Havre Daily News sports editor
The Montana State University-Northern wrestling team has been much maligned this season. It seems that not much has gone right for the No. 19 Lights over the last two months.
On Thursday night at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse, things finally did go right for the Lights, at least enough to defeat NJCAA member Northwest College in dual action.
The Lights scored 25 of the duals' first 28 points en route to a 25-15 victory over the Trappers. The win was an improvement from when Northern defeated Northwest College by four points in Powell, Wyo., two months ago.
“It is a win and we'll take it,” MSU-N head coach Dan Troupe said. “We did some good things tonight and we were shaky in some spots.
“The first time we faced them, it was nip and tuck,” he added. “And if they don't forfeit the 125-pound match, it could have been much closer again tonight. But overall I'm pleased with our performance tonight.”
After the forfeit at 125 pounds and a Mike McPeak loss at 133 pounds, Northern got on a roll that essentially ended any chances of the Trappers winning the dual.
Colt Heger worked his way to a pin of Johnny Graham in the 141-pound match, and Chris Smith followed that up with a hard-fought 7-5 decision at 149 pounds, putting the Lights ahead 15-3. Smith broke a 5-5 tie with a takedown of Northwest's Cody Moulton with 13 seconds remaining in the match.
Northern earned six more points in the 157-pound match when Northwest's Eric Trujillo was injured on a takedown by Ty Aiken in the first period. Trujillo, who appeared to injure his knee, could not continue. MSU-N senior Aaron Jensen followed with a technical dismantling of Chris Riding in the 165-pound match.
Jensen scored numerous takedowns throughout the match and worked his way to a 13-5 decision that gave the Lights a seemingly insurmountable lead of 25-3.
“I thought we had a real good stretch right there,” Troupe said. “I saw a lot of guys really show some improvement tonight. Jensen and Heger both wrestled really well.”
On a night when everything went right early for Northern, the momentum switched quickly in the final four bouts. After Jensen's win at 165, the Lights didn't score another point.
That wasn't for lack of effort. In some respects, the Lights wrestled up at every weight class after 174 pounds. Freshmen Colter Dimas and Chad Seely lost decisions on riding time at 174 and 197 pounds, respectively. Both wrestlers fought off deficits in the third period, but riding time broke the ties in favor of the Trappers.
The same circumstance happened to Ryan Mattingly in the 184-pound match with Shawn Vincent. Vincent scored a reversal at the buzzer, and riding time gave him a 4-3 win. In the heavyweight match, Northern's Brian Fritchman, who normally wrestles at 197, simply gave up too much weight to Northwest's Spencer Bowles, as Bowles earned a 10-3 decision.
“I thought our young guys wrestled hard and never quit on us tonight,” Troupe said. “Chad Seely is a true 184-pounder and Brian Fritchman was forced to help us out at heavyweight because right now we just don't have one.
“We're getting better,” Troupe added. “I saw a lot of good things from our guys tonight. We were much more offensive and we were in control of the tieups. Those are areas where we needed to improve and we're doing that. Things are starting to come along.”
The Lights won't be back on the mat until Feb. 1 when they travel to Dickinson State University for a dual with the Blue Hawks. Northern returns home on Feb. 3 to face Southern Oregon University.
Lights 25, Trappers 15
125 - Brock Zollinger, MSU-N win by forfeit.
133 - Eric Tapia, MSU-N dec. Mike McPeak, MSU-N, 14-11.
141 - Colt Heger, MSU-N pinned Johnny Graham, NC, 5:54.
149 - Chris Smith, MSU-N dec. Cody Moulton, NC, 7-5.
157 - Ty Aiken, MSU-N injury default Eric Trujillo, NW.
165 - Aaron Jensen, MSU-N dec. Chris Riding, NW, 13-5,
174 - Julius Rios, NW dec. Colter Dimas, MSU-N, 8-7.
184 - Shawn Vincent, NW dec. Ryan Mattingly, MSU-N, 8-3.
197 - Avery Rogers, NW dec. Chad Seely, MSU-N, 6-5.
HWT - Spencer Bowles, NW dec. Brian Fritchman, MSU-N, 10-3.