Havre Daily News
The wrestling season will come to a head this weekend in Billings with the Class A state tournament. For the Havre High wrestling team it's all about capping off a successful season with a state championship.
The Ponies finished second to Sidney is last year's state tournament. If they are going to avoid the same fate, they will have to wrestle as well as they have all year long.
“The kids are healthy and they feel good,” HHS head coach Scott Filius said. “They have been wrestling really well as of late and all week during practice. Now all we can do is see what happens.”
The Sidney Eagles are not only the two-time defending state champions but are also the overwhelming favorite to grab a third straight title this weekend. Besides Sidney, the Ponies are going to have to fight it out with a very good Libby Logger team that also has its sights set on taking the crown.
“We have 19 kids and in order to match up with Sidney's 19 kids we are going to have get a good number of kids in the semifinals because we do not match up with them head-to-head very much,” Filius said. “Libby is also a real strong team. They have beat us before when we were matched up against them and we are going to have our hands full.”
The Ponies have the bonus of three individual state champions returning to defend their crowns in Mike Hipple at 119 pounds, Evan Hinebauch at 171 pounds and Matt Schnittgen at 275 pounds. Among the three of them, they have lost just one match all year long.
Other wrestlers who have legitimate hopes for individual titles this weekend are Myles Mazurkiewicz at 105 pounds, Ryan Shelstad at 98 pounds, Cody Seely at 215 pounds and both Nate Harada and Beau LaSalle at 125 pounds.
“Anytime you have three defending state champions you would like to think that they would be able to do it again this year,” Filius said. “We also have a lot of other kids that have the chance to do some things. We have two tough kids at 125 pounds in Nate Harada and Beau LaSalle.
“And you would think one of them may be able to do something,” he added. “Myles has had a great year and beat almost everyone in his class. Ryan has wrestled well all year long, and Cody Seely is wrestling as well as any big guy we have had in a while.”
The Ponies are also loaded with a ton of young talented wrestlers who may just rise to the occasion this weekend.
Clint Bradbury, who wrestles at 135 pounds, and Chris Buskirk at 189 pounds could surprise some people.
“Clint has been wrestling really well as of late and if he would just relax and not put so much pressure on himself he can do some good things,” Filius said. “Chris Buskirk has also been wrestling really well at practice as of late and he is as tough as any kid we have.”
Even if the Ponies are not able to come away with a state title this year, they will be looking to get their younger wrestlers a lot of valuable experience.
“It all depends on how the young kids wrestle, and hopefully they will give us something to build on,” Filius said. “It would be disappointing if those kids came out and didn't wrestle well. Our goal is to have every kid win a match and if we can accomplish that, we will be very happy.”
All in all, the Ponies will not be satisfied will anything less than a state title.
“I would at least like to give Sidney a scare,” Filius said. “It's going to be very tough because they are so deep and we do not match up with them very often. All we can do is wrestle hard and see what happens.”
The Class A state tournament gets under way on Friday at 9:30 a.m. and will run through Saturday night. All of the action takes place at the Billings Metra.