By Ryan Divish
It's not about winning for the Montana State University-Northern wrestling team. The Lights know they will win this Saturday's North Central regional wrestling tournament in Bismarck, ND,
It's about total domination. Not just winning, but winning big. Why? To send a message to teams around the country. Teams like Lindenwood, Missouri Valley, Menlo and any others with championship aspirations. That message being - the national tournament is coming and the Lights will be a team to contend with.
"We should win the tournament ," said Lights head coach David Ray. "But I don't want to just win, I want to dominate. It's good to get that momentum, but also to send a message, that Northern may have lost some pretty good wrestlers but we haven't taken a hit."
The Lights will take 12 wrestlers to Bismarck and while there are more than one Light wrestler in a couple of weight classes, Ray isn't above believing that all 12 could reach the finals.
"It would be great if we had all 12 in the finals," Ray said. "It's not a shot in the dark for that to happen, it's actually very possible if we wrestle up to our capabilities."
Besides all of that, there is plenty of incentive individually for each wrestler as well. A regional championship in the respective weight class means facing a fourth seed from another region in the first round of the national tournament.
"It certainly puts them in a lot better position," Ray said. "The higher you place the less likely you will see a number one seed early at nationals."
Individually, Northern will have a different look this week in its lineup than in the past. It's a change that Ray has been planning to make Northern more effective in the middle weight classes.
Bobby Mantle, Neil Samoy and Aaron Jensen will all drop a weight class this weekend.
Mantle, who has been solid at 157 all season, will drop down to 149 and join Lance Nelson in that weight class. It isn't a big switch for Mantle. He had no trouble making weight at 157 and it wasn't difficult for him to cut the eight pounds. It could really help Mantle, who will be a little stronger than many of his opponents at 149.
The real reason for the move is that both Jensen and Samoy were wrestling out of their weight class at 165. Both are normally 157-pounders and the move down will greatly increase their effectiveness.
Jensen, in particular, should be helped because he was giving up a ton of strength at 165.
"I think Jensen is going to have a good tournament," Ray said. "He really will be better off at 157. The same with Samoy."
The open spot at 165 will be filled by junior Luke Heuberger, who has a 5-7 record on the year.
Other than those changes, the Lights lineup remains the same as it has all season.
Unless something drastic happens, Ray is virtually certain of getting titles from Caleb Schaeffer (133), Mantle, Mike Lester (184), Emmett Willson (197) and Matt Carter (HWT). His remaining wrestlers are all very capable of winning titles as well.
As far as competition at the tournament, Ray is diplomatic.
"There will be plenty of good wrestlers there," Ray said. "But we've beaten most of them. Dickinson State has some really good individuals that will score some point.
Regardless, domination is very attainable and with this tournament having a direct effect on the national tournament, there will be no shortage of motivation.
"We're just going to go in there and get after people," Ray said. "Nationals is getting close and they can feel it. The attitude and temperament is where it should be. They are right on the edge and that's good."