Turn back the clock for a moment to Jan. 14, 2017, where the St. Cloud State men’s wrestling team suffered a hard-fought defeat to the University of Indianapolis Greyhounds at the Ranger Duals in Kenosha, Wisconsin. It was the first loss the then number 1-ranked Huskies had suffered on the season.
It would be the only loss the team suffered that season on their way to a second-place finish. This may seem like a small blip on the historical radar, but Huskies wrestling–a well-oiled system of talented players–have not lost in a dual meet since the upset in southeastern Wisconsin, a streak of 48 consecutive dual meet victories.
“I believe in creating a culture of excellence, and I believe that’s what we’ve done over the past few years,” St. Cloud State wrestling head coach Steve Costanzo said.
A “culture of excellence” is almost an understatement. The Huskies locked up the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Championship for a whopping eighth year in a row, and there wasn’t a more proper way to secure it: a 31-3 thrashing of the Vikings in a dual meet at Augustana University on Thursday.
They draw closer to the Division II consecutive dual meet wins record, held by the St. Cloud State Huskies, who won 54 straight dual matches from Jan. 30, 2011 to Jan. 12, 2014, according to St. Cloud State University Athletics.
With that victory, St. Cloud State can focus on winning their fourth Division II championship under Coach Costanzo, who credits the success to the overall focus of the team.
“I think we always focus on our consistency and day-to-day training,” Costanzo said.
This consistency is present not just as a team, but all across the squad individually and ten players on the Huskies are individually ranked, one in every weight class, from 125-pound Brett Velasquez to heavyweight Zach Muller, according to InterMat rankings.
Costanzo has coached the Huskies since 2006 and he believes that the wrestling wins don’t mean everything to them. The veteran coach has a reputation for helping student athletes succeed in the classroom as well as on the mat.
With Costanzo at the helm, student wrestlers have flourished in the classroom, often finishing in the top 20 in the nation in overall Grade Point Average. They finished second out of all Division II programs during the 2009-2010 season with a stunning team GPA of 3.354, according to the Husky Athletics wrestling website.
“Wrestling’s not a life or death sport,” said Costanzo. “We [coaches] communicate with [students] about what’s acceptable and not acceptable… We’re about building ‘life champions.’ That’s our motto.”
Up next for the wrestling giants of central Minnesota is the Division II Central Regional Tournaments. The expectations are high and the pressure is mounting, but Costanzo knows that the team’s bond will help with confidence when it matters.
“These guys are expecting big results of themselves,” he said. “Each individual has each other’s back.”
The Central Regional Tournament began on Saturday, Feb. 23 in Moorhead. The 2019 Division II National championships are to be held on Friday, March 8 and Saturday, March 9 in Cleveland, Ohio.
The way the team has come together has been a driving point for the wrestling program at St. Cloud State, and it’s yielded results. Once of the reasons why the Huskies keep finding themselves in the national championships is because of their dominance in conference games.
Did you think not losing in two years was impressive? Huskies wrestling has been winning consecutive conference games since Obama’s first term in office. They’ve won 61 straight meets against NSIC opponents, with their last loss coming against the Augustana Vikings on Jan. 27, 2011, according to Husky Athletics.
None of this history, however, will change how Costanzo’s squad will focuses on any upcoming regional tournaments and their chase for another national championship.
“When you’re trying to win… don’t wrestle for yourself, wrestle for each other. These guys are wrestling for their parents, for alumni, and for the university,” Costanzo said.
Regardless of whether or not the Huskies lock up their fourth national championship or whether or not players achieve higher rankings, one thing is for certain: Steve Costanzo and his wrestlers will leave Cleveland as “life champions,” he said.