By Max Steigauf / email@example.com / Photo by SCSU Athletics
The stage was set for the St. Cloud State Huskies wrestling team headed into day 2 of the NCAA DII National championships. The Huskies entered day 2 trailing first place Nebraska- Kearney by 6.5 team points, however the Huskies had 7 of their 8 national qualifiers still wrestling with 4 of those 7 starting the day in the semi-final round. The 3 other Huskies were sitting on the consolation side of the bracket fighting for third place, and the additional points to help the team in the overall team score race against the Nebraska-Kearney Lopers.
The Three Huskies that started the second day in the consolation bracket were, 157 lb Colby Njos, 165 lb Devin Fitzpatrick, and 197 lb Noah Ryan. Colby Njos was the Huskies representative at 157, after multiple Huskies started at the weight class this year. Njos proved he was the best option for the team after losing to the eventual national champion in the first round, Njos strung together 4 wins, 2 of which were overtime, to come back and claim third for the Huskies at the 157 pound weight class.
At 165 the Huskies’ Devin Fitzpatrick started day 2 in the consolation bracket after being upset by the 8 seed in the quarterfinal round. The Number 1 seeded Fitzpatrick would unleash his frustration on the consolation side of the bracket as he started day 2 with a bang teching his first opponent of the day 21-6 to give the Huskies extra bonus points. After that in the consolation semi-finals Fitzpatrick would go on to win in a controlling 9-6 decision. Finally, Devin’s road in the NCAA Championships would lead him to the 3rd place match were Fitzpatrick would pin his opponent 2 minutes and 16 seconds into the first period to cap off his year at 165, and adding some valuable team points along the way.
At 197 Noah Ryan also was starting day 2 in the consolation round for the Huskies after he lost his first-round match to another eventual NCAA champion in Ryan Vasbinder. Noah Ryan won his first consolation round match by way of a 13-4 major decision. After that Ryan won another consolation match 6-3 before losing in the consolation quarterfinals dropping him into the 7th place match where he too would also pin his opponent in the first period to finish his season with a huge exclamation point. The Huskies were 3-0 in placement matches which added more crucial team points to St Cloud’s total team score.
Heading into the Semi-finals the Huskies had 4 wrestlers competing for first, while Nebraska-Kearney had a measly 2 semifinal appearances. If the Huskies were going to continue assault on the first place Lopers they were going to need some big performances in the semi-final round, and a little luck.
The 4 wrestlers representing the Huskies in the semi-final round were, 133 pounder Garrett Vos, 141 pounder Joey Bianchini, 149 pounder Garrett Aldrich, and last but certainly not least heavy weight Kameron Teacher. Garrett Vos would start the Huskies semi-finals off by overpowering the #5 seed Tanner Cole from central Oklahoma 7-0 on his way to the National Championship Match at 133.
At 141 the young Redshirt freshman Joey Bianchini was coming off a close 8-7 decision in the quarterfinals as he moved on to the semi-finals. The Semifinal match however would not be close, Bianchini would explode out of the gate in the first period getting a takedown and a 4 point near fall to start the match. Bianchini would control the rest of the match as he ended up beating up on Kelan McKenna 9-1 for a major decision to punch his ticket to the 141-pound finals match.
Moving up to 149 pounds the Huskies had Garrett Aldrich looking great as the #7 seed in his bracket as he headed into his semi-final match which pitted him against Adams State’s #3 Nathen Hermosillo. After 2 periods Aldrich was up 4-3 with his choice heading into the third period. Aldrich would choose down to start the third and escape and take Hermosillo down. Hermosillo would eventually escape, but it was too little too late as Aldrich would cruise to a 7-4 decision putting him in the 149 into championship.
At heavy weight the Huskies #1 ranked Kameron Teacher was having a field day as he pinned his opponent in the quarterfinal round on his way to the semi-finals. In the semi-finals, Teacher would bust open the match early getting 2 takedowns in the first period as he danced his way to a 8-3 victory to move on to the heavyweight championship. While all 4 Huskies won their semi-final matches, the Lopers on the other hand, lost both of their semi-final matches.
Heading into the final round the Huskies were trailing the Lopers by 2.5 team points and needed just one of their four finalists to win and that would put the Huskies ahead in the final team standings. The Huskies had a Finalist in 3 straight matches, so all was looking good for the Huskies heading into the Championship round.
Starting off the 3 straight finalists was Garrett Vos. Vos would head into the third period trailing by a point, but he would have choice and chose bottom. This would end up hurting the Huskies’ 133 pounder as he would give up a 4 point near fall to give West Liberty’s Tyler Warner a commanding lead, and one Vos could not overcome as he eventually lost 9-4.
The second Husky wrestler in the championship was redshirt freshman Joey Bianchini who would face Newberry’s Isiah Royal, who was ranked #1 the entire year. In the First period Bianchini would get taken down first, but eventually escape and take Royal down in the final 45 seconds of the first period to claim a slim 3-2 lead going into the second period. To start the second Bianchini would choose down and escape quickly, but not too long after Royal would take him down. Bianchini escaped again to end the second period scoring still hanging on to a 1-point lead. In the third period however Royal would tie the match up, and with 26 seconds left Joey Bianchini would be hit with his second stall warning which awarded Royal the match winning point as he would go on to win 7-6.
Then the final of the Huskies’ 3 straight finalists, Garrett Aldrich, was up next. Aldrich fell behind early in his match and could not recover, he would trail the entire match and it would end up being a 12-5 loss to St. Cloud’s 149 pounder. With all that the Huskies were still trailing the Lopers by 2.5 points and they would have only one more opportunity to claim the team National Championship.
That opportunity came in the final match of the year. #1 ranked Heavyweight Kameron Teacher was going to need a win against Weston Hunt of Colorado School of Mines in order for the Huskies to win their 3rd straight wrestling national title. Teacher got off to a fast start in the first period taking down Hunt twice both with a single leg which Hunt had no answer for. After the first period Teacher would have a 1-point lead over Hunt. Teacher would get choice in the second period and he would start down and eventually escaped, but the frenzy pace of the first period seemed to take a toll on the heavyweight as he couldn’t seem to take Hunt down in the second period. After the second period the score was 6-4 in favor of Teacher. Hunt had his choice on how he would start the third period and he chose down. Hunt escaped 5 seconds in, but Teacher successfully danced his way to win the heavyweight title and throttle the Huskies into first place in the team score giving the huskies their third straight national title and 5th title in 6 years.
The Huskies third straight title may have been nerve racking but in the end all good stories have a happy ending, and this was maybe one of the best stories so far. The Huskies started this season as the number 1 team in the country, but they would have to take a two week leave of absence due to the team contracting Covid. Later on in the year the team had to battle through some close matches to continue to be unbeaten, and because of those close matches in the final team rankings of the year the Huskies were dropped to the third best team in the country. After that the Huskies would send 8 wrestlers to the NCAA tournament. In the NCAA Tournament the Huskies were in a constant duel with Nebraska-Kearney for first place, and quite fittingly that duel wouldn’t be over until the final horn of the heavyweight championship.