Havre Daily News Sports Editor
Montana State University-Northern athletics director Dave Gantt made no secret what his first priority was when he was hired at his new position a month ago. It was to find a replacement for recently resigned Northern wrestling coach David Ray.
Although he is still in the process of moving to Havre completely, Gantt has kept good on his word and will welcome his first candidate to replace Ray.
On Monday, Fort Benton High School wrestling coach Dan Troupe will be in Havre on the Northern campus for a full day's worth of activities, including an open question-and-answer forum with the public and a formal interview with the search committee that Gantt is heading up.
"To offer Dan the opportunity to interview, we believe he has a couple of things going for him," Gantt said. "One, is that he has to be a good person, which we look for first. And two, he has to be a good coach, which we believe he is."
Obviously, Fort Benton hasn't been a traditional wrestling power in Class B-C. However, Troupe has only been the head coach at Fort Benton for two years. The Longhorns finished 10th this season at the 2005 state wrestling championships. In 2004, Fort Benton finished in 24th place in Troupe's first season.
Before coming to the Longhorns, Troupe served as an assistant coach at Missoula Hellgate.
"Obviously, his success as a wrestling coach in high school is highly unsubstantiated," Gantt said.
But Troupe's success as a competitor holds plenty of weight in Montana wrestling circles.
A two-sport standout at Flathead High, Troupe earned MVP honors on the Braves' football team. However, his real success came on the wrestling mat where he was state champion in 1989. He took his talents to NCAA wrestling power Iowa State where he earned a slew of honors.
Troupe was the Cyclones Varsity team captain and was twice named NCAA All-American at 190 pounds. He also was a two-time Freestyle/Greco-Roman national champion (1989, 1995) and a member of the USA Wrestling World Team, where he was the two-time USA Junior World Greco-Roman champion and the Junior World Freestyle champion. He also placed three different times at the Olympic trials. His accomplishments on the mat garnered him an induction into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
"His background as a competitive wrestler lends him tremendous credibility," Gantt said. "It makes him a very good teacher in the wrestling room."
Gantt also believes that Troupe's lack of high school coaching experience, doesn't outweigh his mat experience or his stints as an assistant coach at Boise State, Illinois State and Western Montana College.
"Honestly, you are dealing with an entirely different type of student-athlete at the collegiate level," Gantt said. "The recruiting component is very important for a college coach. In high school, you don't have the ability to go out and round up talented kids."
Another aspect that Gantt liked about Troupe was his Montana background.
"He's been working in Montana," Gantt said. "He's very familiar with the state's high school student-athletes and can promote the program easily. He's also shown a willingness to stay in Montana."
While Troupe may be the first candidate to be interviewed, he won't be the last.
"We plan to bring in two to three more candidates over the next two weeks," Gantt said.
On Monday, Troupe will will meet with the search committee of Gantt, faculty athletics department representative Carol Reifschneider, resident director Bill Lanier, former Light standout Mike Mazurkiewicz and current Light wrestler Aaron Jensen.
The community open forum will be at 6 p.m. at Donaldson Commons.