By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
After his team's performance Wednesday night, Montana State University-Northern wrestling coach David Ray is rethinking his team's wrestling posters. Specifically, the slogan on posters, which reads, "Bringing the Heat."
The Lights surrendered its first home dual loss to a non-NCAA Division I opponent since the 1995 season as the Dickinson State University Bluehawks swooped into the MSU-Northern gymnasium and snatched a 24-17 victory from a flat Lights' squad.
Ray could only stare at the stack of freshly printed posters in his office after the dual and scratch his head in disgust.
"Bringing the heat," he said mockingly. "They brought the head and we melted under it."
It would be the understatement of the century to say Ray was displeased with his team's performance. Disappointment, disgust and disbelief could apply.
"I'm pretty disappointed right now," he said. "It went nothing like I planned. If I were to rate our performance out of 10, it would be a three for the three wins from Chris Smith, Stryder Davis and Aaron Jensen."
After close to a week without competition, Northern didn't come out with the energy Ray expected.
"Did we look like a team that wanted to come out and wrestle?" Ray said "No. From the very first guy, we looked like we weren't ready to compete."
Northern opened with freshman Zach Morgan losing to Glasgow native and DSU freshman Cory Johnston 7-4.
While the score was somewhat close, Johnston controlled the tempo early and did most of the attack. Morgan never scored a takedown, instead accumulating his four points from escapes.
"We need to set the tone in that very first match," Ray said. "Unfortunately, we set the tone in the wrong way."
The Lights looked to be getting a boost at 133 as freshman Mike McPeak came out aggressive against Mark Johnston, scoring a takedown 14 seconds into the match.
The two wrestlers battled back and forth with McPeak leading 6-3 in the in the second period. However, a missed McPeak shot resulted in a takedown from Johntson, who then forced McPeak to his back 30 seconds later for the pin.
"McPeak came out solid early, but he made some mistakes," Ray said. "You just can't get pinned. I don't care if he is young, we just can't give up pins in duals."
The two wins gave DSU a 9-0 lead in two matches.
Northern rebounded at 141 pounds as sophomore Chris Smith scored a 14-4 major victory over senior Ryan Synhorst. Smith dominated the tempo and scored on myriad of single and double leg takedowns. Synhorst failed to score a takedown while all four of his points on escapes came after Smith broke the hold himself.
"Chris looked very sharp," Ray said. "He just manhandled him"
Smith's major win gave Northern four team points, and fellow sophomore Anthony Haukenberry added another three points with a hardfought 3-1 win over Keri Stanley
Although Stanley is a wrestler of high regard, Ray believed that Haukenberry could have won by even more.
"That shouldn't have been that close," Ray said. "I know Hauk is better than that. But he's cutting too much weight too late in the week. It affects his conditioning. Stanley wrestled at 157 last week, but he looked like the one who has wrestled 149 all year. Haukenberry did what he had to do to win, but I know he is much better than that."
If there has been one guarantee thus far this season, it is the performance of senior Stryder Davis at 157. Davis didn't disappoint, pinning Mike Garcia with 38 second remaining in the second period.
"You can tell he's a senior," Ray said. "He's been very consistent and knows exactly what he needs to do when he steps on the mat."
Davis' pin along with the two previous victories, gave Northern its first lead of the match at 13-9
The Lights appeared to be poised to add to the lead at 165 as Dale Seley looked to have Dickinson's John Zamora pinned early in the second period. Seley countered a Zamora shot with a nifty takedown and rolled him to his back for a near fall.
Zamora staved off the pin for almost 30 seconds and it would prove to be the difference. He capitalized on a couple of Seley mistakes to score a near fall and a reversal en route to a 10-7 win.
"Seley made too many mistakes," Ray said. "I liked his aggressiveness, but the mistakes hurt him. He broke the guy in the third period, but couldn't put him away. He just needs to be a little more consistent throughout the match."
Zamora's win cut the Northern lead to 13-12.
The Lights got a little breathing room as junior Aaron Jensen, wrestling up a weight at 174 pounds, scored a 14-5 major victory over Trent Kirchofer. Jensen used a strong leg attack, scoring several single and double leg takedowns.
"Aaron started off a little slow," Ray said. "Sometimes he give his opponents too much respect. He could have taken that guy apart in the first period. Once he realized he could score on him, he really got going."
But Jensen's match would be the last that Northern would win.
At 184, DSU's Justin Green defeated David Waters 9-7 in a tough match, while Mazi Burke was forced into an injury default at 197 after Justin Schlecht rolled him over on his neck awkwardly.
Green's three-point decision and Schlect's six-point win by medical default gave DSU nine team points, which put the Bluehawks up 21-17.
Going into the final match of the dual down by four points wasn't exactly what Ray had planned, especially with freshman Brian Fritchman giving up close to 80 pounds to Dickinson's Clay Rodgers.
Fritchman weighed in at 193 pounds for the match, while Rodgers weighed in at a svelte 268 pounds.
"That's tough to ask of a freshman," Ray said. "He made a lot of mistakes out there, but he didn't stop trying."
Indeed, Fritchman battled gamely, but couldn't overcome the weight disadvantage, falling 12-5 and giving DSU a 24-17 win.
"I honestly thought we would win six of the 10 matches," Ray said. "At the very worst, I thought we'd go five and five."
While he is never one to make excuses, Ray did admit that his lineup will be significantly different in the second semester with the addition of Brian Luna, Jesse Juarez and several wrestlers moving down a weight. But that excuse won't help him sleep any better after the loss.
"Yes, our lineup will be different," he said. "But we still have three more duals left this semester and if we don't perform better, we'll lose all three with this mentality.
He does have a solution.
"It starts in the practice room," Ray said. "We need to be better in the room. This is a reality check for some of our guys. The things we've been doing aren't going to cut it, we saw that tonight."
Dickinson St. 24, MSU-Northern 17
125 - Cory Johnston, DSU dec. Zach Morgan, MSU-N 7-4; 133 - Mark Johnston, DSU pinned Mike McPeak 3:47; 141 - Chris Smith, MSU-N major dec. Ryan Synhorst, DSU 13-4; 149 - Anthony Haukenberry, MSU-N dec. Kery Stanley, DSU 3-1; 157 - Stryder Davis, MSU-N pinned Mike Garcia, DSU 4:22; 165 - John Zamora, DSU dec. Dale Seley, MSU-N 10-7; 174 - Aaron Jensen, MSU-N major dec. Trent Kirchofer, DSU 14-5; 184 - Justin Green, DSU dec. David Waters, MSU-N 9-7; 197 - Justin Schlecht, DSU win by injury default Mazi Burke, MSU-N; HWT - Clay Rodgers, DSU dec. Brian Fritchman, MSU-N 12-5.