By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editorfirstname.lastname@example.org
It would have been easy for the coaches and wrestlers of the teams attending this past weekend's Dickinson State Open Classic to think that maybe the Montana State University-Northern wrestling team was down.
After all it has been a somewhat tumultuous season so far. After graduating three national champs, the Lights also lost a pair of varsity starters after they were dismissed from the team. Add the fact that the host Bluehawks had already beaten the Lights in dual action season, and it isn't exactly positive.
With all of that, maybe, just maybe, the Lights won't be the team to beat.
Maybe those opposing coaches and wrestlers were wrong.
Northern crushed those opposing teams with a resounding performance, capturing the team title with 164 team points, sending a message to schools that the Lights are still the team to beat in NAIA. Dickinson State was a distant second with 115.
Besides running away with the team title, Northern also dominated the individual competition.
The Lights placed 16 wrestlers in the top six and crowned six individual champions.
"I didn't expect to put nine wrestlers in the final, even with Augsburg College being gone," said head coach David Ray. "We did the things that I wanted to see. We went in there and set the tone early."
Brian Luna (133), Dustyn Azure (149), Stryder Davis and Dale Seley (co-champs 157), Aaron Jensen (165), Ryan Mattingly (174) and Chase Gormley (HWT) all picked up individual titles in their respective weight classes.
Luna, who was making his official varsity debut for the Lights this season, was dominant as Ray expected.
Luna won his first two matches by decisions and then pinned University of Great Falls' Spencer Griffiths in the semifinals. In the championship, Luna pinned teammate Chris Smith in the third period to pick up the title.
Smith was equally dominant, getting to the finals scoring a fall, a technical fall and a solid 9-3 win over Dickinson's Ryan Synhorst.
Northern also got a solid performance from freshman Mike McPeak, who finished fourth, losing to Griffiths 3-1 in the consolation finals.
"Luna looked really good," Ray said. "The championship match was really a 2-0 match in the third period, but Chris got caught in a cradle and got pinned. I was happy with the way McPeak came back and competed after getting beat."
Azure looked solid in his debut at 149 pounds, rolling to the championship with a pair of technical falls and and a pin. He scored a 10-6 decision over Jake Esser of Jamestown in the final.
"Azure looked very tough," Ray said. "He was very, very aggressive in every match. He set the standard that said: 'I'm here to battle and fight if you're going to wrestle me."
At 157 pounds Northern split the title between Stryder Davis and Dale Seley.
Davis continued his dominance this season. Davis barely broke a sweat in his first match, scoring a pin at the 2:12 mark. He scored a 14-1 major decision in the quarterfinals and a 10-3 win over Concordia's Lee Rahrilen in the semifinals.
Seley also had little trouble getting to the finals with a pin in the second round, a 7-3 win in the quarters and a 10-0 major decision over DSU's Jaime Garcia in the semifinals.
"Seley looked really good in the semifinals and Stryder continued to wrestle well," Ray said. "We decided to go with co-champions in the final because Seley has a bad shoulder and didn't want to risk hurting it by wrestling Stryder."
Northern continued its championship run at 165 as Aaron Jensen had one of his best showings of the season. Jensen rolled into the semifinals with a pair of solid wins. In the semis, he rallied from a 5-0 deficit to defeat Jouni Rosenlof of Regina, 7-5. In the finals, Jensen defeated Brett Hunter of 3-2.
"Aaron Jensen looked very, very good in the semifinals," Ray said. "He beat a good wrestler in that match. He wrestled with a lot of confidence this tournament."
Ryan Mattingly made his presence felt at 174. The newcomer won three matches to get to the finals, where he pinned Dickinson's Trent Kirchofer early in the first period.
Emory Willson also had a good tourney, finishing sixth and beating a pair of opponents who beat him earlier this season.
"Mattingly is going to give us some consistency at 174," Ray said. "He looked solid, and Emory is really improving and it showed."
