By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editorfirstname.lastname@example.org
The Montana State University-Northern wrestling team is going to win tonight's dual in Bismarck, N.D., against the University of Mary. It's not overconfidence or arrogance, it's just a fact.
Northern will bring a full lineup into the dual against its DAC-10 foes, while Mary won't be able to field a full lineup, forfeiting at least one weight. Even if Mary did have a full lineup, it wouldn't matter. Man for man, the Lights are simply better at most weight classes.
Although head coach David Ray isn't particularly pleased about making the 10-hour drive and having to win some matches by forfeit, he is still going because even though it's a guaranteed win, it's a very important dual for other reasons.
"I don't like seeing forfeits," Ray said. "But I'm going because we agreed to it. Besides, it's good for us to get some matches in. We haven't had any matches since Friday, so this will be a good way to keep sharp before regionals."
Indeed, Northern is hosting the Northern Regional Tournament on Feb. 14 and Ray wants his wrestlers to put on a dominant showing for the home crowd while earning important seeding points for the NAIA National Tournament a week later.
"It's important that we keep that focus on matches and that intensity, that's why I scheduled this dual," Ray said. "Plus having this match helps keep their weight under control. If you have that long break, they sometimes let their weight get out of hand."
Just because Northern should win the dual, it doesn't mean that every match will be a walk in the park. On the contrary, Mary does have several talented individuals who are more than capable of winning matches.
The best of the bunch is former Great Falls High standout Aaron Hartnell, who is ranked No. 1 at 125 pounds. Hartnell, a senior, is the defending NAIA national champion and should be the favorite again this season.
Northern freshman Jason Harrington will have the difficult task of facing Hartnell and Ray is very interested to see the results.
"I want to see how he reacts to this level of competition," Ray said. "Harrington has wrestled some tough guys this season and I want to see how he does."
Other ranked wrestlers for Mary include senior Mike Champagne ranked sixth at 149 pounds and sophomore Elijah Simburger, who is also sixth at 184 pounds.
"We should win this dual pretty convincingly," Ray said. "But it's also about staying sharp, staying focused and being in the right frame of mind for matches. The season is ending quickly and we want to be at our best this time of year."