George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor email@example.com
The goal for every collegiate wrestling program in the NAIA is to win a national championship when the season starts. The same can be said for every individual wrestler that takes to the mat in October. And this weekend in Sioux City, Iowa, the Montana State University- Northern wrestling team accomplished one of those goals and made a strong push towards another. On Saturday night at the Tyson Events Center, MSU-N junior Corey Borges capped off a stellar season by defeating Lindenwood's Dennis Kakrah in the 125-pound championship match. The victory atoned Borges' loss in the 125-pound final a year ago and gave a big boost to the Lights' team. "Corey is phenomonal," MSU-N head coach Dan Troupe said. "He has helped put life back in to our program and he is a great leader for this team. "A lot of people didn't know this, but he had a knee injury coming into this tournament," he added. "So his effort this weekend was incredible. He just wasn't going to lose, and you could just see it in his eyes before the final, he was not going to be denied. So I'm just happy for him, especially after losing in the final last year. He's just had a tremendous season." Borges' national championship was part of a weekend that saw three Lights earn NAIA All-American. Northern also got a third-place finish from Byron Kuylen and a fourth-place finish from Chris Thompson, helping MSU-N to ninth place overall with 75 points. "I think we really did some good things this weekend, and fro this tournament, I think we can take away that the program is heading in the right direction," Troupe said. "I mean, we were third after the quarterfinals, and eventually we ran out of steam. But it was our second top 10 in a row, we were a win away from seventh place, and we had guys go out and really rack up points with pins and major decisions. So I feel good about what we accomplished this weekend, and I'm really proud of our guys." Lindenwood captured its second straight national championship by scoring 130 points to McKendree's 109.5. Dickinson State was third with 107.5, and the University of Great Falls, and former Light national champion Caleb Schaeffer, had its best-ever finish, which was fourth. The Argos scored 101 points and got the schools’ first-ever national champion in 184-pounder Mike Kummer. But as well as Northern wrestled over the weekend, depth and injuries played a factor in where the Lights finished. MSU-N was without two-time All- American Brian Fritchman, who would have likely reached the 197-pound final for the second straight season. But young wrestlers like Kuylen and Thompson did well to pick up the slack. Kuylen, a sophomore from Sidney, reached the semifinals before falling to Brian Graham of Missouri Valley, 12-8. In that match, Kuylen injured a rib, but fought back to pin his way to third place at 149 pounds. "I am really happy for Byron," Troupe said. "He had a tough year, but it ended really well. He's a great wrestler and he's become one of the leaders on this team and it showed this weekend. He went out and got us pins and he just wrestled at a such a high level. I'm just really proud of the way he competed." Meanwhile, Thompson, a 184-pound freshman from Kalispell, also reached the semifinals before losing to Oklahoma City's Mitchell Eisenhauer. Thompson rebounded to reach the consolation final before being defeated again." "Chris wrestled great this weekend," Troupe said. "He was aggressive and he really went after guys. As a freshman, he had a tremendous tournament, and he's going to be right there for us for a long time." Northern may have lacked the depth that the top teams had this weekend, but the Lights did well to score points throughout the tournament. Junior Carlos Alaniz (133) was one win away from reaching the All-American round as was senior Mike McPeak (141) . Colt Heger (141), Austin Ouelette (165) and Rob Shaw (275) also scored points for the Lights in the wrestlebacks, helping MSU-N keep pace with the top end of the field. "At the end of the day, our depth caught up to us," Troupe said. "But we wrestled extremely well from top to bottom. On the mat, it was a great tournament for us, and I'm just so proud of these guys. "And with guys like Cory Borges, Byron Kuylen, Chris Thompson and so many others coming back, we really feel like we're heading in the right direction. We still have to work hard and recruit well, but I think this weekend was a good sign for where our program is and where we want it to go. And again, it's these kids and how hard they worked this season. I am just really proud of them."