BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The St. Cloud State wrestling team was sitting in first place after the first day of the Division II National Championships Friday night.
The Huskies have 60.5 points. Notre Dame College of Ohio is in second place with 58.5 points and defending national champion Nebraska-Kearney is third with 57 points.
St. Cloud State has five wrestlers alive for championships today. Seven wrestlers are still alive in the tournament for the Huskies.
“I thought we wrestled hard today,” SCSU head coach Steve Costanzo said. “We have seven All-Americans already. That’s the most we’ve ever had. We had three guys make it to the finals last year. We’re hoping we can top that, too. We have a chance here for a team title. There’s an opportunity.”
The biggest surprise of the first day came in the quarterfinals when SCSU No. 1-ranked heavyweight Jake Kahnke fell 7-1 to to Ziad Haddad of Kutztown (Pa.). Kahnke, a senior, won his first-round match and downed James Malachek 5-3 in the second round of wrestlebacks.
Kahnke, who placed second two years in a row at heavyweight, will face Finday’s Andrew Tumlin in wrestlebacks today. The best Kahnke can hope to finish is third.
“It’s tough to see Jake not able to be an individual champion,” Costanzo said. “I’m proud of the way he bounced back to win after he lost in the quarterfinals. That showed a lot of heart. There’s still a team title on the line and he knows that. He’s going to be a big part of this (today).”
SCSU’s Shamus O’Grady (184 pounds), Clint Poster (157), Jacob Dalton Horn (149), Matt Nelson (141) and Andy Pokorny (133) all went 2-0 on the first day to advance to the semifinals in their respective weights.
O’Grady, ranked No. 1 at 184, beat Findlay’s Adam Walters 8-0 in the quarterfinals. He earned a 17-1 technical fall over Derrick Williams of West Liberty in the first round.
“Shamus was dominant,” Costanzo said. “I’m really proud of him. He has a tough match in the semifinals. He’s on right now and he’s peaking. He really wants the national title.”
Pokorny, ranked No. 2 at 133, beat Ashland’s Michael Labry 7-3 in the quarterfinals. He pinned Pittsburgh-Johnstown’s Dave Fogle in the first round.
Poster, a Pierz grad, earned a pin in the quarterfinals and a 4-0 decision in the first round. Horn earned a 6-2 decision in the quarterfinals after winning by injury defeault in the first round. Nelson won a 13-8 decision in the quarterfinals after beating Joshua Myers of Ouachita Baptist 6-4 in overtime in the first round.
SCSU’s Gabe Fogarty (165) went 2-1 and will continue in wrestlebacks today. SCSU senior Kurt Salmen (174) lost both of his matches and was eliminated from the tournament. Eric Forde (125) went 1-2 and was eliminated.
The tournament continues at 10 a.m. today. The championship round begins at 6 p.m.
“We’re in the lead, but we have to be better (today),” Costanzo said. “We have seven bullets and I think we’re capable of winning this.”