George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor firstname.lastname@example.org
North Idaho College. The Cardinals may only be a two-year wrestling program built around youth, but they always present a tough dual opponent for any wrestling team they face. And that is what the Montana State University-Northern Lights are up against tonight when they host NIC at 6 at the MSUNorthern Fieldhouse. Tonight’s dual will be the season-opener for an MSU-N team that has only the annual alumni dual and an intrasquad scrimmage under its belt this season. Although the Lights are an NAIA school and and Cardinals are a member of the NJCAA, they will have much in common tonight when they square off on the mat. Northern is one of the most well-known and well-respected programs in all of NAIA wrestling, and second-year head coach Dan Troupe is hoping that his 2006 team will get the program back into the upper-echelon of NAIA wrestling. MSU-N has multiple national championship banners hanging in the rafters, as do the Cardinals in their Coeur d’Alene, Idaho gymnasium. NIC has enjoyed a tremendous amount of success at the junior college level and the Cardinals are expected to be in the mix again nationally this season. Both teams also come into the season with youthful but talented rosters. And both squads have a couple of high-profile type talents in their respective lineups. One thing missing form NIC’s lineup however, is former Havre High great Jeff Hedges, who is now a NCAA Division I grappler in North Carolina. Still, the Cardinals bring a couple of quality guys to Havre tonight and plenty of talent and skill. In the lower weights, talented youngster like Steve Sanchez and Buck Claesson will surely help NIC, but the Cardinals have a legitimate national title contender at 141 pounds in Heinrich Barnes, a South African native. Fellow South African Jarryd Pretorius should also be solid for NIC at 186 pounds. Even though Hedges is gone, the Cardinals still have five Montana wrestler’s on their roster led by the Owen’s from Polson. Kevin Owen wrestles at 174 pounds for the Cardinals and Brett Owen is a 165- pounder. Both were standouts in the Class A ranks in Montana. Northern counters the Cardinals lineup with strength at the upper weights. The Lights will look to 184-pounder Chad Seely for a breakout season that hopefully gets off to a good start tonight. Brian Fritchman is also expected to have a big season at 197 pounds, as is Josh Robinson at heavyweight. Troupe will also move veteran Chris Smith up from 141 pounds to 149 pounds tonight to help the Lights in the lower weight classes. Colt Heger also has an important match at 133 pounds as does Sean Costello at 125 pounds. If Northern can steal the 125-pound and 133- pound match, the Lights should have a leg up on the Cardinals the rest of the way. The Lights struggled in dual meets last season, so even though the Cardinals are a tough season-opening foe, Troupe would like nothing better then to get the new season off to a good start with a victory over the junior college power tonight. Tonight’s dual between MSU-N and North Idaho College will get under way at 6 at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse.