No. 5 St. Cloud State ready for rival Mavericks

Huskies Wrestling closes homestand with Minnesota State-Mankato

ST. CLOUD, Minn. – No. 5 St. Cloud State Wrestling concludes their three-match homestand this Saturday with a rivalry dual against Minnesota State-Mankato at Halenbeck Hall. The first bout is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. CT as the Huskies celebrate Alumni Day, honoring their alumni at the intermission.

SIZING UP THE MAVERICKS
Minnesota State-Mankato enters the weekend with a 4-1 record, opening conference duals at 1-1 with a 23-15 loss to No. 11 Mary and a 26-18 win over No. 24 Southwest Minnesota State. Defending National Champion and 2021-22 NWCA DII National Wrestler of the Year, Darrell Mason headlines the Maverick lineup at heavyweight. Head coach Jim Makovsky is fresh off winning his 300th dual at the helm of Minnesota State and has the task of leading a young corps this spring.

HOME SWEET HALENBECK
St. Cloud State has won 54 of their last 55 home duals at Halenbeck Hall entering the week. Under Steve Costanzo, the Huskies are 68-8 at Halenbeck Hall – good for an incredible .895 winning percentage.

RIVALRY WEEK
The Huskies and the Mavericks have long held a bitter rivalry, with St. Cloud State getting the better of MSU in each of their last 13 meetings. SCSU is 13-3 against Minnesota State-Mankato under Steve Costanzo and haven’t suffered a loss to their nemesis from the southwest since the 2008-09 season. Huskies associate head coach Brady Wilson starred at heavyweight for Minnesota State and graduated as a four-time All-American, a four-time conference champion and a four-time NCAA regional champion. He finished his career in 2010 as the program’s all-time leader in wins, piling up 143 over the course of his legendary career.

QUOTING COSTANZO

“I’m excited to get back on the mat with our guys after a good performance against Augustana last weekend. I’d like to see some consistency with our guys, and I’m curious to see how we’re going to respond against a solid Minnesota State-Mankato team.”

“I’ve got all our duals circled, to be honest with you. They’re all important matchups for us, especially as we’re getting ready to get into our postseason and all that down the road. These matchups are critical in terms of seeding for the NCAA Tournament.”

“I don’t know if we’ll see any shakeups on Saturday. We might after Sunday – we’re sending a group of guys to the North Country Open at St. John’s, so we’ll see how things shake out there and make some decisions the following week.”

“You look at Paxton, he’s really only had one bad match and other than that he’s competed fairly well. At 133 we’ve had a couple of guys going back and forth there with Sam and Caleb. Overall their records are pretty good. At 141 we’ve had a redshirt freshman who has really stepped it up for us. Obviously when you think of consistency, you look at a guy like Nick Novak. A sophomore at 157 bumping up a weight, he looks like he’s really filling into it nicely. I’m really proud of him. Abner’s starting to get into his groove. There’s a lot of positives there, and there’s a lot of guys doing a great job.”

“The more Abner competes, the better he gets. He wasn’t on the mat much last year at all, so with him coming back he’s just finding his groove again. If he’s healthy, he’s going to be dominant. If he’s feeling good, he’s going to be dominant. We just have to keep him healthy, confident and going down the right path.”

“We’re looking forward to that heavyweight matchup. The more that Elijah gets out there and competes against some of the better guys, the more it’s going to bring his level of wrestling up to another notch. He’s got to be excited about it. Let’s go see where he’s at, let’s continue to make progress. He’s a true freshman – not even 19 years old yet, and he’s doing a phenomenal job at heavyweight. The more experience he gets the better he’s going to be down the road.”

“We just have to come out strong, fast, punch them in the mouth, get that momentum factor going for us. We’re a team that feeds off each other, I think a lot of people can see that. We want to come out strong and fast, put some points on the board and make them feel like the match is out of hand.”

SURVEYING THE RANKS
St. Cloud State enters Saturday’s match ranked No. 3 by the NWCA and No. 4 by the The Open Mat in tournament formats, No. 1 by Intermat, and at No. 4 in duals by The Open Mat. 11 Huskies are currently ranked, with seven receiving notice by the NWCA: No. 7 Paxton Creese (125), No. 11 Sam Spencer (133), No. 11 Alyeus Craig (141), No. 8 Joey Bianchini (149), No. 2 Nick Novak (157), No. 1 Abner Romero (174) and No. 10 Dominic Murphy (197). The Open Mat has 10 Huskies recognized: No. 6 Paxton Creese (125), No. 11 Sam Spencer (133), No. 10 Alyeus Craig (141), No. 6 Joey Bianchini (149), No. 2 Nick Novak (157), No. 16 Anthony Herrera (165), No. 1 Abner Romero (174), No. 16 Shaeden Scheidt (184), No. 8 Dominic Murphy (197) and No. 17 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).

LAST TIME OUT
No. 3 St. Cloud State Wrestling dominated Augustana on Sunday afternoon at Halenbeck Hall, earning wins in nine of 10 bouts with two bonus point wins on their way to a 30-3 victory. The win marked head coach Steve Costanzo’s 100th Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference dual victory, earning the conference’s winningest head coach another incredible milestone in his storied St. Cloud State career.

BREAKING STUFF
Huskies 197-pounder Dominic Murphy has enjoyed a stellar season at his new weight class, leading SCSU with 55 takedowns while going 16-3. The redshirt junior has started all nine duals this season at 197 with a 7-2 record and has provided 27 team points, third-most on the roster.

SOLVING 133
Both Caleb Meekins and Sam Spencer have seen time as the Huskies’ starter at 133, splitting the starts with five and four, respectively. Meekins is 8-4 this season with a 2-3 dual record and a pin of returning NCAA fourth-place finisher Reece Barnhardt of Mary while Spencer has gone 11-4, 3-1 in duals, and owns a win over defending Super Region V Champion Jack Huffman of Augustana. Both wrestlers have been ranked this season, with Spencer currently at No. 11.

NORTHERN SUN NOBILITY
The Huskies have won the last 11 NSIC Championships while leading all programs in NSIC and NIC Championships with 16, three more than MSUM’s next-best mark of 13.

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 both three wins away from No. 70 while Caleb Meekins is three 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 Saturday’s dual, beginning his Huskies career 11-0 with four wins over ranked opponents. Romero joined St. Cloud State this season for his final collegiate campaign after three years at Lindenwood.

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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