By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
It may be an intrasquad dual, but any time you take to the mat for the Montana State University-Northern wrestling team, certain things are expected, specifically wrestling to win.
It doesn't matter if you're wrestling your teammate, your brother or even your mother
The defending NAIA national champions will face some solid competition, when they take on, well, the Lights in the annual Maroon-Gold dual tonight at 7 at the MSU-Northern gymnasium.
While Northern is basically having what amounts to public wrestle-offs for several weight classes, there is still high interest and competition. After all, with the depth of this year's Lights' squad, these may be some of the toughest matches the wrestlers will face this early in the season.
"Last year's Maroon-Gold was one of our most exciting duals," said head coach David Ray. "It should be exciting again this year. We weren't this deep last year. For varsity matches, we'll be a little thin in the first semester, but we'll get much deeper in the second semester."
Ray has 32 kids working out right now, and plans to redshirt probably 14 wrestlers. However, some of the wrestlers who won't be eligible this semester will still compete tonight to make every match solid.
The varsity spot at 125 is up for grabs for the first set of duals on Nov. 5 in Cody, Wyo. Sophomore Jason Harrington and freshman Zach Morgan will square off.
The 133-pound division won't have lineup implications as freshman Mike McPeak will take the varsity spot. He will face senior transfer Brian Luna, who only has one semester of eligibility left, rendering him ineligible this semester. Both Luna and McPeak looked solid in last weekend's duals.
The match at 141 pounds could have serious varsity implications. Freshman Steven Boger and senior Dan Shaw will meet with a possible spot on the line. Boger was very impressive last weekend and defeated All-American Chris Smith in wrestle-offs last week. If he defeats Shaw, Ray is definitely considering not redshirting him this year.
Smith, who finished second at the national tourney at 133, didn't look comfortable at 141 and will go back down to 133.
It will be a preview of future matches at 149, as defending national champion junior Anthony Haukenberry will take on senior All-American Dustyn Azure, who returns after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament.
Like Luna, Azure only has one semester of eligibility and will compete in the spring. However, the match should be very competitive with both having championship aspirations this year.
"Those two are going to be seeing a lot of each other next semester," Ray said.
At 157, defending national champ senior Stryder Davis, who has a varsity spot locked up, will take on freshman Frank Jachetta.
That doesn't mean Davis doesn't have his competition within the team. Redshirt freshman Dale Seley plans to wrestle at 157 for the regional and national tournaments. However, Seley wants a varsity spot and will bump up a weight to face former HHS standout Aaron Jensen at 165.
Ray had hoped to wrestle talented true freshman Casey Kelly of Helena Capital in the dual at 157, but Kelly has been battling knee problems.
"He's really exciting and has adapted to the college level very quickly," Ray said. "I wanted people to see him wrestle because we are going to redshirt him this year."
The match at 174 pounds will feature freshman Emory Willson taking on junior transfer Ryan Mattingly. Willson should make the varsity for the early meets, since Mattingly won't be eligible until spring and normal 174-pounder David Waters has moved up to 184 for the time being.
Waters will take on returning national tournament qualifier Jesse Juarez, who also won't be eligible until spring. Waters will take Juarez' place and then move back down to 174 in the spring. Ray had hoped to wrestler Bridger Sacher, but he is out with a stomach virus.
At 197, national tourney qualifier junior Mazi Burke will take on freshman Brian Fritchman. Burke, who spent time at heavyweight last year, may see some time there again early on.
Northern's two heavyweights, junior Chase Gormley and freshman Josh Robinson, will go at it. Gormley won't be eligible till spring, while Ray plans to redshirt Robinson.
"I'm looking for more intensity from our upper weights, starting at 174," Ray said. "I want to see more intensity and desire. I want them to be excited to be on the mat."
Excitement shouldn't be a problem for most of the wrestlers, particularly the ones who are redshirting.
"It's a chance for us to showcase some of the wrestlers that the fans won't see this season," Ray said. "And they get excited to wrestle in front of the home crowd. For some of them, it will be their only chance."
With the official competition a week away, Ray wants to see his wrestlers raise their level of intensity.
"I want to see them open up and come out intense," Ray said. "They have nothing to lose. I told them that fans don't want to see a boring match. I want them to go after each other like they were wrestling someone else, not their teammate. I want them to wrestle to win."
WT Maroon Gold
125 Zach Morgan, Fr vs. Jason Harrington, So
133 Michael McPeak, Fr vs. Brian Luna Sr
141 Steven Boger, Fr vs. Dan Shaw, Sr
149 A. Haukenberry, Jr vs. Dustyn Azure, Sr
157 Stryder Davis, Sr vs. Frank Jachetta, Fr
165 Dale Seley, Fr vs. Aaron Jensen, Jr
174 Emory Willson, Fr vs. Ryan Mattingly, Jr
184 Jesse Juarez, Sr vs. David Waters, So
197 Brian Fritchman, Fr vs. Mazi Burke , Jr
HWT Chase Gormley, Jr vs. Josh Robinson, Fr