By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
It's not a jealousy based on envy, but rather based on respect. The Montana State University-Northern wrestling team is the posterboard for success in NAIA wrestling, and Dickinson State University wants to emulate that same type of success. The two squads will meet tonight in dual action at the MSU-Northern gym at 7 p.m.
DSU is steadily building its program to compete with Northern under head coach Thadd O'Donnell. Dickinson will put probably its best team on the mat since the 1999-2000 season, in which the Blue Hawks finished fourth at the NAIA national tournament.
O'Donnell returns 12 national tournament qualifiers along with several talented newcomers to form one of his strongest teams in recent years.
"This should be a very exciting dual," said Northern head coach David Ray. "Dickinson returns a lot of wrestlers from last year. They really feel like this is one of the best teams they've ever had. They've got five seniors in their lineup."
The most talented of the seniors is a newcomer but a familiar name to Montana wrestling fans. Senior Keri Stanley of Columbia Falls will suit up for DSU at 149 pounds and face defending NAIA national champ Anthony Haukenberry.
Stanley was a standout wrestler for the Wildkats and later at North Idaho College, where he teamed with Northern's Stryder Davis. Last year, Stanley was at the University of Minnesota, but left that program for DSU.
"That should be a very competitive match," Ray said. "I expect Haukenberry to come out very motivated."
Other key matches will come at 157, 165, 174, 184 and heavyweight.
At 157 pounds, Davis will face national tourney qualifier Frankie Schoonover. Davis has been Northern's most consistent and explosive wrestler this season. He is coming off a individual title at the very tough Cowboy Open wrestling tournament.
Freshman Dale Seley will be facing another national tourney qualifier in senior John Zamora. Seley still plans to wrestle at 157 later in the season, but will stay up a weight to wrestle varsity.
Also moving up a weight is junior Aaron Jensen, who will take on senior Trent Kirchofer at 174 pounds. Sophomore David Waters will take on national qualifier Justin Green at 184, while freshman Brian Fritchman will have his hands full at heavyweight with sophomore Clay Rodgers.
"We've had a nice little break from competition," Ray said. "I expect us to come out very excited after the break. Dickinson has a good team, and we need to come out and wrestle well and set the tone."
Indeed, DSU will be a direct competitor with Northern at the Midwest Regional and national tournaments later in the season. Ray would like nothing better than showing the Bluehawks that they still have a ways to go to catch up with his team.
"We always want to go out and set the tone when we wrestle teams we'll face at nationals," Ray said. "It's that intimidation factor. We want to go out and show them that we're still the team to beat."
Northern will attempt to do that, albeit far from 100 percent. Several Lights wrestlers were battling the flu bug this week, while Ray also impatiently awaits the second semester additions of Brian Luna, Jesse Juarez and Chase Gormley.
"We have some guys wrestling out of their weight," Ray said. "But we're doing what we have to until we get those other guys back into the lineup."
125 - Zach Morgan, Fr. vs. Cory Johnston, Fr.
133 - Mike McPeak, Fr. vs. Ryan Synhorst, Sr.
141 - Chris Smith, Soph. vs. Cory Owen, Sr.
149 - Anthony Haukenberry, J vs Keri Stanley, Sr.
157 - Stryder Davis, Sr vs. Frankie Schoonover, Soph.
165 - Dale Seley, Fr. vs. John Zamora, Sr.
174 - Aaron Jensen, Jr. vs. Trent Kirchofer, Sr.
184 - David Waters, Soph. vs. Justin Green, Soph.
197 - Mazi Burke, Jr vs. Justin Schlecht, Fr.
HWT - Brian Fritchman, Fr. vs. Clay Rodgers, Soph.