George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor email@example.com
It won't count for anything more than practice, pride and earning spots in the varsity lineup, but make no mistake about it, tonight's intrasquad Montana State University-Northern wrestling dual is big first step in the upcoming NAIA wrestling season. Tonight at 7 at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse, the Lights will hold their annual Maroon/Gold Dual, kicking off their first season under new head coach, and former Lights All-American Tyson Thivierge. Thivierge was hired in the spring to replace Dan Troupe, and he has been busy ever since, recruiting and preparing for his first year at the helm of one of the most successful wrestling programs in NAIA history However, MSU-N hasn't been in the upper-echelon of the NAIA for several years and tonight's dual is the first step in the process of getting back there. "This season has been everything I’ve expected so far," Thivierge said. "These guys are very hungry and it is showing in our practice room. They have worked above and beyond my expectations, but the season is young still and we need them to carry this intensity through the entire season so we can get back on top of the NAIA." The Lights are coming off a solid finish at last year's NAIA national tournament, and they return 125-pound national champion Corey Borges, who is a two-time NAIA All-American entering his third season at MSU-N. Borges transferred to MSU-N from Fresno State. But Borges is one of just a few returning wrestlers who saw significant action last season. Senior Carlos Alaniz is back at 133 pounds, junior JD Goodrich returns at 141 pounds, senior Colter Dimas returns at 165 pounds, junior Austin Ouelette is back at 174 pounds, heavyweight Robbie Shaw returns as does senior Colt Heger at 133 pounds. Sophomore Beau LaSalle is also back to compete for a spot at 141 pounds. From there however, MSU-N will have plenty of new faces, including sophomore Tay Todd, a highly-rated wrestler originally from Bozeman. After redshirting last season, threetime Class A state champion and former Havre High star Evan Hinebauch should also have a big impact on the Lights this season. As for tonight's dual, there is 10 matches tentatively scheduled, with several of them being held for starting spots. At 125 pounds, Borges is scheduled to face senior Sean Costello, while Heger will take on freshman D.J. Skelton at 133 pounds. LaSalle and Goodrich will square off at 141 pounds, while Todd will take on freshman Mark Hobson at 149. At 157 pounds, freshmen Jim Smith and Brad Kain will face off. There are also several exhibition matches scheduled, including a pair of redshirts at 125 pounds in former Havre High standout Ryan Shelstad and Harlem great Chase Dirden. At 133 pounds, Jeremy Thompson will take on Kyle Banko, while Oulette and Dimas will meet, as well Hinebauch and sophomore Jonas Schenzel. In a mixed heavyweight matchup, Shaw will take on Evan Mattingly. Tonight's dual is the first of two preseason matches for the Lights. MSU-N will also hold its annual Alumni Dual on Saturday morning. Northern is preparing for its season-opening duals with the University of Regina on Oct. 30 and North Idaho College on Oct. 31. MSU-N starts November off with a dual against NCAA Division I power Boise State Nov. 2 in Great Falls, and before the new year, the Lights will wrestle in prestigious tournaments in Las Vegas and Evanston, Ill. As usual MSU-N's schedule also includes two duals against its rival, the University of Great Falls. The first dual with UGF takes place on Nov. 21 in Havre, and the second will be in Great Falls on Feb. 11. The regional tournament is in Menlo, Calif., on Feb. 21 and the NAIA national tournament will take place in Oklahoma City March 4-6. "Almost every weight class has been competitive in our practice room," Thivierge said. "I have nothing to complain about with this group of wrestlers, so far, everything is where it should be." Tonight's Maroon/Gold Dual will get under way at 7 at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse. The Lights will also wrestle in the Alumni Dual on Saturday at 11 a.m.