Havre Daily News
It's divisional weekend for the Havre High wrestling team and the time has come for the Ponies to put all their hard work to the test.
At stake this weekend is a berth in the state tournament for all of Havre High's grapplers as they head to the Central A divisional tournament in Belgrade.
The third-ranked Ponies are far and away the team to beat this weekend at the tournament, which the Ponies have dominated for a number of years. Havre is the three-time defending Central A champion.
The main competition for the Ponies this weekend will be the Lewistown Eagles, who boast several talented individuals.
Fourth-ranked Mitch Ritchey leads the way for the Eagles, and probably offers their best chance of claiming an individual title. Ritchey wrestles at 189 pounds.
The Eagles' other best bet for an individual crown is fifth-ranked Mike Sweeney, who wrestles at 135 pounds. If Sweeney wants to claim the title this weekend, he will have to go through fourth-ranked Luke Jesson of Livingston and Clint Bradbury (18-10) of Havre.
The Belgrade Panthers are the only other team that will boast a full lineup at the tournament and are led by Justin Clevidence, James Armstrong and Matt Lodhall.
“Ever since they split up the divisions into four small divisions, the divisionals have not been as competitive as they used to be,” HHS head coach Scott Filius said. “There are some talented individuals, but the teams are kind of in a rebuilding mode right now.”
The Ponies come into the tournament with 19 wrestlers, all of whom have a good chance to qualify for the state tournament.
“It's certainly possible that all of our kids won't make it to state,” Filius said. “But it would be a disappointment if all our kids didn't qualify.”
The Ponies also have a number of wrestlers who should not just compete for a berth at state, but have a very good chance of earning an individual title.
Top-ranked Mike Hipple (12-0) at 119 pounds, top-ranked Matt Schnittgen (31-0) at 275 pounds and second-ranked Evan Hinebauch (32-1) at 171 pounds are all defending state champions and all are expected to add divisional titles to their resumes on Saturday.
First-ranked Myles Mazurkiewicz (30-3) is an impressive freshman who is also expected to claim a divisional title at 105 pounds.
Second-ranked Ryan Shelstad (29-4) at 98 pounds, second-ranked Beau LaSalle (20-1) at 125 pounds, Nate Harada (26-8) at 125 pounds and Cody Seely (23-13) at 215 pounds should also compete for individual titles in their respective weight classes.
The Ponies also boast three up-and -coming freshmen who are hoping to make the Central A tournament their own coming-out party.
Logan Gjesdal (13-15) at 160 pounds, Aaron Olson (22-12) at 145 pounds and Philip Sutherland (24-16) at 140 pounds will be looking to build on valuable experience gained during the regular season and earn divisional titles, and more importantly, trips to the state tournament.
“I think that Logan Gjesdal, Phil Sutherland and Aaron Olson are all going to surprise some people this weekend,” Filius said. “And, if Clint Bradbury wrestles the way he has wrestled lately, I think he could surprise some people as well.
“However, if we want to win titles in the 135-160 range we are going to have to wrestle well and beat some kids we haven't beat yet this year,” he added.
The Blue Pony lineup will be rounded out by Chris Recio (18-4) at 98 pounds, Chad Ranes (26-3) at 112 pounds, Billy Wagner (26-9) at 119 pounds, Ethan Hinebauch (22-8) at 130 pounds, Jeff Crawford (5-22) at 152 pounds, Chris Buskirk (15-19) at 189 pounds and freshman Paul Jensen (10-9) at 215 pounds, all of whom have a realistic chance of earning a trip to the state tournament next weekend.
Havre suffered a blow to its lineup this week when third-ranked 112-pounder Lorren Mack was lost for the remainder of the season to a shoulder injury.
Due to the depth of the Pony wrestlers, there are several HHS competitors who aren't regulars in the varsity lineup, not because they are not talented enough, but because there is simply not enough room in the lineup for all of them.
Fortunately, at divisionals, teams are allowed to bring more than just one wrestler per weight class, giving guys like Paul Jensen and others a chance to prove themselves.
“We have a lot of young kids who are inexperienced, and with young kids there is a learning curve that they have to deal with,” Filius said. “Hopefully this weekend will be when everything they have learned comes together.”
The Central A divisional tournament will get under way at 9 a.m. on Saturday at the Belgrade Special Events Center.