By Ryan Divish
Montana State University-Northern wrestling coach David Ray doesn't need to look at a calendar to know that the NAIA national wrestling tournament is nearing. He can see it in his team's actions.
The Lights will wrap up their regular season with a pair of duals against NCAA Division II Central Washington University and nationally ranked NCAA Division I Boise State on Saturday in Boise, Idaho.
"Honestly, the atmosphere and attitude is right where it should be," Ray said. "We've had great temperament in the room. We're very aggressive and getting that mentality of not settling for anything less than victory."
Victories won't be easy this weekend for the Lights. Both schools they wrestle are very formidable and each weight division should have tough matches. Some people question Ray's intentions for wrestling a pair of tough duals a week before the North Central regional tournament.
"It's a win-win situation really," Ray said. "We are wrestling good competition and the guys that lose know that the loss doesn't hurt them in the rankings and only makes them better. And for the guys who win, that's some good momentum heading into regionals."
Ray is speaking about individual matches in that respect because that's what he is focusing on this weekend. The Lights need to sharpen up in some weight classes while there is still some decisions to be made concerning 149 through 165 weight classes.
Ray is taking both Aaron Jensen and Neil Samoy this weekend. Each will wrestle a match at 165 to further help Ray decide, who will drop to 157. Another possibility, is both wrestlers dropping to 157 and current 157-pounder Bobby Mantle dropping to 149.
Regardless, Ray will be watching every wrestler closely.
"I am not concerned about winning the duals," Ray said. "If we do, that's great. I am more concerned with certain individuals' performances."
With a week to regionals and two to nationals, the Lights need to get sharper every match.
"These two matches are for our guys to get ready for regionals," Ray said. "When you get this far along in the season, there is nothing more I can do. It's crunch time or whatever you want to call it."
Northern's duals get under way at 3 and 7 p.m. on the Boise State Campus.