Huskies hunt for seventh straight NCAA Regional Championship
ST. CLOUD, Minn. – No. 3 St. Cloud State Wrestling begins the 2023 postseason with the NCAA Super Region V Tournament on Saturday, February 25 at Wachs Arena in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Session I is scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m. CT with the Placement Matches set for 1:00 p.m. CT.
The top three placers at each weight will advance to the 2023 NCAA Championships in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. SCSU has advanced at least seven wrestlers to the National Tournament each year dating back to 2015-16 and have sent at least six in 15 of head coach Steve Costanzo’s 16 years at the helm. The Huskies have won six straight Super Region V Championships and nine total under Costanzo’s watch, placing top-two in 13 of the past 14 tournaments.
Defending Super Region Champ and No. 5 Paxton Creese will represent the Huskies in a strong 125-pound class. Creese is the highest-ranked wrestler at the weight, followed by No. 6 Jaxson Rohman (Augustana) and No. 7 Shane Corrigan (UW-Parkside). The Huskies’ 125-pounder is 11-2 against regional opponents this season, with a loss to Corrigan and a 1-1 record against Rohman.
Caleb Meekins gets the nod at 133 pounds for St. Cloud State, entering a historically volatile class. No. 3 Reece Barnhardt (Mary) leads the field, with No. 11 Kaden Anderlik standing as the other nationally-ranked grappler. Meekins has spent time in the national rankings this season and holds a 5-1 record against regional opponents, including a fall of Barnhardt.
No. 11 Alyeus Craig makes his Super Region debut in a strong class featuring four ranked wrestlers in all, with No. 4 Cayden Henschel (UW-Parkside), No. 5 Tate Murty (Upper Iowa) and No. 12 Brock Luthens (Minnesota State-Mankato) joining him. Craig is 13-2 against regional opponents, going 1-1 against Murty with a loss to Henschel and a win over Luthens.
No. 7 Joey Bianchini begins his final Super Region appearance by competing in his first tournament at 149 pounds, looking to become a four-time Regional Champion after winning each of the last three titles at 141. Bianchini is one of three ranked wrestlers in the class alongside No. 6 Jalen Spuhler (UW-Parkside) and No. 8 Wyatt Turnquist (Northern State). The senior is 9-1 against regional opponents, with a loss to Spuhler the lone blemish on his resume.
No. 2 Nick Novak headlines the 157-pound class as only No. 11 Ben Durocher (UW-Parkside) is ranked next to the Huskies’ sophomore. Last year’s Champion at 149 pounds, Novak is 12-0 against regional opponents this season and carries a 19-0 overall record into the Super Regional.
No. 10 Anthony Herrera moves up a class after earning the Super Region Championship at 157 pounds last year, entering one of the toughest weights in the region. No. 1 Shane Gantz (UW-Parkside) and No. 2 Chase Luensman (Upper Iowa) headline the class while No. 12 Tyler Wagener (Augustana) joins Herrera to make it four ranked wrestlers in the class. Herrera is 8-2 against regional foes with one-point decision losses to Luensman and Mary’s Riley Noble.
No. 1 Abner Romero is the top-ranked wrestler in a strong 174-pound class, joined by No. 2 Max Bruss (Mary), No. 7 Cael Meyer (Upper Iowa) and No. 8 Kolby Kost (Augustana). Romero makes his Super Region V debut after earning back-to-back Super Region IV titles at 174 in 2021 and 2022 with Lindenwood. The unanimous No. 1 at 174 is 8-0 against regional opponents and has beaten Bruss twice with wins over both Kost and Meyer.
Bryce FitzPatrick enters a loaded 184-pound class featuring No. 3 Caden Steffen (SMSU), No. 7 Reece Worachek (UW-Parkside), No. 8 Wyatt Lidberg (Mary) and No. 9 Cade Mueller (Augustana). FitzPatrick is 3-4 against regional opponents this season.
No. 10 Dominic Murphy hunts for his first NCAA qualification at his new 197-pound class featuring ranked opponents No. 3 Cole Huss (Northern State) and No. 7 Dalton Hahn (Upper Iowa). Murphy is 12-1 against regional opponents, with a win over Huss and a loss to Hahn.
