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St. Cloud coach has made program a national power

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Steve Costanzo has turned around the wrestling program in his seven years at St. Cloud State.

The Huskies had won only two dual matches in the four seasons before Costanzo arrived in the spring of 2006, fresh off winning a national title with Dana College.

St. Cloud now has won 43 consecutive dual matches dating back to an 18-13 loss to Augustana on Jan. 27, 2011. The Huskies have finished second the past two years at the NCAA Division II national tournament.

Attendance has shot up, with anywhere from 250 to 1,000 at meets, compared to less than 100 when Costanzo started.

Costanzo credits great alumni, administrative support, influential coaches and some good recruits that have stuck with the program.

“A lot has to do with kids believing in you as an individual,” he said. “If they believe in you and respect you, they'll follow you. I've tried to do my best to earn their respect.”

Costanzo gives credit for his approach to former UNO coach Mike Denney, who is now with Maryville University. Denney, Costanzo said, is a people person who made everyone feel important, so you wanted to win for him and make him proud.

“I try to do the same things with our guys,” Costanzo said. “I owe a lot to him.”

Andy Pokorny isn't the only area wrestler at St. Cloud State. Others include occasional starters 141-pounder Jay Hildreth (15-9) of Council Bluffs Lewis Central and 285-pounder Caleb White (9-4) of Tri-Center in Neola, Iowa, and backup 141/149-pounder Tyler Mathison (5-4), a redshirt sophomore from Fremont, Neb.

Costanzo likes the work ethic of the Midwest, which he said is a great area for wrestling. He's most proud of his team's community involvement and academic prowess.

“These kids are getting it done, not just on the mat, but off the mat as well,” he said.

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