Like his Blue Pony teams of the last three years, Havre High senior Beau LaSalle will look to erase some bad state tournament memories this weekend in Billings
George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor email@example.com
In so many ways, Havre High senior Beau LaSalle’s wrestling career has mirrored that of the HHS teams he’s been a part of the last three years. At least when it comes to the Class A state tournament in Billings. Both LaSalle and his Havre High team have had dominant regular seasons over the last three years, only to come up agonizingly short in Billings. To say that the wrestling mats at the Billings Metra have not been kind to LaSalle and the Blue Ponies would be a major understatement. “State has been rough for the last three years,” LaSalle said the day before he departed for Billings and his last chance at state tournament glory. “I’ve reached the semifinals every year of my career, and I’ve never lost by more than four points in any of those matches. And it’s kind of like how its gone for our team. We just kept falling behind Sidney every year.” While LaSalle will be the first to say his results at the state tournament are disappointing, what makes them even tougher to swallow is how well LaSalle has wrestled coming into the last tournament. LaSalle has never lost more than three matches in a regular season. He has won multiple tournaments each year, including prestigious individual titles at tournaments like the CMR Holiday Classic and the Rocky Mountain Classic in Missoula. But at the state tournament, LaSalle has come up short time and time again, and it hasn’t been for lack of effort, determination, character or skill. In fact, it seems almost inexplicable. In his freshman campaign, LaSalle was brilliant all season long before he lost to Corey Pete of Columbia Falls in the state semifinals. That season, LaSalle wound up fourth. In his sophomore year, LaSalle breezed into the semifinals and a state title seemed imminent. But he found heartache again when he was upended by Libby’s Matt Roberts. Then, last season, LaSalle lost just one match prior to the state tournament, but he was knocked off by Logan Torgison of Polson in the semifinals. He did reach the podium yet again, finishing third. All of those results might be acceptable to most wrestlers, but not to LaSalle. He is considered a great technical wrestler, and he has a passion for the sport that is unparalleled. LaSalle’s work ethic is notorious in Havre’s tightknit wrestling community, and his skill has certainly caught the attention of college coaches in the area. But for all his greatness, he still believes that there are two things missing from what has been an otherwise brilliant high school career. “It’s been tough to look back and think about what I could have done,” he said. “Last year, I only lost two matches all year, but one of them was at state. So I consider that disappointing to me. “But it’s also what has pushed me to work harder and to get even better,” he added. “Especially after I lost my sophomore year, I really dedicated myself to working really hard. I committed myself to improving my technique and my conditioning. And any time I have ever felt like dogging it or taking it a little easy in practice, I think back to those losses at state, and I push myself even harder.” LaSalle has pushed himself to the limit to be one of the best 130-pounders in the state this season not just in Class A. LaSalle enters today’s first day of the state tournament with a 41-3 record and a No. 2 ranking at 130. He captured individual titles at the CMR, Havre, Cut Bank and Rocky Mountain tournaments, as well as his third straight Central A championship last weekend in Lewistown. But with all that success, LaSalle admits he feels some pressure to seal his and his team’s championship fate this season. Both LaSalle and HHS has seemed to be on a collision course toward greatness together this year. Havre has been ranked No. 1 in Class A all season, and both the Ponies and LaSalle are not favored, but expected to win state championships this weekend in Billings. Afterall, the Ponies have finished second to Sidney in the last three Class A state tournament’s. “There’s a little bit of pressure on me, but I put way more on myself than other people do,” LaSalle said. “But (Scott) Filius told us in practice just the other day that pressure is something you feel when you’re not prepared. I know I have worked hard this year and I feel like I’ve prepared myself for this tournament the best I can. I feel ready to go out there and win a state championship.” And his team? “As a team, we haven’t felt any pressure,” he said. “Its more like we have a goal and we’ve been working hard to get it all season. We feel like this is our year and we don’t just want to go out and win a state championship, we want to dominate the tournament. “Sidney has dominated us the last few years,” he added. “And we feel like we have a team that can do it to them this season. My teammates are all great wrestlers and we just feel like this is our year.” While LaSalle and the Blue Ponies know better than anyone that anything can happen at the state tournament, and nothing is decided until Saturday night, one thing is certain LaSalle’s greatness won’t be defined by one tournament. He is a mature, class-act who has always dealt with what has come his way in a classy and sportsmanlike manner. And this weekend won’t be any different. As the senior from Havre, who has has an impeccable wrestling career already cemented, said earlier, this is the Ponies’ year. And that will include their leader, their heart and soul, their 130-pounder who will no doubt have his moment in the bright lights of the Billings Metra.