True freshman Elijah Novak gets his first taste of the Super Region Tournament with a wide-open heavyweight class featuring No. 9 Zach Ryg (Upper Iowa), No. 10 Jacob Dykes (SMSU) and No. 11 Darrell Mason (Minnesota State-Mankato). Novak is 8-5 against regional opponents, with wins over both Dykes and Mason.
“It’s the best time of the year. This is what we’ve been gearing up for, this is what we’ve been training for over the last several months – and in some cases, several years. We’re excited and ready to go to battle.”
“There’s still a few days to prepare, so we’re trying to get our heads right, get our guys healthy and go from there. That’s the main thing when you’re headed into the postseason – making sure our guys are feeling as good as they possibly can.”
“It’s one match at a time. Not looking past anybody, not looking too far ahead. You focus in between rounds to get your head right, to get rehydrated, get loose and get ready for the next match. It’s one at a time. Fortunately you don’t wrestle everybody at once, it’s just one match at a time. That’s what we’re going to focus on.”
“We’re established right now – we have our 10 guys picked, one at each class. At the same time, I know that there are other guys in the room that are also prparing and ready for anything to happen. That’s our philosophy for them right now – making sure that you stay ready as anything can happen over the next couple of days. As of right now, we have our 10 guys that we’re ready to go to battle with.”
“Every match is up to us. We’re going to have to work our tails off for every win that we get. We’re not going to leave matches in the hands of an official or anything like that – we make our own breaks. We have to go out there and make things happen. It’s going to take some work, it’s going to take a lot of effort, and we’re probably going to have to get out of our comfort zone to make those things happen. I know we have the guys to do it. They’ve been here before. A lot of these guys have been to this Regional Tournament – we have four returning Regional Champions in our lineup – so we know we’ve been there before and that we can handle anything they throw at us.”
“Those returners know what to expect. This is nothing new to them. Some may be at different weight classes, but there will be no surprises for those guys. We do have a few guys who are new to this, so we will be leaning on our veterans to help the new guys get through it.”
“The biggest challenge is to stay poised. Fact of the matter is, there’s probably going to be some things that don’t go our way. We have to stay poised and confident through the whole process, not give up and continue to battle through every opponent.”
“My expectation is just for each guy to go out and do their very best. Never quit, wrestle for seven minutes, wrestle in the positions they feel comfortable and confident in. If they do, I think things are going to fall our way. That’s my expectation. Win or lose, I just want our guys to go out and wrestle to the best of their ability.”
SURVEYING THE RANKS
St. Cloud State enters Super Regional Weekend ranked No. 3 by the NWCA and No. 2 by The Open Mat in tournament formats, No. 5 by Intermat, and at No. 4 in duals by The Open Mat. Nine Huskies are currently ranked, with eight receiving notice by the NWCA: No. 5 Paxton Creese (125), No. 10 Sam Spencer (133), No. 11 Alyeus Craig (141), No. 7 Joey Bianchini (149), No. 2 Nick Novak (157), No. 10 Anthony Herrera (165), No. 1 Abner Romero (174) and No. 10 Dominic Murphy (197). The Open Mat has nine Huskies recognized: No. 5 Paxton Creese (125), No. 10 Sam Spencer (133), No. 9 Alyeus Craig (141), No. 5 Joey Bianchini (149), No. 2 Nick Novak (157), No. 11 Anthony Herrera (165), No. 1 Abner Romero (174), No. 5 Dominic Murphy (197) and No. 12 Elijah Novak (HWT). Intermat’s January rankings place No. 7 Paxton Creese (125), No. 11 Sam Spencer (133), No. 8 Joey Bianchini (149), No. 2 Nick Novak (157), No. 1 Abner Romero (174) and No. 10 Dominic Murphy (197).
LAST TIME OUT
Then-No. 5 St. Cloud State dominated No. 22 Southwest Minnesota State on Thursday evening at Halenbeck Hall, winning all ten bouts with seven bonus-point wins en route to a 48-0 regular-season finale. The Huskies led 19-1 in takedowns and recorded three nearfalls to the Mustangs’ zero, recording four falls, a major decision and a tech fall alongside a forfeit at 133.
MILESTONES TO WATCH
Three Huskies are on the cusp of reaching significant win milestones entering the Super Region Tournament: Abner Romero is one away from No. 70, Joey Bianchini needs two more to join the 75-win club and Dominic Murphy is four from his 50th collegiate win.
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