By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editorfirstname.lastname@example.org
According to Montana State University-Northern wrestling coach David Ray, last weekend was just a quiz. This weekend is a test for his wrestlers.
The Lights are coming off a strong showing with an easy dual win over Sitanka-Huron University and an even more impressive showing at the Northwest College Invitational with 13 wrestlers placing in the top five.
But this weekend the Lights head to the always tough University of Wyoming Cowboy Open in Laramie on Saturday.
Northern prepared for the weekend with a bit of a pop quiz on Thursday, defeating Western Wyoming College 30-12 in a dual match in Rock Springs, Wyo.
Northern lost a pair of tight matches and surrendered a forfeit at 125, but dominated the remaining matches.
Senior Caleb Schaeffer picked up a pin at 133 while Chris Smith (141), Anthony Haukenberry (149), Kyle Fisher (184), Mazi Burke (197) and Emmett Wilson (HWT) picked up strong decisions.
The dual win was nice, but it was just a tune-up for the real test on Saturday at the Cowboy Open, which features close to 20 teams, with NCAA Division I schools Boise State, Wyoming and Oregon competing.
"This is definitely a test," Ray said. "On last week's quiz we scored a 90 percent. I want to know how we'll score this weekend. Will it be 70 percent, 80 percent? I want to find out because this a regular test, not a quiz."
The Cowboy Open features two divisions: the open and the 20 and under. Northern will have plenty of wrestlers in both.
Willson returns to defend his title at 197 pounds. Willson was named the tournament's outstanding wrestler last year, and Ray expects nothing less.
"Emmett should be right there again," Ray said. "He just has to stay focused."
Transfer Stryder Davis is also a returning champion. Davis won the 157-pound division last year for North Idaho College and is the favorite to win it again.
Besides the returning champs, Ray has high hopes for seniors Fisher and Schaeffer. Both wrestlers were in contention last season and should contend in their respective weight classes.
"Caleb needs to believe he should win his weight because he can," Ray said. "I'd like to see Kyle put together some good matches and contend."
The rest of Northern's wrestlers will be competing in the 20 and under division. Ray feels he has some contenders at several weight classes. Burke at 197, Chase Gormley at heavyweight, Haukenberry at 149 and Smith at 141 could very easily find themselves in championship matches.
"It's a tough tourney," Ray said, "with all of those Division I schools and there will be some good Division II schools there as well. I think this year the competition will be the best its been.
"It's good for us to see where we're at physically and mentally and use this to hone our skills. It's going to be a tough test. We'll see if they pass it."
MSU-Northern def. Western Wyoming College 30-12
125 - Jeremy Baker,WWC win by forfeit; 133 - Caleb Schaeffer, MSUN pinned Lyle Evans, 5:34; 141 - Chris Smith, MSUN def. Mark Fischer 10-4; 149 -Anthony Haukenberry, MSUN def. Randy Nelson 8-1; 157 - Stryder Davis, MSUN win by forfeit; 165 - Nick Larson, WWC def. Aaron Jensen 3-0; 174 - Mike Casperson, WWC def. David Waters 5-4 OT; 184 - Kyle Fisher, MSUN def. Luke Kjar 13-1; 197 - Mazi Burke, MSUN def. Colt Hamilton 15-3; HWT - Emmett Willson, MSUN def. John Fager 17-4.