By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsemail@example.com
It was no secret to anyone in attendance Saturday night that the 21st-ranked Boise State Broncos have a very good wrestling team. It's a fact that was not lost on Montana State University-Northern wrestling head coach David Ray.
Ray knew coming into the dual that the opening matches of the dual in front of a packed house at the Havre High gymnasium would be very critical in how the Lights would fare against Division I competition.
But Ray didn't get the start he was looking for. Instead, the Broncs who got off to a great start, winning the first three matches of the night and eventually holding off a very scrappy Lights squad 22-13.
After the dual, Ray was somewhat disappointed with his team's performance because he thinks his team is good enough to knock off the Broncs. Still, he understands just how far the Lights have come as a program as well.
"I thought there were a couple of matches that we should have won and we could have won," Ray said. "That is disappointing because the score could have easily been different. We knew that Boise is a great team and they are well-coached and their kids are very sound wrestlers. I think we competed well with them. But we also came here to win, not just to compete.
"I also think that how we competed shows that we are very close to where I want us to be as a program," Ray added. "There were a lot of close matches tonight and our kids were in almost all of them right to the end. That does say a lot about our program, to compete with a team at this level."
The key for both teams came in the opening two matches of the dual. At 125 pounds, freshman Jason Harrington was quickly dispatched by Clint Wolfley. Harrington was pinned by Wolfley in the first minute to give the Broncs a 6-0 lead.
In the 133-pound match, Caleb Schaeffer was mildly upset by Scott Jorgensen, 5-0. Schaeffer had defeated Jorgensen in their two previous meetings, but Jorgensen basically controlled the match from start to finish.
The Broncs then added to the lead when Jesse Brock picked up a 9-6 decision over Chris Smith at 141 pounds. Smith was able to build a 2-1 lead after the first period, but Brock picked up six points in the second to overtake Smith. He then rode Smith out for the win in the third period. Brock's win gave Boise State a solid 12-0 lead after three matches.
"The first three matches were pretty disappointing because I expected that we would win at least two of them," Ray said. "Caleb beat his guy twice and I thought we would get that one. And Chris Smith wrestled really well at times in his match, but once he was on the bottom, he just got wore out and couldn't recover. That was where Boise was really tough. They wore us down like that in several matches."
For a moment it appeared that the Broncs might blow the Lights off the mat. But Anthony Haukenberry got the Lights back in the dual at 149 pounds. Haukenberry was able to break a 1-1 tie with Great Falls native Nick Budeski with a takedown with 39 seconds remaining in the match. Haukenberry's win pulled the Lights to 12-3.
At 157 pounds, Stryder Davis then dropped a heartbreaking 3-2 decision to Ben Cherrington. Cherrington's win was the first of three straight for the Broncs in the middle of the dual, which basically sealed the Lights' fate.
Following Davis' loss, Russell Brunson dominated sophomore Ryan Hall on his way to an 11-2 decision that gave the Broncs a 19-3 lead.
In one of the more dramatic matches of the night, junior Jesse Juarez staged a late comeback, only to fall in overtime to Boise's Jon Carlisle at 174 pounds. The match was tied late in the third period as Juarez earned a point at the buzzer because of locking hands. However, Carlisle earned a final point for riding time, which sent the match into overtime tied at 3-3. In overtime Carlisle didn't take long to get a takedown and finish Juarez off.
"Jesse wrestled really well and maybe he got a little tired at the end," Ray said. "That was a great match and it was another one that if it had gone our way things might have been different."
After Carlisle's overtime win, the Broncos held an insurmountable 22-3 lead, but the Lights were far from finished. At 184 pounds, No. 1-ranked Kyle Fisher worked his way to an 8-0 decision over Casey Phelps. Emmett Willson followed that up with a strong performance at 197 pounds. Willson picked apart K.C. Walsh en route to a 9-3 win to keep his record unblemished on the season, earning another victory over a Division I opponent.
And for good measure, Mazi Burke, while giving away more than 60 pounds to his opponent, thrilled the home crowd with a dramatic 8-6 come-from-behind win over heavyweight Jacob McGinnis. Burke trailed McGinnis 7-5 late in the match but then rallied for three points in the final minute of the match. After scoring a one-point escape, Burke took down McGinnis with 18 seconds remaining to earn the final victory of the night.
"That was a really nice win for Mazi," Ray said. "He was giving away a lot of weight, but he wrestled really solid."
"I thought that Kyle and Emmett also competed well tonight," Ray added. "They were both up against good wrestlers and they did a really nice job. I think they are both on top of their game right now."
The loss to Boise State was Northern's first dual loss this season. While Ray was admittedly disappointed, he is hoping that the defeat by the Broncs will serve as good motivation for the rest of the season.
"You have to give a lot of credit to Boise State," Ray said. "They are a very good team. But one of the good things to come out of this is that we didn't get beat to where our confidence got knocked down. Hopefully, we just got mad.
"I think that our guys saw that they need more intensity and more fire when they step up to this level of competition," Ray added. "One of the big things tonight was that we didn't wrestle well when we were on the bottom and that comes from intensity and determination. Our kids wrestled well and they showed a lot of heart, but hopefully this will motivate all of them."
The Lights will be back in action Thursday night when they host Western Wyoming in dual action. They will also host North Idaho College on Friday night.
Boise State 22, MSU-Northern 13
125 - Clint Wolfley, BSU, pinned Jason Harrington, MSUN, :48
133 - Scott Jorgensen, BSU, dec. Caleb Schaeffer, MSUN, 5-0
141 - Jesse Brock, BSU, dec. Chris Smith, MSUN, 9-6
149 - Anthony Haukenberry, MSUN, dec. Nick Budeski, BSU, 3-1
157 - Ben Cherrington, BSU, dec. Stryder Davis, MSUN, 3-2
165 - Russell Brunson, BSU, dec. Ryan Hall, MSUN, 11-2
174 - Jon Carlisle, BSU, dec. Jesse Juarez, MSUN, 5-3 in OT
184 - Kyle Fischer, MSUN, dec. Casey Phelps, BSU, 8-0
197 - Emmett Willson, MSUN, dec. K.C. Walsh, BSU, 9-3
HWT - Mazi Burke, MSUN, dec. Jacob McGinnis, BSU, 8-6.