No. 3 St. Cloud State Wrestling looks ahead to NCAA Championships

Huskies begin quest for sixth National Championship

ST. CLOUD, Minn. – No. 3 St. Cloud State Wrestling hunts for a sixth NCAA Championship as the Huskies travel to the Alliant Energy PowerHouse in Cedar Rapids, Iowa for the 2023 NCAA Tournament. Sessions I and II are scheduled for Friday at 10:00 a.m. CT and 5:00 p.m. CT respectively. Session III is set for Saturday at 10:00 a.m. CT with the Finals bouts set for 7:00 p.m. CT.

FAN INFORMATION
Ticket prices are $52 (reserved seating) and $44 (general admission) for an all-session passes. For more information regarding the 2023 NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships, fans can visit the event website. Huskies Wrestling requests all fans in attendance at the NCAA’s to wear red SCSU wrestling apparel on Friday and black SCSU wrestling apparel on Saturday to show their team support. Fans are encouraged to consider purchasing the reserved seating in section 104 or the general section in 205/206 to hold Huskies wrestling fans in the same vicinity. St. Cloud State will be depending upon your loud voices as they compete for their sixth NCAA DII National Championship.

COVERAGE INFORMATION
Fans can follow along with the Huskies with live streaming available through FloWrestling ($) and live results courtesy of TrackWrestling. Live updates throughout both days of competition can be found by following the Huskies on Twitter @SCSUHuskies_WR as well as @huskieswrestling on Instagram.

THE SEEDS
Four of the six St. Cloud State national qualifiers are seeded entering the 2023 NCAA Championships. Abner Romero earned the top seed at 174 pounds, Nick Novak will enter as the No. 2 seed at 157, while both 149-pounder Joey Bianchini and 197-pounder Dominic Murphy picked up No. 4 seeds. Caleb Meekins will begin his tournament at 133 with a pigtail match against Super Region VI runner-up Collin Metzgar of Colorado Mesa. Fourth-seeded 149-pounder Joey Bianchini will meet Nebraska-Kearney’s John Burger – the third place finisher in SRVI. No. 2 Nick Novak takes his first bout at 157 against another Super Region VI runner-up from Colorado Mesa, Ryan Wheeler. At 165, Anthony Herrera will match up with fourth-seeded David Hunsberger of Lander, the Super Region II Champion. No. 1 seed Abner Romero opens the 174-pound class against Super Region III Champion Nate Barrett of Ashland. 197-pounder and No. 4 seed Dominic Murphy takes on Logan Kvien of McKendree, the third-place finisher in Super Region IV.

QUOTING COSTANZO

“We’re very excited – it’s the grand daddy of them all: the NCAA Tournament. It’s what we work for all season long, and we’re excited to get that first match rolling.”

Looking forward to stepping on the mat for the first matches on Friday… “It’s going to feel good. It’s going to relieve a lot of stress – since the Regional Tournament the last couple of weeks, you have a lot of down time and thinking time. Once we get things started I think it will be a relief for everyone.”

Focal points over the last two weeks… “You just try to get them in a good state mentally. You try to get them feeling as good as possible. Coming off that Regional tournament there’s some guys banged up and a little fatigue, so we try to get them feeling good again. I think this week we’ve started to see guys with a little more energy, excitement and enthusiasm. It’s just another tournament we have to get ready for. We want to make sure they’re feeling good and are ready to compete hard.”

On the mentality of approaching the national tournament… “I just don’t want them to put such a big emphasis on this being the NCAA Championships, it’s do-or-die. I just want them to approach it like they have with every other match or dual tournament they’ve had all season long. Stick with their ritual, what’s worked for them all season long and take things one match at a time. Good things will happen. That’s where we’re at right now.”

Looking at the brackets… “I look at potential matchups in terms of scouting, getting our guys as much knowledge as they need going into those first matches and upcoming matches. There’s bracket busters, like in every sport. I guarantee you there’s going to be some bracket busters at the NCAA Championships. We just hope we’re not one of those individuals that goes down and hope we’re doing what we need to be doing.”

On potential upsets throughout the tournament…“We’re going to try to make those surprises happen. That’s what it’s all about – you go down there and maybe you’re going against a highly-seeded opponent, maybe you go down there and you’re not well-respected – you have to go and prove people wrong. That’s what we’re going to try to do. I want each guy to go out and know they have a chance. If they have that mentality, then they will have that chance.”

On the mental side of preparations… “The mental side is everything. It’ll make or break you, I guarantee it. No matter how good you are, this tournament is open to anybody. Anybody could come through that bracket. It’s just a matter of who’s thinking the right thoughts and who’s doing the right things leading into that tournament. It’s anybody’s bracket at any one of those 10 weight classes.”

“I’m not really worried about what they could accomplish – I’m just focused on the first match. We’re going to take one match at a time and stay focused with each one of these guys. That’s where we’re at, and that’s where I’m at. If some adversity happens to set in with one of our guys then we’ll deal with it and try to get through the next match. That’s what it’s all about at this point – it’s about going down and doing what you do best: that’s wrestle, not put too much thought into things and just have fun.”

SIX BULLETS
The path to an NCAA Championship is never an easy one. St. Cloud State brings six wrestlers to the 2023 NCAA Tournament, trailing only Central Oklahoma (10), Lander (9), West Liberty (8), Pitt-Johnstown (8), Indianapolis (7) and Gannon (7). The Huskies have won a national title with just six advancers once before: the program’s first-ever NCAA Championship was won in 2015 with 125-pound Champion Tim Prescott, heavyweight runner-up Austin Goergen, Clint Poster, Gabe Fogerty, Mike Rhone and Larry Bomstad all earning All-American finishes. That same tournament, six programs advanced more wrestlers than SCSU – just as is the case in 2023 – led by Notre Dame College’s eight.

