By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editorfirstname.lastname@example.org
Havre High's Matt Schnittgen might get to see Mickey Mouse when he's in Florida, and he might put him half-Nelson and break him down for a pin.
Schnittgen is one of a handful of Montana high school wrestlers chosen to represent the state at the AAU Scholastic Duals in Orlando, Fla. starting on Saturday and running through June 24.
Schnittgen will wrestle anywhere from 10 to 18 matches in his four days in Florida and the matches will be anything but easy.
"There will be some of the best high school wrestlers in the United States," he said. "It will be some tough competition."
But Schnittgen should prove to be some tough competition for his opponents. As a freshman for Havre High this past season, he finished fourth at the Class A State Wrestling tournament in the heavyweight division.
Schnittgen lost to eventual champion Kevan Bertelson of Libby 6-3 in the semifinals, but battled back through the wrestlebacks to make it the consolation finals where he lost a 3-2 heartbreaker to finish fourth.
Besides his success at state, Schnittgen was the Central A Divisional champion, defeating Kiel Kovash of Livingston 3-2 in overtime.
He finished his freshman campaign with a 38-6 record.
His performance this season helped spur him to be nominated for the Montana All-Star team. Along with Montana All-Stars, entire teams from Sidney and Billings Senior will also make the trip.
"I got a phone call a few months ago and they called Coach (Scott) Filius and asked if I would be interested," Schnittgen said.
A chance to represent Montana in Florida against the best in the U.S.?
Schnittgen was more than interested.
And since that phone call, he has been preparing to go.
"I took a few months after the season got over with because I had sore shoulder," he said. "But I started back up in May and have been running and training to get ready."
Realistically, Schnittgen admits that there are few breaks if you want to be a good wrestler.
"It's pretty much a year-round sport," he said.
And because of that attitude, he should be ready. Besides his lifting and running, he has spent several afternoons at the Mat Corner working long hours on the wrestling mat with his brother, Mike, a Northern football player and former HHS wrestler, and R.C. Peterson and Cody Donahais, both Northern football players and former high school wrestlers.
"They've been working me out pretty good," Schnittgen said. "Those guys were all state placers at heavyweight when they wrestled and they've helped me a lot."
But the practice room is much different than live matches and Schnittgen knows he will have to wrestle well at the duals.
"I just want to stay in matches," he said. "I can't get frustrated and just keep focused. In heavyweight matches, a lot of times it comes down to one point. You just have to keep your feet and stay under control and you have a chance to win."
Regardless of his record in Florida, Schnittgen knows this is a great experience that he can only learn from.
"I'm just excited to get back on the mat and wrestle," he said. "It will be good to see how I compare to other wrestlers from around the country. This will only make me better for next season."