The wrestling program here at St. Cloud State University is a rich one. People come and go, but one thing remains the same—top-notch talent is plentiful.
One of those wrestlers to have come and gone is Gary Smith. Recruited for his prowess as a football player and his athleticism with the track and field team, the Minnesota native out of Grove City High School was convinced he needed to try out for the wrestling team at St. Cloud.
When all was said and done, Smith finished his career with a 45-13-9 record, winning back-to-back NAIA National Championships as a junior and senior and winning SCSU’s Outstanding Wrestler of the Year award in 1964.
Smith left a lasting impression on the program at SCSU.
“I’d say he left a pretty good lasting impression. He came in with no experience as a wrestler and ended up walking out of here as a couple time national champion” said current wrestling head coach Steve Costanzo.
It takes a special type of athlete to be able to walk into a program with no background playing that sport and to walk away with the level of success Smith had. But it also takes a special type of work ethic; he could be found working on his craft every single night. Smith’s wrestling career did not stop once he left SCSU—Smith became an official and would go on to officiate for 25 years. For all his efforts, Smith was inducted into the Wrestling Hall of Fame this year, earning a lifetime service award.
“Any time any of our guys, alumni, goes off and does something significant and gets selected to a hall of fame, it’s not only quite an honor for them, but for the University,” Costanzo added.
It comes at an opportune time for one of the alumni of the wrestling team to earn such an award. The current team is coming off their second of back-to-back NCAA national championship and comes into this season as the preseason number one-ranked team, according to the 2016-17 National Wrestling Coaches Association pre-season Division II national poll.
Coming off back-to-back national championships, there are going to be quite a few standouts on such a team. Defending National Champion redshirt sophomore Brett Velasquez, three-time All-American Austin Goergen, junior Larry Bomstad, and redshirt senior Gabe Fogarty round out the impressive list of individuals who are all ranked in the top 10 of their respective weight classes. Velasquez was one individual that Costanzo was quick to point out.
“In terms of competitiveness, certainly we have a returning national champ back this year in Brett Velasquez. In terms of mentality and competitiveness, we have a few guys,” Costanzo continued.
Costanzo is very proud of his team and how they carry themselves and make the commitment they make to themselves and their program.