Four Huskies All-American on Day One of 2023 NCAA Wrestling Championships

St. Cloud State advances three semifinalists, ranks third with 38.0 team points through Friday

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – No. 3 St. Cloud State Wrestling advanced three semifinalists – 157-pounder Nick Novak, 174-pounder Abner Romero and 197-pounder Dominic Murphy – while adding a fourth All-American as 165-pounder Anthony Herrera won in the blood round to send four wrestlers to Saturday’s placement matches at the 2023 NCAA Championships held in Cedar Rapids at the Alliant Energy PowerHouse.

Through Friday, St. Cloud State’s 38.0 team points rank them third behind Central Oklahoma (62.5) and Lander (56.0) while holding an edge on West Liberty (37.5) and Western Colorado (31.5) in the top five.

At 133 pounds, Caleb Meekins scored a pair of falls to give St. Cloud State a boost in the team points as he went 2-2 with his season coming to an end in the blood round. Meekins began his day by pinning Collin Metzgar of Colorado Mesa in the preliminaries at 4:08. After falling to No. 8 Dylan Lucas of Central Oklahoma, Meekins bounced back by sticking Byron Daubert of Pitt-Johnstown at 5:41 for a trip to the blood round. The redshirt junior closed his season by dropping a 10-0 major decision to No. 2 Eric Bartos of Mercyhurst.

149-pounder and No. 4 Joey Bianchini began his tournament with an 8-2 decision over Nebraska-Kearney’s John Burger in round one, then fell to No. 5 Jason Hanenberg of Western Colorado in the Quarterfinal. Bianchini lost a 10-4 decision to Devan Moore of Newberry in the blood round, closing his storied career as one of just two Huskies to become a four-time Region Champion while adding three All-American finishes and a 77-6 collegiate record.

No. 2 Nick Novak won a pair of impressive matches at 157 to advance to the Semifinals, opening with a 7-4 decision over Ryan Wheeler of Colorado Mesa. Novak followed by earning an 8-1 decision over the surging Avery Shay of Shippensburg in the Quarterfinal.

Anthony Herrera started his effort by dropping an 11-6 decision to No. 4 David Hunsberger of Lander, finding himself in need of back-to-back wins to earn an All-American finish. Herrera bounced back with a vengeance, tech falling Ashland’s Drew Wiechers 17-2 at 6:24 in round one of the wrestlebacks. In the blood round, Herrera earned a 9-4 decision over No. 6 Aaden Valdez to clinch an All-American finish and a ticket to Saturday’s competition.

Top-seeded Abner Romero impressed at 174, beginning the day with a 10-4 decision over Nate Barrett of Ashland. Romero followed by pinning No. 8 Kolby Kost of Augustana at 4:23 in the Quarterfinal, earning a Semifinal appearance on Saturday.

197-pounder and No. 4 Dominic Murphy won a thrilling 7-6 decision over Logan Kvien of McKendree in round one, erasing a 5-1 deficit to storm back and keep his title hopes alive. Murphy earned a rematch with No. 5 Cole Huss of Northern State in the Quarterfinal, trading escapes to go to sudden victory knotted at one each. The first-time NCAA qualifier punched his ticket to the Semifinal by winning a scramble and gaining the hips for a takedown, sealing a 3-1 decision.

Quotables – St. Cloud State head coach Steve Costanzo

“This tournament always brings you a lot of ups and downs, it doesn’t mater what kind of team you bring into it. We’re fortunate to have four All-Americans wrestling tomorrow out of the six, with three in the semis – we feel pretty good about that. We’re just going to focus on those four guys and help them finish as high as they can.”

On the Huskies’ three semifinalists… “They kept their composure. There’s a lot of pressure out there – it’s loud, some of those matches could have easily gone the other way. They just did what they had to do: stay in good positions, wrestle their style of wrestling and they benefited from it.”

On Anthony Herrera’s 2-0 effort in the wrestlebacks… “He’s tough. He does all the right things, and he wrestles for seven minutes. When you do that, good things are going to happen. I knew that if he went in and attacked the guy, wrestled for seven minutes and put pressure on him then good things were going to happen on the scoreboard.”

On Caleb Meekins adding big bonus points with two falls… “He’s still got a couple more years left. He’s got some NCAA experience now – we know what we have to work on in the offseason. As you can see, he’s got a lot of talent and a lot of ability. He can beat anybody at any time, we just have to work on some fundamentals – if he gets better at those fundamentals over the next year, you’ll probably see a different Caleb Meekins out there next year.”

On the legacy left by Joey Bianchini… “He’s been the face of this program since the day he got here. He’s a warrior. It’s unfortunate that he didn’t earn his fourth All-American certificate, but I’m still certainly proud of him and thankful for everything he has done for this program. His body’s a little shot right now – it goes with the territory. He’ll go down as one of the best we’ve ever had, and one of the best I’ve ever had.”

Keys for the semifinalists to top the podium… “You have to take one match at a time. They have to be flawless out there – if something doesn’t go their way, they have to have poise and confidence to get back into the match. There could be some of those scenarios tomorrow. You gotta wrestle for seven minutes. Anything can happen. Wrestle smart, and wrestle in their positions. Regardless, they’re going to go out and perform to the best of their ability – that’s all we ask of them.”

Up Next
Session III begins at 10:00 a.m. CT on Saturday with the Semifinals, wrestlebacks and placement matches held. The Finals are set for 7:00 p.m. CT in Session IV. No. 2 Nick Novak will meet No. 6 Nathan Smith of Pitt-Johnstown, No. 1 Abner Romero gets No. 4 Cade Lindsey of Fort Hays State, while No. 4 Dominic Murphy shakes hands with No. 1 Dalton Abney in the Huskies’ three semifinal matches. Anthony Herrera draws No. 2 Alex Farenchak of Gannon in the wrestlebacks looking for three consecutive wins to take third.

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