By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsemail@example.com
The Havre Blue Ponies left little doubt about who has the premier wrestling program in the state of Montana right now - at any level.
Saturday night, the Ponies placed 12 wrestlers overall and crowned two individual champions while cruising to the team title at the prestigious CMR Holiday Classic in Great Falls.
Havre's win in Great Falls comes on the heels of last week's triumph at the Mining City Duals in Butte, meaning the Ponies have dominated the two premier Class AA tournaments of the wrestling season.
"It certainly was a lot of fun at the end of the night," said HHS veteran head coach Scott Filius. "We had kids wrestling from 98 pounds to 130 pounds straight through at the end of the tournament and that shows the kind of depth we have right now.
"We also just had a lot of kids really wrestle hard and they didn't quit this weekend," Filius added. "Cody Seely and Nate Harada lost their first match on Friday and won five in a row to place. That is the kind of effort it takes to do well in a good tournament like this. Our kids did a great job of staying alive and competing really hard."
The Ponies put the team title away by Saturday afternoon, as they advanced 12 competitors into placing situations. Havre had five kids wrestling in the finals Saturday night on its way to 271.5 team points.
Defending Class AA state champion Kalispell could not keep pace with Havre, scoring 213.5 points to finish a distant second. Havre's former Central A rival Anaconda also proved that it has a very strong, all-around team this season by finishing third. Class B powerhouse Conrad was fourth. In all, only five Class AA teams finished in the the top 10 as Class B Cut Bank and Class A Whitefish finished seventh and 10th, respectively.
Of Havre's five finalists, 160-pound sophomore Evan Hinebauch gave the Ponies their first individual title. He also kept his season undefeated by pinning Derek Maciel of Billing Skyview in the championship match. Even though Hinebauch is just a sophomore, he has already knocked off several of the top 160 pounders in the state this season.
"Evan wrestled at a really high level as a freshman and he is doing it again this season," Filius said. "He is just a really tough kid and I am not at all surprised at how well he is doing right now."
There were also no surprises in the 171-pound championship match. Senior transfer Dustin Haukenberry pinned Andy Fogherty of CMR to also remain undefeated on the season. Haukenberry was a two-time state champion in Washington state and he is proving that he is a force in the Montana high school wrestling landscape as well.
The Ponies got second-place finishes from sophomore Beau LaSalle at 125 pounds, Mike Hipple at 130 pounds, and Chad Seely at 189. LaSalle was pinned while leading Leo Pattison of Glasgow, and Hipple was pinned by Class A rival Derek Sloan of Anaconda. Seely was also pinned in his 189-pound final by Alex Calvi of Cut Bank, but will get another shot at Calvi in two weeks.
Sophomore heavyweight Matt Schnittgen came back after a semifinal loss to Kalispell's Brandon Hoffenbacker to finish third. It was the third time Hoffenbacker and Schnittgen have met this season. Schnittgen captured third-place honors by pinning Chris Latray of Anaconda.
Also winning their final matches of the tournament were sophomores Clint Bradbury and Nate Harada. Bradbury battled back to place fifth at 112 pounds and Harada was fifth in the very-deep 119-pound weight class. Chad Ranes, Billy Wagner, Cody Seely and Bill Zuelke all placed a very solid sixth for the Ponies.
"We have never had 12 kids place before," Filius said. "That shows how well they are all wrestling right now. Our depth was a big factor this weekend and everybody competed hard and did a great job.
"The big thing for us right now is you can just see the confidence growing in these kids," he added. "We have been in a lot of close matches this season with very good wrestlers and we're winning those matches. That is just helping our confidence every week."
The No. 1-ranked Blue Ponies will be back at home on Tuesday night to host Central A rival Lewistown in dual action at the Havre High gymnasium. The dual with the Eagles is scheduled to get under way at 6 p.m.
Final team scores
1. Havre 271; 2. Kalispell 213; 3. Anaconda 203; 4. Conrad 180; 5. Billings Skyview 175; 6. Billings Senior 171; 7. Cut Bank 147; 8. C.M. Russell 128; 9. Bozeman 127; 10. Whitefish 117; 11. Great Falls 109; 12. Choteau 108; 13. Billings West 89; 14. Helena Capital 83; 15. Glasgow 80; 16. Laurel 76; 17. Butte High 56; 18. (tie) Harlem 54; (tie) Missoula Hellgate 54; 20. Missoula Big Sky 53; 21. (tie) Cascade 52; (tie) Helena 52; 23. Fort Benton 48; 24. Shelby 43; 25. Browning 40; 26. Simms 36; 27. Havre JV 33; 28. Big Sandy 30; 29. Chinook 29; 30. Lewistown 23; 31. Belgrade 22; 32. CMR JV 19; 33. Great Falls High JV 18; 34. CMR #3 13; 35. Chester 12; 36. Anaconda JV 9; 37. Browning JV 8; 38. (tie) Valier 5; (tie) Billings West JV 5; 40. Great Falls #3 4; 41. Heart Butte 3.
98 - Ryan Leonard, Simms, pinned Seth Goodell, Skyview, 5:01
105 - Egan Black, Cut Bank, pinned Dustin Hanson, Anaconda, 5:13
112 - Matt Cellmer, Livingston, dec. Ricky Janes, Kalispell, 11-0
119 - Kody Tolliver, Great Falls High, dec. Trent Sprenkle, Senior, 3-2
125 - Leo Pattison, Glasgow, pinned Beau LaSalle, Havre, 4:19
130 - Derek Solan, Anaconda, pinned Mike Hipple, Havre, 3:43
135 - Vince Salminen, Skyview, dec. Will Cusker, Big Sky, 10-4
140 - Caleb Lockyer, Conrad, dec. Jace Oeleis, CMR, 14-4
145 - Josh Beeman, Senior, dec. Tel Todd, Bozeman, 3-2
152 - Tom Daniels, CMR, dec. Trent Zempel, Conrad, 5-4
160 - Evan Hinebauch, Havre, pinned Derek Maciel, Skyview, 3:55
171 - Dustin Haukenberry, Havre, pinned Andy Fogerty, CMR, 2:35
189 - Alex Calvi, Cut Bank, pinned Chad Seely, Havre, 5:23
215 - Sam Armstrong, Choteau, pinned Will Wine, Senior, 4:55
HWT - Brandon Hoffenbacker, Kalispell, won by injury default over Troy Parker, Whitefish