WE’LL SEE YOU IN CEDAR RAPIDS
St. Cloud State’s last trip to Cedar Rapids earned them their third National Championship in four years as the Huskies claimed the 2018 NCAA title at the U.S. Cellular Center – now known as the Alliant Energy PowerHouse. The Huskies advanced 10 wrestlers to the 2018 Tournament with Brett Velasquez, Jarred Oftedahl, James Pleski, Larry Bomstad, Kolton Eischens and Vince Dietz each earning All-American honors.

LAST TIME OUT
No. 3 St. Cloud State earned their seventh consecutive NCAA Super Region Championship while qualifying six wrestlers – five of which are Super Region Champions – for the upcoming NCAA Tournament in Cedar Rapids. The 2023 Super Region title is the program’s 10th earned under the direction of head coach Steve Costanzo. Joey Bianchini became the program’s second four-time Region/Conference Champion by earning the title at 149 pounds after winning the 141-pound championship each of the past four years – joining Brett Velasquez as the only two Huskies to earn the illustrious honor. 174-pounder Abner Romero claimed his third career Super Region Championship and first in Super Region V while true sophomore Nick Novak became a two-time Super Region V Champion with the title at 157 pounds. Dominic Murphy and Caleb Meekins each earned their first career Super Region V titles at 197 and 133, respectively while Anthony Herrera clinched his second straight NCAA Tournament berth with a runner-up finish at 165 pounds. Alyeus Craig placed fourth at 133, Bryce FitzPatrick took fifth at 184, Paxton Creese placed sixth at 125 and heavyweight Elijah Novak added a sixth-place finish to ensure all 10 Huskies wrestlers earned a top-six finish. SCSU won the Super Region with 130.5 team points followed by Augustana (106.0), UW-Parkside (97.5), Mary (89.0) and Upper Iowa (80.0) in the top five.

ABNER HUNTS FOR NO. 2
Huskies 174-pounder and top tournament seed Abner Romero enters his final NCAA Championships in search of his second national title at 174 pounds. The 2021 NCAA DII Champion with Lindenwood is 16-0 with a 6-0 record against ranked opponents this season and is fresh off his third collegiate Super Region championship. Romero owns an unbeaten 9-0 career record against the tournament field and leads a side of the bracket that includes No. 4 Cade Lindsey (Fort Hays State), No. 5 Anthony Des Vigne (Central Oklahoma) and No. 8 Kolby Kost (Augustana).

LET’S MAKE IT FOUR
St. Cloud State redshirt senior Joey Bianchini became the program’s second four-time Region and Conference Champion at the 2023 Super Region V Tournament and is now chasing what would be his fourth All-American finish – a title shared by just 11 wrestlers in program history: Jim Hazewinkel, Phil Herbold, Nate Toedter, Tad Merritt, Jacob Kahnke, Shamus O’Grady, Clint Poster, Austin Goergen, Brett Velasquez, James Pleski and Garrett Vos. Seeded fourth in his first NCAA appearance at 149 pounds, Bianchini owns a 3-2 career record against his tournament field and is on the side of the bracket that includes No. 1 Jacob Ealy (Pitt-Johnstown), No. 5 Jason Hanenberg (Western Colorado) and No. 8 Brik Filippo (Central Oklahoma).

TRICKY NICKY GOES TO WORK
SCSU 157-pounder Nick Novak enters his second NCAA Tournament as the No. 2 seed at his class, owning a 3-0 career record against his field. Novak’s side of the bracket includes No. 3 Gabe Johnson (Central Oklahoma), No. 6 Nathan Smith (Pitt-Johnstown) and No. 7 Jamar Williams (West Liberty).

TIME TO DOMINATE
Seeded fourth at 197 pounds, Dominic Murphy brings extensive big-match experience to the national tournament with a 5-3 record against ranked opponents in 2022-23 and a 7-2 career mark against his tournament field. Murphy leads St. Cloud State in wins and takedowns, establishing himself as a force at his new weight class. His side of the bracket features No. 1 Dalton Abney (Central Oklahoma), No. 5 Cole Huss (Northern State) and No. 8 Luke McGonigal (Mercyhurst) with a potential third match against Huss awaiting in the Quarterfinal.

TONY TIME
Representing the Huskies at 165 pounds, three-time All-American Anthony Herrera enters his second NCAA Tournament after earning the top seed at 157 last season and taking fifth. Herrera is 15-6 this season with five one-point decision losses and likewise has only lost one career match against his tournament field by more than one point. The redshirt senior’s side of the bracket includes No. 1 Shane Gantz (UW-Parkside), No. 4 David Hunsberger (Lander), No. 5 Jack Eiteljorge (Indianapolis) and No. 8 Hunter Mullin (Western Colorado).

MEEKINS MAKES HIS MARK
133-pounder Caleb Meekins enters the NCAA Tournament unseeded after winning the Super Region V Championship and will look to do damage with a pigtail match to begin his run. The two-time NJCAA All-American is 3-3 against his field and will wrestle on the side of the bracket that features No. 1 Quentrevion Campbell (Chadron State), No. 4 Elijah Lusk (Lander), No. 5 Devin Flannery (Millersville) and No. 8 Dylan Lucas (Central Oklahoma).

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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