By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Last weekend was a coming-out party for the Havre High wrestling team. The Ponies shocked the Class AA wrestling community by winning the prestigious Mining City Duals tournament in Butte.
On Friday morning in Great Falls, the Ponies will again be competing among the best of the best in the state at the CMR Holiday Classic wrestling tournament in Great Falls.
Unlike the Mining City Duals, the CMR Holiday Classic has a traditional invitational-style format. But HHS head coach Scott Filius said he still expects his team to do very well this weekend.
"I knew going into Butte that we had a really good dual team," Filius said. "I expect the kids to go out and do well again this weekend.
"If we come out and match our effort and intensity from last weekend, we have a chance to perform really well," he added. "I think we have five or six kids that have a legitimate chance to make the finals."
This weekend's tournament will feature some of the best teams and best individual wrestlers from Class AA, as well as some of the top-ranked teams from Class A and Class B-C. Every AA school in the state will be in attendance except for the Butte Bulldogs. The Bulldogs are attending a prestigious tournament in Reno, Nev.
Havre will be the top-ranked Class A school in attendance this weekend, and it will be joined by quality programs like Anaconda, Whitefish and Lewistown. Class B-C will be well represented by defending state champion Conrad as well as highly ranked Cut Bank.
"This is a very good tournament because every weight class is so deep," Filius said. "There isn't one class where somebody is going to just have a real easy weekend. There are a lot of very good wrestlers in this tournament."
One of the feature weight classes will be 119 pounds, which includes perhaps Montana's top wrestler in Great Falls High junior Cody Tolliver. There also will be some very stiff competition from 130 pounds through 152 pounds.
Havre's wrestle-offs this past week were once again very competitive, and the lineup will have a slightly different look than the one Filius took to Butte last weekend. Freshman Chad Raines will once again be at 98 pounds, and Billy Wagner will still be at 105. Lorren Mack and sophomore Clint Bradbury will both be entered at 112 pounds. Havre can enter both competitors because it will not enter a wrestler at 152 pounds this weekend.
Sophomores Nate Harada and Beau LaSalle will be at 119 and 125 pounds, respectively, while Mike Hipple will go at 130. Mike Sutherland, who is ranked No. 1, will once again be at 135 pounds, and Logan Reichelt will compete at 140. Adam Burrington will start at 145 pounds, and sophomore standout Evan Hinebaugh will go at 160. Hinebaugh picked up a huge Class A win last weekend in Butte when he defeated Sidney's Gresh Melby.
Senior sensation Dustin Haukenberry will start for the Ponies at 171 pounds, with fellow senior Chad Seely competition at 189. Rounding out Havre's lineup will be senior Bill Zuelke at 215 pounds and top-ranked sophomore Matt Schnittgen at heavyweight.
While the format is different and the competition perhaps even more daunting this weekend, Filius is still excited about his team's chances over the next two days.
"I think we have a very good chance of being right in the hunt for a team title if we compete the way we did last weekend," Filius said. "Either way this tournament will be a good yardstick for us. We will know right where we are and how far we have to go when this weekend is over."
The CMR Holiday Classic will get under way Friday at 11 a.m. and run through Saturday night. All of the action will take place at the CMR Fieldhouse in Great Falls.