By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sports/ email@example.com
This was supposed to be an exciting weekend for the Havre High wrestling team as it prepared to head to the Cowboy Invitational in Miles City.
But for the first time this season, Havre has been bitten by the injury bug, meaning the Ponies will head to one of Montana's toughest wrestling tournaments without two of their top point getters.
Blue Pony senior Jeff Hedges will not make the trek to Miles City. He is suffering from the effects of some torn cartilage in his back and rib cage, which will force him to miss the action in Miles City.
"Jeff's injury is one that won't get any worse if he wrestles," said Havre High head coach Scott Filius. "But if he keeps going it won't get any better either. The best thing for him is to rest right now."
Hedges missing the Miles City tourney is especially disappointing considering that he has slipped to No. 2 in the current 125-pound Class rankings, despite being undefeated on the season.
Sidney's Byron Kuylen has somehow managed to pass Hedges in the rankings, but Hedges and Filius were looking more forward to him squaring off against Laurel's Cole Meyers.
Hedges defeated Meyers in the 112-pound state championship match last season. But now the highly anticipated rematch won't happen.
To compound matters, freshman Beau LaSalle will not make the trip either. LaSalle, who is ranked fourth at 112 pounds, suffered an ankle injury this week in practice. The Ponies are also still without the services of junior Chad Seely.
"Having three key guys out will make it tough on our team this weekend," Filius said. "This is a very tough tournament already and we are going in without some kids who were going to score a lot of points for us.
"But we still have to go down there and compete hard," Filius added. "I just want the kids that are going to wrestle well and keep improving. Right now getting better and staying focused is the most important thing for us."
The Cowboy Invitational will feature 30-plus teams from four states. The entire Eastern A conference will be in attendance, including top-ranked Sidney and fifth-ranked Hardin.
The tournament will also feature the three Billings AA schools, including top-ranked Billings Skyview. The Montana schools in attendance will be joined from some of the top prep programs in Wyoming as well as North and South Dakota.
Due to the myriad of injuries, Havre's lineup will look somewhat different in Miles City. Second-ranked Clint Bradbury will go at 98 pounds and Billy Wagner will wrestle at 105. Shane Boucher will fill in for LaSalle at 112 and freshman Nate Harada will get the call at 125 pounds in Hedges' place. The rest of the Blue Pony lineup will remain unchanged, except that Havre will be open at 140 pounds this week.
Heading into the Miles City tournament, the Ponies are ranked sixth in the latest Class A power poll. Havre has seven individual wrestlers ranked right now, including Bradbury, LaSalle and Hedges. Gray Chagnon is ranked sixth at 105 and Scott Sheppard is ranked sixth at 119 pounds. Guy Seely is ranked sixth at 160 pounds and freshman Matt Schnittgen is ranked third at 275 pounds. Dallas Thompson also comes into this weekend ranked sixth at 189 pounds.
The Cowboy Invitational will get under way Friday morning and run through Saturday afternoon. All of the action will be held at Custer County High School in Miles City.