Chris Peterson Havre Daily News email@example.com
Last season was a shining success for the Havre High wrestling team. But in the end, despite a valiant effort, the Ponies came up just short of a state championship, finishing a close second to Sidney for yet another year. Now with nearly their entire team back from last season’s class A staterunner up team, the Ponies are primed for a run to re-claim their position at the top of Class A wrestling. “We had a very good season last year,” HHS head coach Scott Filius said. “And coming into this year we have almost everybody coming back. So we have high expectations for this season.” Expectations will be high in Havre indeed. The Ponies return a pair of state champions and a wealth of talent. Headlining the returnees for the Ponies this year are Matt Schnittgen, a two-time defending state champion who went undefeated last year and Evan Hinebauch, also a two-time defending state champion, who lost just once last year. “Those guys have both had a lot of success over the last couple of years,” Filius said. “It’s always a good thing when you have got a couple of defending state champions to anchor your team.” Havre also has a number of other talented wrestlers that placed at state a year ago like Myles Mazurkiewicz, Nate Harada, Beau LaSalle and Phillip Sutherland. Chris Buskirk, Logan Reichelt, Chris Riccio, Billy Wagner, Lorren Mack, Chad Ranes, Logan Gjesdal, Paul Jensen and Aaron Olsen also all return from last year’s team, and all of them wrestled in the state tourney. “We have got a lot of depth this year,” Filius said. “The kids have really put a lot of time and effort in during the summer and it is starting to show. We have a lot of competition at a number of spots, we have a lot of young guys that are working hard and getting better and I think in the long run, it is going to make everyone better.” The Ponies will no doubt be the strongest team in the Central A. Last season the team easily won the Central A divisional meet. The top competition in the division will be Lewistown and Belgrade. Belgrade, Butte Central, Browning and Livingston are all trying to rebuild their wrestling programs and may be a few years away from challenging in the conference. “I think that the conference will be a little more competitive this year than it has been in the past,” Filius said. On a statewide scale the Ponies are one of the favorites to win the state championship that has eluded them over the last few years. Havre starts the season ranked No. 1 in Class A Sidney, the defending state champion lost a number of their top wrestlers from a year ago, so the Eagles will have to reload before making another run at a state championship. Libby and Polson are two more teams that appear to have the depth and talent to compete for a state championship. “I hope that this is our year,” Filius said. “But there is going to be a lot of very good competition that we are going to have to go up against. Sidney of course lost quite a few of their guys, but they will still be a very strong team. And then you have some others teams like Libby and Polson, who have been fairly strong over the last few years and should be very strong again this year. So we are just going to have to work hard, compete and continue to get better as the season goes along, that is really all you can do. We just to get out there and compete and work to get better.” Havre will open up their season this weekend as the Ponies host the Havre Invitational. The Havre Invitational is a two-day event that guarantees the wrestlers at least three matches on Friday and a tournament style format in each weight class on Saturday. Some of the teams that will be participating include, Lewistown, Butte Central, Browning, Cut Bank, Shelby, Valier, Malta, Fort Benton, Big Sandy and Chester/J-I. “There is going to be a lot of quality competition for us this weekend,” Filius said. “There are always a lot of good individuals from every team and the good about this meet is that is gets every kid a lot of matches, which gives them all the mat time that they really need.” The Havre Invitational will take place Friday and Saturday at the HHS Gymnasium.