Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
The only drama surrounding Saturday's NAIA Northern regional tournament at the MSU-Northern gymnasium was how much the Lights wrestling team would win the team title by, or how many Northern wrestlers would capture individual titles.
As expected, Northern cruised to the team title with 139 points, besting second-place University of Mary by 67 points and winning five individual titles.
More importantly, the Lights qualified every one of their 12 wrestlers for the NAIA national tournament with all 12 placing in the top four, while setting up some important seeding positions.
With regional champions facing the fourth-place finishers from other regions, head coach David Ray wanted his wrestlers to finish as high as possible.
Northern placed wrestlers in the finals in every weight class it had wrestlers in except for one and had two wrestlers in the finals at 133, 157 and 197.
"I am pleased with the way the weekend went," Ray said. "You know me. I'd like to win them all, which we didn't. But I thought we had a pretty good weekend overall."
At 133 pounds, it was an all-Northern final as top-ranked Caleb Schaeffer met teammate and roommate Chris Smith, who dropped down from 141 a few weeks ago.
It was a very controlled match with both wrestlers being very familiar with each other's style. Smith held a 2-1 lead at the end of the first period. Schaeffer grabbed a 4-2 lead in the second period with a takedown and an escape.
Smith tied the match with a reversal early in the third period, but then gave Schaeffer an escape in hopes of picking up a takedown to win the match. However, Schaeffer got the best of his roommate and picked up a 5-4 win.
"There really wasn't going to be many points scored," Schaeffer said. "It was tough wrestling him. There isn't any bad blood or anything like that. We're not like that. Besides, all that matters is nationals. I want to see us have to have a repeat in the national finals."
Still, beating your roommate in your final home match wasn't exactly what Schaeffer had in mind.
"It really is a bittersweet win," Schaeffer said. "It really hasn't hit me that it's my last college match in Havre, but it will later this week."
Sophomore Anthony Haukenberry completed a solid tournament with an impressive 3-0 win over sixth-ranked Mike Champagne of Mary to win the 149-pound title. Haukenberry lost to Champagne 6-4 in double overtime a week ago, but looked sharp while getting his revenge. He had a single-leg takedown late in the second period and added an escape in the third to get the win.
"The score didn't really indicate how well Haukenberry wrestled," Ray said. "He wrestled smart and controlled the tempo of the entire match.
The 157-pound championship was another all-Northern affair as junior Stryder Davis edged freshman Ryan Hall 3-1.
Davis scored a single-leg takedown in the second period and an escape in the third period to get the win.
"It was a very physical match," Ray said. "Both of them dominated their opponents getting to the championship match. Hall is very strong and has a lot of talent, but Stryder just doesn't make too many mistakes."
Senior and Havre native Kyle Fisher captured the title at 184 pounds, but his last college match in Havre didn't get off to a promising start. Mary's Elijah Simburger scored three quick takedowns on Fisher to take a 6-2 lead early in the championship match.
"I was a little bit nervous with it being my last match in Havre," he said. "My feet felt like they were cemented to the mat in that first period."
Fisher broke off the cement and scored a reversal late in the first period, dominated the final two periods, almost scoried a pin, and pickied up a 13-6 win. It was the third time he defeated Simburger this year.
"The times before he held a lot," Fisher said. "But this time he came out really aggressive and surprised me a little. But I knew I could score some points and come back. I really wanted that pin; I was digging as hard as I could to get the pin."
Northern also picked up an expected title at 197 pounds as Emmett Willson won by default over teammate Mazi Burke.
"There really was no reason for Mazi and Emmett to wrestle," Ray said. "We don't want to risk one of them getting injured. They'll be on opposite sides of the bracket at nationals, they can wrestle in the finals there."
Northern picked up second-place finishes from Aaron Jensen at 165 and Jesse Juarez at 174.
Jensen lost to Dickinson State's John Zamora 4-1, while Gabe Harry beat Juarez 6-2. The losses were disappointing because both Jensen and Juarez had beaten their respective opponents earlier in the season.
"I thought Aaron has wrestled better than he did on Saturday," Ray said. "He needs to go out with the attitude that he's going to get a takedown in the first period. If he had done that in the championship, it would have changed the momentum of the entire match."
