St. Cloud State closes out dual schedule with No. 22 Southwest Minnesota State
ST. CLOUD, Minn. – No. 5 St. Cloud State Wrestling concludes the regular season by hosting No. 22 Southwest Minnesota State for Senior Night at Halenbeck Hall on Thursday evening. First bout is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. CT as the Huskies and Mustangs close out their dual schedules ahead of next weekend’s NCAA Super Region V Championships.
HONORING OUR SENIORS
The Huskies will honor seven graduating wrestlers on Thursday evening as Joey Bianchini, Tanner Eischens, Jared Head, Robby Horsman, Blake Legred, Cameron Riggs and Abner Romero complete their degrees this academic year. 2023’s class of seniors have combined for three NSIC Championships, four NWCA National Duals Championships, three NCAA Super Region V Championships and two NCAA National Championships while going 104-3 in duals.
WRANGLING THE MUSTANGS
No. 22 Southwest Minnesota State enters the final regular season dual of 2022-23 with a 1-7 record, competing all their matches in NSIC action. Since winning a 22-12 dual against MSUM in early December, the Mustangs have lost six straight to open the new year. No. 11 Jacob Dykes headlines SMSU at heavyweight with a 13-7 record, going 5-3 in duals. 157-pounder Sean Howk (13-9) is the only other traveling Mustang with a winning record this season. SCSU has won each of the last 15 matchups with the Mustangs and has not allowed SMSU to reach double-digits in scoring since February of 2014.
“Thursday is going to be kind of bittersweet. It’s the last dual of the year for Husky Wrestling, and we’re sending out seven seniors as well. Although we’re excited for the next step of their journey, we’re surely going to miss them.”
On Senior Night… “It’s a special moment. The nice thing is we get to hopefully be with these guys for one to two more tournaments and spend the rest of the year with them. I still get to be around them, and we’re going to enjoy them all the way until they leave here.”
On the legacy of the 2023 senior class… “They’ve done a lot, there’s no question about it. There’s a lot of accolades in there with these seven guys. A lot of wins, a lot of championships. They’re definitely going to be hard to replace. But more importantly their character, the way they carry themselves, that’s more important to me than anything else.”
Areas of focus late in the season… “We’re just trying to get our guys healthy. We’re taking it day-to-day right now, and when we show up on Thursday we’ll put our healthiest 10 guys on the mat and hope to dominate.”
On the injuries faced in 2022-23… “I don’t know if we’ve been banged up more this year than we have been in past years. Sometimes it comes down to timing – in past years maybe we’ve been banged up a little earlier in the season versus later. Each year you have adversities that you face. Each one of our guys has adversities that they face. You just have to do the best you can with the card that you’re dealt with.”
On preparing for SMSU… “It’s really just one day at a time. We go into the wrestling room not even thinking about Thursday. We’re just thinking about continuing to improve in areas that we’re having problems with. That’s what we’re going to continue to do all the way through the regional and national tournaments.”
On wrestlers filling in at key spots… “No question at 157, Blake Legred. He’s stepped in and we haven’t missed a beat with Blake. He’s done a tremendous job, and is probably wrestling better than he ever has in his entire career. Bryce Dagel at 174 has stepped in as just a redshirt freshman. What an opportunity he’s had to just go in there each week and get better. With those two guys it’s been great to have them fill in and not only help us out, but help themselves out – continuing to get better along the way as well.”
On sorting out the lineup ahead of next week’s Super Regional… “We’re just looking at consistency, and we’re looking at guys we can trust. While everybody would like to be out there, we obviously can only take one per weight class – 10 total guys. When we head into the regional tournament we’re looking to put our best 10 out there that we have in the room.”
SURVEYING THE RANKS
St. Cloud State enters the weekend ranked No. 5 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 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 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. 13 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
No. 5 St. Cloud State Wrestling won their first six matches on their way to a dominant 24-12 win over Minot State at the MSU Dome on Saturday afternoon, closing out their road schedule a perfect 6-0.
Blake Legred has stepped up in a critical stretch for St. Cloud State, filling in at 157 pounds and dominating his first four dual bouts while extending his shutout streak to eight. The redshirt junior has now won each of his last 11 matches, outscoring opponents 78-2 in that span with ten shutouts, two tech falls and a major decision.
DOM KEEPS DOMINATING
Huskies 197-pounder Dominic Murphy has been an anchor in the upper weights for St. Cloud State this season, going 21-3 with a 12-2 dual record. Murphy leads SCSU in wins, dual wins, dual points, ranked wins, takedowns and escape points this season and is looking for his first career NCAA Tournament qualification.
SUPER REGION OUTLOOK
Although the NWCA will release new rankings on Friday, the current polls have St. Cloud State looking at the possibility of earning seven top-three seeds at the Super Region V Tournament on February 25. Nick Novak (157) and Abner Romero (174) look to be No. 1 seeds at their weights; Paxton Creese (125) and Sam Spencer (133) are the second-highest ranked wrestlers at their weights in-region while Alyeus Craig (141), Joey Bianchini (149) and Dominic Murphy (197) are trending towards No. 3 seeds. Taking account for The Open Mat’s expanded rankings, Anthony Herrera (165) and Elijah Novak (HWT) are currently the fourth and fifth-highest-ranked wrestlers in the Super Region.
ALL ABOUT ALYEUS
141-pounder Alyeus Craig continues to roll at his new class in 2022-23, owning a 20-3 record with a 12-3 dual mark entering the final dual of the season. Craig has racked up 44 dual points on the strength of three major decisions, a team-high four tech falls and one pin. Known for his dominance in the controlling position, Craig leads St. Cloud State with 21 nearfalls.
MILESTONES TO WATCH
Two Huskies are on the cusp of reaching significant win milestones entering conference duals: Abner Romero is two away from No. 70 while Joey Bianchini needs two more to join the 75-win club.
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.