Havre Daily News sports editor
Time is winding down on the 2006 NAIA wrestling season. That means there isn't much time for the Montana State University-Northern Lights to get things in order before the national tournament, which is less than two months away.
Tonight, at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse, the Lights will wrestle in front of their home fans for the first time since a Nov. 8 loss to Jamestown College, when they host Northwest College at 7.
The Lights are coming off a 1-2 weekend at the NAIA National Duals in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Northern has struggled in dual action this season, but the Lights do have a victory over Northwest College. The Lights defeated Northwest in Powell, Wyo., back on Nov. 16 by a score of 23-19.
Northern had to win a couple of matches late in the dual in order to secure that victory, and four matches had to go to overtime to be decided. It was first year MSU-N head coach Dan Troupe's first win as the Lights' head man.
Since the win over Northwest College, the Lights have not found the going easy. In mid-December, Northern was soundly beaten by NAIA rival University of Great Falls, and the team struggled at the Dickinson State Classic two weeks ago, placing just four wrestlers and having no wrestlers reach the finals.
Key matches tonight will include the 125-pound matchup, where Northwest has a nationally ranked wrestler in the NJCAA in Khalin Wilson. While the MSU-N lineup is not yet set, Wilson soundly defeated MSU-N's A.J. Bartels the first time the two teams hooked up.
At 149 pounds, C.J. Rathjun is also nationally ranked for Northwest, as is Julias Rios at 174 pounds. Rios defeated the Lights' Emmory Wilson in overtime in the first dual. Northern's Ryan Mattingly had to go to overtime to defeat Northwest's Shawn Vincent in the first meeting, and heavyweight Josh Robinson lost to Spencer Boles in an overtime thriller the first time around. Mattingly, Robinson and Brian Fritchman (197) have been the Lights' most consistent wrestlers this season.
The Lights are ranked 19th in the latest NAIA poll and surprisingly they have just one ranked wrestler on the roster. Senior Aaron Jensen is ranked eighth at 165 pounds.
Tonight's dual between MSU-N and Northwest College will get under way at 7 at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse.