For the past two years, the Husky wrestling team has walked into the National Championships with the confidence of winners and left with evidence to prove it. This year, visions of a three-peat decorated the walls of the wrestling room and the mind of every wrestler who stepped into it.
These lustful visions of victory soon turned mournful after the Huskies found themselves sitting in fifth place after day one, with four of the nine qualifiers not even winning a match. The thirst for victory kept the Huskies fighting on day two, but their struggles in day one prevented them from passing first place Norte Dame of Ohio.
A second place finish is impressive, despite not being quite the ending the Huskies were hoping for. There were impressive performances by many Huskies, despite having no first or second place finishers. The team came back to St. Cloud with four All-Americans including the well-known names of Brett Velasquez (125 lb), Larry Bomstad (157 lb), and Austin Goergen (285 lb), as they all battled their way to third place victories in their respective weight classes. Velasquez admits the disappointment felt by the team after the first round of matches.
“Friday was definitely a rough day to be a Husky…we weren’t even in the top ten…that night coach just reminded us that we had to dig deep…we were still in the running to bring home some hardware,” said Velasquez.
Perhaps one of the most impressive performances from the tournament came from a Husky that doesn’t have his name scattered throughout every headline – redshirt sophomore James Pleski (149 lb). A fourth place finish in his first appearance at the National Championships shows promise for the future of this team. Pleski credits his success to consistent effort during the season.
“It was a big moment, it kind of just showed me that good things happen when you do the right things, all year day in and day out I did my best to give one hundred percent in the wrestling room,” he said.
Pleski’s performance in Nationals drew the attention of his teammates as well. Velasquez spoke highly of his young teammate.
“We knew he had the potential to bring home some hardware and he wrestled lights out all weekend only losing to the number one ranked wrestler in both his losses,” he said.
A second place finish has not tarnished the way these Huskies think of their team.
“I’m grateful to have these guys as teammates, I think we’re a super close knit team that wants to be the best they can be, so every day we’re working on being better people, better students, and better athletes,” said Pleski.
And there definitely is plenty to be proud about. The Husky wrestling team accomplished many feats throughout the season, as did individual wrestlers. This is the ninth consecutive season the Huskies have placed in the top ten teams in the nation at the NCAA National Championships. Additionally, head coach Steve Costanzo has placed second in the 2011, 2012, 2013, and now 2017 seasons, along with 2015 and 2016 first place titles.
Along with these team accomplishments, the Huskies had standout performances from many wrestlers throughout the season, including Austin Goergen breaking the single season falls record (20) and the career falls record (71), James Pleski placing fourth in his first appearance at Nationals, and Brett Velasquez with consecutive seasons with All-American honors.
As yet another season comes to a close, so does the career of senior athletes. This season the Huskies will be closing the book on twelve wrestlers’ careers with St. Cloud State. Pleski admires his older teammates in his final farewell.
“ They really showed how to lead a team the right way, much of our success this year can be credited to those guys…these guys will surely be missed,” he said.
Velasquez also had parting words for the seniors:
“They have taught me volumes on the wrestling mat, how to be outstanding team leaders, and how to be great men outside of wrestling, each senior helped me grow as a wrestler and as a person and for that I am truly grateful,” he said.
As another chapter ends for these Husky wrestlers, the promise of the next chapter ignites the fire to win. There is no lack of praise for the talent on this team and with this praise comes an admiration born from the bond of teammates turned family. The stars shine on for the Husky Wrestling team.