"Jesse just needs to be a better wrestler on bottom," Ray said. "He's so methodical. He just needs to more fluid and attack more. He didn't show Harry what he's capable of."
Northern also got a third-place finish from David Waters at 174 and a fourth-place finish from Joc Muir at 141.
Waters pinned Jamestown's Clyde Switzer in the consolation finals at the 1:50 mark. Muir suffered a major decision at the hands of Jamestown's Travis Ayers.
"Waters wrestled the best he has all season, especially on his feet," Ray said. "Before everything was upper body, but he had a good leg attack and took a lot of shots."
While winning the tournament title was all fine and good, the real importance of regionals is the national tournament seeding and Northern set itself up to make a run for yet another national title.
"It just makes the first round less difficult," Fisher said of the seeding. "Plus we have the momentum of coming off a win at regionals."
Ray began turning his sights to the national tournament moments after the mats were rolled up at the Northern gym.
"I've already put this tournament behind us and started focusing on nationals," Ray said. "We have some things we need to work on because really nothing else matters at this point in the season."
The NAIA national tournament will be held Feb. 27-28 in Great Falls.
1. MSU-Northern 139; 2. University of Mary 72; 3. Dickinson State 53; 4. Jamestown College 42; 5. Dakota Wesleyan 21; 6. Sitanka-Huron 18.
125 - Aaron Hartnall, UM pin Shane Hase, JC 4:52
133 - Caleb Schaeffer, MSUN dec. Chris Smith, MSUN 5-4
141 - Reese Boehm, UM maj. dec. Nathan Allison, S-HU
149 - Anthony Haukenberry, MSUN dec. Mike Champagne, UM 3-1
157 - Stryder Davis, MSUN dec. Ryan Hall, MSUN 3-1
165 - John Zamora, DSU dec. Aaron Jensen, MSUN 4-1
174 - Gabe Harry, DSU dec. Jesse Juarez, MSUN 6-2
184 - Kyle Fisher, MSUN dec. Elijah Simburger, UM 13-6
197 - Emmett Willson, MSUN win by defaut Mazi Burke, MSUN
HWT - Brandon Lemer, JC pinned Tanner Schweitzer, UM 3:49.
125 - Jared Digmann, DWU pinned, Mark Johnston, DSU 5:34
133 - Micah Mathieson, DSU maj. dec. Eric Carr, JC 19-3
141 - Travis Ayers, JC maj. dec. Joc Muir, MSUN 12-3
149 - Kyle Nay, DSU dec. Jake Esser, JC 6-3
157 - Andy Passmore, UM dec. Dennis Lewis, DWU 4-2
165 - Chris Feist, JC dec. Art Martinez, DSU 6-5
174 - David Waters, MSUN pin Clyde Switzer JC 1:50
184 - Scott Halouska, DWU dec. Justin Green, DSU
197 - Steven Wood, DWU dec. Joe Vincent, JC 6-3
HWT - Mike Pata, HU dec. Clay Rodgers, DSU 7-5
125 - Hartnell, UM ma. dec. Digmann, DWU 12-4; Hase, JC maj. dec. Johnston, DSU 14-6.
133 - Schaeffer, MSUN pinned Kerr, DSU 6:58; Smith, MSUN tech. fall Folden, JC 22-6
141 - Allison, S-HU maj. dec. Cody Owen, DSU 9-1; Boehm, UM dec. Austin, DSU 8-1
149 - Haukenberry, MSUN pinned Schoonover, DSU 1:42; Champagne, UM dec. Nay, DSU 14-6
157- Davis, MSUN, pinned Passmore, UM 5:44; Hall, MSUN pinned Duarte, DSU 2:18
165 - Jensen, MSUN dec. Martinez, DSU 10-4; Zamora, DSU maj. dec. Loveless, DWU 14-3
174 - Juarez, MSUN pinned Pierre, S-HU 6:40; Harry, DSU tech. fall Waters, 15-0
184 - Fisher, MSUN pinned Caudell, S-HU :51; Simburger, UM pinned Halouska 6:48
197 - Willson, MSUN pinned Wood, DWU 4:38; Burke, MSUN maj. dec. Vincent 18-7
HWT - Lemer , JC pinned Pata 1:09; Schweitzer, UM maj. dec. Rodgers, DSU 12-3.