One is going home. One is trying to bring home another national title.
Northern State’s Matt Meuleners and Anthony Bruno will compete in the NCAA Division II national wrestling tournament this Friday and Saturday in Birmingham, Ala.
It is Meuleners’ fourth straight trip to nationals. The senior is already a three-time All-American and a two-time national heavyweight champion. He could be NSU’s first-ever three-time national champion.
“It would be great,” Meuleners said about possibly getting a third national title. “It would just be awesome being the first person at Northern to win three national titles. It would just be a great way to end on top.”
Bruno is making his first trip to the national wrestling tourney. The 125-pounder is from Madison, Ala., which is less than 100 miles from Birmingham. Bruno has some friends that attend the University of Alabama-Birmingham and he will have several family members and friends at the tournament. Bruno had to win the true fourth place match recently at regionals to qualify for nationals.
What was it like when he realized he would be wrestling close to home?
“I was really excited about it,” Bruno said. “I talked to some of my family and friends back home and they were all excited for me.”
Meuleners is excited for Bruno as well. The last two years that Meuleners went to nationals, he was the lone NSU representative.
“That is fun that he is from Alabama and that he gets to wrestle in his home state,” Meuleners said. “It should be quite an experience for him. It will be fun to see how many people from his hometown come down and watch him wrestle.”
Despite being close to home, it will be business as usual for Bruno, and Meuleners for that matter.
“Each year is a new year,” Meuleners said. “I have to come in with a new focus. It is 2013 and I haven’t won anything in 2013. There are no national champions yet. Nobody has won anything. Everybody is equal at the tournament. I have to go out there and control what I can control and wrestle my best and hopefully win.”
While Bruno will be the unofficial tour guide on the trip, Meuleners has been passing along tidbits to Bruno about what to expect at nationals.
“He told me not to stress myself out about it and just get out there and wrestle,” Bruno said.
Bruno, 21, is a redshirt sophomore and has a 24-17 record this season. The criminal justice major has a 62-41 career record so far. This is Bruno’s second year as NSU’s 125-pound starter.
“I think from the get-go he has been very successful,” NSU coach Pat Timm said. “From the beginning, we thought he had the potential to be an All-American — if not multiple.”
Meuleners, 23, has a 141-31 career record and has a 32-4 record this season. With three of those losses coming against Division I opponents. His other loss this season was against St. Cloud State’s Jake Kahnke. Meuleners and Kahnke have wrestled multiple times in the past few years. Kahnke has won all of the matches, expect for the two times they have faced each other in the last two national championship matches.
“He is the kind of wrestler that when the lights come on, he is confident and he wrestles smart,” Timm said. “I think that he is ready.”
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