St. Cloud State won’t be at full strength when it is host to the Husky Open beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Halenbeck Hall Fieldhouse.
The No. 3-ranked Huskies are missing two ranked wrestlers as they sit out this semester so they can complete their final semester of eligibility in the spring. Two other starters are out due to injury or rest.
Seniors Andy Pokorny (133 pounds) and Jacob Dalton Horn (149) are doing work on their own as they prepare for the spring semester to finish out their collegiate careers. Meanwhile, junior Zach Stewart (133) is out for the year with an injury and senior heavyweight Jake Kahnke has yet to wrestle this season. Kahnke has placed second at heavyweight for the past two seasons at the D-II national meet.
“We’re waiting to get some guys into the lineup,” SCSU head coach Steve Costanzo said. “A lot of them haven’t wrestled yet and some are healing up from past injuries. We want to peak at the right time.
“Kahnke’s training hard. We’re not sure when his first match will be. It could be after the semester break. We want to get him completely healed. He’s been fighting a few issues.”
Teams represented at the Open will include St. Cloud State, North Dakota State, Minnesota, Minnesota State-Moorhead, Southwest Minnesota State, Mary, Wisconsin-Parkside, St. John’s, Augsburg, Concordia-Moorhead, Jamestown, Augustana and South Dakota State. Since it’s an open tournament, Costanzo expects individual wrestlers from other schools to come unattached.
“We’re competing with the Northern Iowa Open this weekend. They moved the date to this weekend. That makes it tough for us to compete with,” Costanzo said. “We’ll probably move the date in the future after this year.”
SCSU will have 184-pound senior Shamus O’Grady competing this weekend. O’Grady is ranked No. 3 in the country at that weight. O’Grady is 7-1 on the season.
“He’s a great leader for this team,” Costanzo said of O’Grady. “He’s already beaten some good guys. He’s filled the 184-pound spot nicely for us. He’s strong and in the best shape of his life. He’s a force to be reckoned with. He’s a sure favorite to win (Saturday).”
Costanzo is high on several young wrestlers for the future. They include Eric Forde (125), Jay Hildreth (141) and Matt Nelson (141), Josh Howk (149), Pierz native Clint Poster (157), Chris Brassell (197) and Caleb White (heavyweight). Poster is already 8-1 on the season and took first place at the Iowa State Open.
“Poster’s somebody we’re really excited about and are expecting big things out of,” Costanzo said. “He’s having a stellar start to his career. I’m happy with the way our younger kids are competing. They have a strong work ethic and are really coachable. They have a real fighting spirit about them.”
The Huskies were ranked third in the first Division II Wrestling Coaches Association poll of the season. Nebraska-Kearney was No. 1, Central Oklahoma was No. 2, Upper Iowa was fourth, MSU-Mankato was ninth, Augustana was 14th and MSU-Moorhead and Northern State received votes.
“I don’t care about the rankings. You can put us last and I won’t care. It’s always interesting to look at from a fan’s perspective, and a coaching perspective. But they don’t mean much,” Costanzo said.
The second semester is when the wrestling season typically heats up. The Huskies have duals with St. John’s and Minot State before The New Year, but will begin 2013 at the Grand Canyon Duals in Phoenix on Jan. 5 and then have the NWCA National Duals in Springfield, Ill, on Jan. 12.
“We expect all of our duals during The New Year to be tough,” Costanzo said. “We’re just trying to get better. We have a lot of new kids. We have to continue to build team chemistry. A lot of our weights are not secured. I don’t think any of them are right now. There are a couple I’m concerned about. There are some questions marks for us.”
Costanzo is hoping his team isn’t too overconfident this season.
“We have to make sure everybody’s heads are on straight,” he said. “We can’t rely on past results. We have to continue to go forward and get better at the little things.
“We want guys who are out there with the right mentality. We continue to challenge our kids to help them get better. They have a long ways to go.”