Northern's final championship came in the heavyweight division, where Chase Gormley looked solid, defeating Luke Roberts of UGF 3-2 in the final. Gormley pinned his first two opponents and then picked up a 3-0 decision over Sam Sand of Jamestown in the semifinals.
"For being a little out of shape after coming back late, Chase looked pretty good," Ray said.
Other placers for Northern included Dan Shaw with a second at 141, Jesse Juarez with a third at 184, Michael Harrington with a sixth at 125 and Josh Robinson with a fifth at 197.
"I definitely think we are on track," Ray said. "This weekend was a big confidence builder for some of our younger wrestlers. More importantly, we set that intimidation factor with the way we performed.
The Lights will return to action on Wednesday when they host the University of Mary in dual action at 7 p.m.
DSU OPEN CLASSIC
1. MSU-Northern (MSU-N) 164; 2. Dickinson State (DSU) 115; 3. University of Great Falls (UGF) and University of Mary (UM) 54; 5. Jamestown College (JC) 44.5; 6. Concordia (C) 38; 7. MSU-Moorhead (M) 25; 8. University of Regina (UR) 3; 9. Si Tanka-Huron (ST) .
Championship: Co-Champions, Cory Johnston (DSU) and Mark Johnston (DSU). Third Place: Devlon Webb (CSC) dec. Kalen Wilson (NC) 11-4. Fifth Place: Robert Cox (UGF) won by default over Jason Harrington (MSU-N).
Championship: Brian Luna (MSU-N) pinned Chris Smith (MSU-N) 5:46. Third Place: Spencer Griffiths (UGF) dec. Michael McPeak (MSU-N) 3-1. Fifth Place: Ryan Synhorst (DSU) dec. Colt Heger (MSU-N) 7-1.
Championship: Micah Mathieson (unattached) pinned Dan Shaw (MSU-N) 5:27. Third Place: Josh Bauer (UM) dec. Albert Starrett (MSU-N) 7-2. Fifth Place: Matt Miller (JC) won by default over Daniel Kerr (DSU).
Championship: Dustyn Azure (MSU-N) dec. Jake Esser (JC) 10-6. Third Place: Chris Chase (UM) pinned Todd Guevara (DSU) 1:03. Fifth Place: Zach Lorenz (DSU) dec. Tim Pridgeon (unattached) 5-1.
Championship: Co-Champions, Stryder Davis (MSU-N) and Dale Seley (MSU-N). Third Place: Lee Rahrlien (C) dec. Jaime Garcia (DSU) 4-2. Fifth Place: Joe Casey (UGF) dec. Brandon Kok (M) 8-3.
Championship: Aaron Jensen (MSU-N) dec. Brett Hunter (CSC) 3-2. Third Place: Jouni Rosenlog (UR) pinned Mike Kummer (UGF) :29. Fifth Place: Tyson Springer (DSU) pinned Tyrel Harris (UGF) 3:12.
Championship: Ryan Mattingly (MSU-N) pinned Trent Kirchhefer (DSU) :35. Third Place: Matt Michaelson (DSU) dec. Eric Hageman (M) 8-0. Fifth Place: Greg Maurello (NC) dec. Emory Wilson (MSU-N) 5-0.
Championship: Co-champions, Elijah Simburger (UM) and Todd Paszek (UM). Third Place: Jesse Juarez (MSU-N) dec. Jake Toavs (DSU) 9-2. Fifth Place: Justin Green (DSU) dec. Dan Gordon (UGF).
Championship: Justin Schlecht (DSU) pinned Dennis Kline (C) 4:52. Third Place: Jack Lindsley (UM) dec. Stacey Mello (JC) 11-8. Fifth Place: Josh Robinson (MSU-N) dec. Taylor Anderson (UR) 8-6.
Championship: Chase Gormley (MSU-N) dec. Luke Roberts (UGF) 3-2. Third Place: Clay Rodgers (DSU) dec. Dany Ledda (JC) 7-4. Fifth Place: Sam Sand (JC) dec. James Causey (NC) 11-6.