Havre Daily News Sports Editor
The 2005 NAIA wrestling season might be in its infancy, but the Montana State University-Northern Lights are already facing an uphill climb if they are to continue their run as a national power.
The Lights were short-handed this weekend at a tournament in Powell, Wyo., due to sickness and injury. Consequently, the Lights did not fare as well as they normally do at the Northwest College Invitational, a tournament they usually dominate. Northern placed just five wrestlers and had one individual champion.
But, first-year MSU-N head coach Dan Troupe isn't concerned with results at the moment. He is much more concerned with health, improvement and his young team gaining experience.
“We're dealing with a lot of little injuries and some team sickness,” Troupe said. “It affected us this last week in practice and that in turn affected how we wrestled this weekend.
“But right now I just want to see effort and improvement every time we get on the mat,” he added. “The results at the end of the season are what matter the most.”
The Lights won't catch much of a break, as they prepare to open the home portion of their 2005 schedule tonight at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse. They will host nationally ranked Jamestown College, and the Jimmies will present a very tough dual opponent.
“Jamestown is a very solid team and they have three returning All-Americans,” Troupe said. “It is a big night for us because it is our first home dual and we're facing a team who is coming in here ranked ahead of us.”
Indeed, the NAIA national preseason wrestling poll has the Jimmies ranked 15th, while the Lights start the year ranked at No. 17. Jamestown also comes to Havre with four wrestlers ranked nationally, while the Lights have just two.
Northern sophomore Chris Smith is ranked third at 141 pounds. Smith is coming off an injury that sidelined him for most of last season. Ryan Mattingly is ranked eighth at 184 pounds. His match tonight should be the feature match of the dual when he squares off against Jamestown's Joe Vincent, who is ranked seventh in the nation.
The Northern lineup tonight will feature either A.J. Bartels or Sean Costello at 125 pounds. Mike McPeak will get the nod at 133 pounds. McPeak will face seventh-ranked Shane Hase.
Steve Boger will go at 141. Smith will wrestle at 149 pounds and will square off against Jake Esser, who is ranked eighth at that weight.
“Sean Costello and Steve Boger are two young guys who are really wrestling well for us right now,” Troupe said. “They both did very well in Wyoming.”
T.J. Aiken will go for the Lights at 157 pounds. He will also be facing a nationally ranked Jimmie in James Meland. Former Havre High standout Aaron Jensen will wrestle at 165 pounds tonight, and freshman Colter Dimas of Poplar will go at 174.
Troupe will do the same at 197 pounds as he is at 125: Both Brian Fritchman and Chad Seely will weigh in, and Troupe will decide who gets the nod from there. Butte freshman Josh Robinson will get the start at heavyweight.
“This is going to be a very good dual for us because of how strong of a team Jamestown is bringing here,” Troupe said. “I think we're getting healthy again, and I expect our kids to improve.
“I don't think we wrestled poorly in Wyoming,” he added. “But we definitely want to improve against Jamestown and keep moving forward.”
Tonight's dual between MSU-Northern and Jamestown College will get under way at 6 at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse. The Lights will also return to Wyoming this weekend when they participate in the Cowboy Open at the University of Wyoming.
2005 NAIA preseason poll
1. Lindenwood (Mo.)
2. Dana (Neb.)
3. Cumberlands (Ky.)
4. Dickinson State (N.D.)
5. Embry-Riddle (Ariz.)
6. Missouri Valley (Mo.)
7. University of Great Falls
7. Menlo (Calif.)
9. William Penn (Iowa)
10. Southern Oregon
11. Bacone (Okla.)
11. McKendree (Ill.)
13. Cumberland (Tenn.)
13. Waldorf (Iowa)
15. Jamestown (N.D.)
16. Morningside (Iowa)
17. Montana State-Northern
18. Campbellsville (Ky.)
19. Simon Fraser (B.C.)