By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsfirstname.lastname@example.org
For the second time this week, the No. 1-ranked Havre High wrestling team will make the long trek down Highway 2 to Cut Bank to wrestle.
The Ponies defeated the Cut Bank Wolves in dual action on Monday night, and on Friday, they will be back to participate in the two-day Cut Bank Invitational, which runs through Saturday night.
Havre has yet to attend an invitational tournament this season and not come away with a team title. The Ponies also have just one blemish on their stellar dual record, including their close win over the powerful Wolves on Monday.
Still, HHS head coach Scott Filius said that this week will be another tough test for his steadily improving team.
"This is a good tournament for us coming out of the Christmas break because we haven't seen a lot of the teams in this tournament," Filius said. "It gives us a chance to see some new competition, but we will still see very tough competition."
Indeed, this will only be the second tournament that Havre High has attended that does not include teams from the Class AA ranks. But that doesn't mean the Cut Bank Invite won't be loaded, in fact it will be just the opposite.
Aside from the top-ranked Ponies, the tournament will feature two other Class A powerhouses in Frenchtown and Columbia Falls.
Those two teams also feature the top two 119-pounders in all of the state of Montana. The Wildcats have junior Aric Tarr, who is a two-time state champion and has yet to lose a high school match.
Meanwhile, Frenchtown's Brandon Stedman is the top-ranked 119 pounder in Class A and is also a defending state champion.
"It will be really good for us to see those two teams," Filius said of Columbia Falls and Frenchtown. "Frenchtown has great a great lineup in the lower weights and Columbia Falls has some top kids spread out throughout their team. These are two teams we will be competing with at the state tournament."
This weekend's tourney will also feature the top three teams in Class B-C. Top-ranked Conrad will be in attendance while the host Wolves are ranked second. The Choteau Bulldogs are also expected to figure into the Class B-C picture at season's end. The tournament will also feature many of the area B-C teams like Shelby, Simms and Cascade as well as Class A Browning.
"This is always a very deep tournament," Filius said. "There are some very tough teams here this weekend and coming out of the break everyone is hungry to get back on the mat, so it should be a good weekend."
Havre's lineup won't look much different than it has for the past month. Chad Ranes, Billy Wagner, Clint Bradbury and Nathan Harada will go at 98 pounds through 119 pounds respectively. Sophomore Beau LaSalle will be at 125 pounds and Mike Hipple will go at 130 pounds. Hipple comes into this weekend with just two losses on the season.
Mike Sutherland will once again go at 135 pounds for the Ponies followed by Logan Reichelt at 140 pounds and Adam Burrington at 145. Dallas Thompson will see his first tournament action of the season at 152 pounds.
Sophomore sensation Evan Hinebauch will be back at 160 pounds and is Havre's only undefeated wrestler on its roster. Cody Seely will go at 171 pounds followed by brother Chad Seely at 189 pounds. Bill Zuelke will be at 215 pounds and sophomore Matt Schnittgen will be at heavyweight. Schnittgen has just one loss this season.
The Cut Bank Invitational will get underway at noon on Friday. The finals are set for 6 p.m. on Saturday and all of the action will take place at the Cut Bank High School gymnasium.