, earning a 9-0 major decision to put St. Cloud State ahead 19-13.

In the final match of the tournament, Elijah Novak shook hands with No. 2 Shawn Streck at heavyweight. In his first collegiate-ranked match, Novak battled Streck shot for shot and showed excellent awareness to escape a pair of dangerous would-be nearfalls. Elijah dropped a 10-3 decision but clinched the National Duals Championship with his effort.

No. 3 St. Cloud State 19, No. 1 Central Oklahoma 16
Jan. 7, 2023 | Kentucky Expo Center | Louisville, Ky.
125: No. 6 Paxton Creese (SCSU) fall No. 10 Studd Morris (UCO), 7:29
133: No. 2 Dylan Lucas (UCO) MD No. 12 Caleb Meekins (SCSU), 12-3
141: No. 9 Nate Keim (UCO) dec. No. 8 Alyeus Craig (SCSU), 9-4
149: No. 4 Joey Bianchini (SCSU) dec. No. 6 Brik Filippo (UCO), 9-8
157: No. 4 Nick Novak (SCSU) dec. No. 2 Gabe Johnson (UCO), 6-5
165: No. 4 Ty Lucas (UCO) dec. No. 10 Anthony Herrera (SCSU), 3-2
174: No. 1 Abner Romero (SCSU) dec. Anthony Des Vigne (UCO), 7-3
184: Alex Kauffman (UCO) dec. Bryce FitzPatrick (SCSU), 8-5
197: No. 4 Dominic Murphy (SCSU) MD No. 1 Dalton Abney (UCO), 9-0
HWT: No. 2 Shawn Streck (UCO) dec. Elijah Novak (SCSU), 10-3

Quotables – St. Cloud State head coach Steve Costanzo

“I was just really pleased with the way our guys wrestled the last two days in every dual. We always push for consistency, for our guys to wrestle with toughness – they were resilient. We had guys wrestling through seven minutes, through eight minutes with overtime, it was really great to see that kind of effort.”

“This is what it’s all about. You only get to experience this so many times in a lifetime, and today they are National Dual Meet Champions. You can’t take that away from them, and this is a moment they will never forget.”

On Paxton Creese’s critical pin in the Finals match… “It goes to just continuing to wrestle the entire time. Being stingy, not giving away easy takedowns, and fighting through every position – and that’s exactly what he did.”

“I still think Central Oklahoma has one of the best teams they’ve ever had. They are loaded top to bottom, and they’re going to be very, very tough to beat down the stretch come NCAA time. We still have our work cut out for us. Unfortunate for them to have their 197-pounder get hurt, he’s one of their better guys, a returning NCAA Champion – but Dom Murphy understood the circumstances and what was on the line, and he got the job done. And he did it with good sportsmanship at the same time.”

“What impressed me the most over these last two days is how these guys have come together. Our bench was very engaged throughout the last two days. They were there for each other. When each one of those guys stepped on the mat, they were fighting for each other. That’s what it’s all about.”

“This was a special one. It really was. And I say that because these guys came together and were there for each other – and that’s really what it’s all about. That’s more important than winning championships and all that – I really liked the comradery, the chemistry, the unselfish attitudes that these guys had. There’s a lot of guys that we brought down here who didn’t get to wrestle a match, and they didn’t complain one bit. This is a team effort. I’m very proud of them.”

Up Next
The Huskies begin Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference duals on Thursday, January 12 at home against No. 9 UW-Parkside. First whistle is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. CT at Halenbeck Hall.

Information regarding single dual and season tickets can be found at scsutickets.com. For all the latest on St. Cloud State Wrestling, stay tuned to SCSUHuskies.com and follow the team on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

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