By Ryan Divish
Alumni weekend is supposed to be a celebration of sorts. A chance for Montana State University-Northern alumni to come back and have some fun with current Northern students. However, for the Northern wrestling team, the fun will be off the mat.
The Lights face an alumni squad on Saturday that is probably tougher than many of the regular teams they will face this season. How tough? Well, of the 14-member alumni squad, 13 were all-Americans, 12 were multi-time all-Americans and five won national championships.
The team could have been even tougher. There were plenty of former wrestlers who hoped to compete, but couldn't because many are football coaches. Still, head coach David Ray had to turn a few alumni away.
"We had at least six other guys that wanted to wrestle," Ray said. "But 14 matches is just about right. It's a testament to the tradition of our program, having so many guys wanting to wrestle."
The 2002-2003 Lights squad has had a little over three weeks of practice and Ray believes they are ahead of schedule with their conditioning.
"The kids have really been working hard," Ray said. "We have a new practice room and that's really helped."
Ray's team for the match will be a mixture of young and old. Only three seniors will suit up, along with five juniors and six freshmen.
The Lights will face an alumni team with a similar mixture. Leading the way will be Mike Mazurkiewicz. Maz, as he's often called, will be wrestling in his 19th consecutive alumni match.
"He's going to wrestle for 20 straight," Ray said. "That's pretty impressive."
Mazurkiewicz, a two-time all-American, will square off with freshman Anthony Haukenberry. While Maz is the elderly statesman of the alumni, several other members of the alumni team were donning the maroon and gold when many of the current Northern wrestlers were in grade school.
Chris Faber, a three-time all-American, will face junior Dustyn Azure. Matt Campbell, the 1993 national champion, will face junior all-American Caleb Schaeffer. Campbell's teammate, Anthony Taylor, a three-time all-American, will take on freshman Andrew Leichtnam.
Lights assistant coach and 2002 national champion Tyson Thivierge will take on junior Matt Carter, a 2002 all-American. Junior Kyle Fisher, who finished second at Nationals last year, will face 2000 national champion Mark Lane.
But the match of the day will be when two-time national champion and current Lights assistant coach Turk Lords squares off against reigning national champion Emmett Willson.
Other matches include: senior Andy Thompson vs. four-time All-American Carl Valley, junior Caleb Schaeffer vs. 1993 national champ Matt Campbell, senior Eric Dunmire vs. three-time all-American Jesse Schaeffer, freshman Lance Nelson vs. all-American Lyle Cronk, freshman Aaron Jensen vs. 1998 national champ Chad Edgar, senior Bobby Mantle vs. two-time all-American Mike Lane, freshman Jason Smith vs. Dan Eaves, and freshman David Waters vs. three-time all-American Dan DeKaye.
"It should be a lot of fun," Ray said of the day.
The alumni wrestling matches start at 10:30 a.m. at the MSU-Northern gymnasium.