Daniel Horton Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
The top-ranked Havre High wrestling team entered the season with its sights set on a third straight state championship, and this weekend the Blue Ponies moved one step closer to that goal with a three-peat at what has been referred to as an unofficial state preview. On Friday, the Ponies entered the 31st annual CMR Holiday Classic at the CMR Fieldhouse as clear favorites. And by Saturday night, they had rolled through the competition with relative ease, making a good case for anyone still left doubting. “It was a good tournament.” Havre High head coach Scott Filius said. “All of the kids wrestled well. And our young kids wrestled excessively hard, even when they didn’t place. I was really pleased with this weekend.” After Friday's early rounds, the Ponies were holding strong in first place with 134.5 points, and with almost a 20-point lead, the closest program was CMR who earned 115 points on Friday. Rounding off the top teams was third place Bozeman with 113, Great Falls High with 101.5. Conrad with 85 points, Kalispell Glacier with 83, Belgrade with 79, Billings Senior with 76, Billings West with 75.5 and Ronan with 73. But when Saturday’s competition came to an end, the Ponies put up a whopping 295 points, making sure not to keep any teams close. They took their small lead from Friday, and turned it into a 99-point deficit between them and second-place Bozeman which pulled in 196 points. Following the champion Ponies and Bozeman to complete the top five teams were Great Falls High with 187.5, CMR with 159 and Conrad with 151. And Belgrade with 147.5, Kalispell Glacier with 138, Helena High with 136. 5, Ronan with 128.5 and Billings West 106.5 rounded out the Top 10. “Right now we have more depth than other teams.” Filius said. “We had 13 out of 15 weights, and out of those 13, 11 placed and the other two kids go 3-2. We have everybody scoring points, everybody giving effort and really great individual performances. Right now we have a team that is a product of a lot of hard work over the past umpteen years, and it's manifesting itself.” Taking home gold for the Blue Ponies this weekend were three seniors in what is arguably the toughest tournament to win an individual championship in outside of state. In the championship round, Chris Recio (112) defeated last year's Class AA state champion Dylan Mendenhall of GFH 6-5, Myles Mazurkiewicz (135) received a major decision over two-time state champion Ryan Martin of Lewistown, his arch rival, 12-3 and Ethan Hinebauch (160) pinned Ben Stroh of Chinook, in 4:34. Both Mazurkiewicz and Hinebauch were able to get wins over opponents which defeated them two weeks ago at the Havre Invitational. “I think it’s the third time each of them has won this tournament.” Filius said. “We expected those kids to do well. Generally when you take seniors that have won that tournament a couple times, you don’t run into the quality of kids that we did. There were some quality kids.” Overall, the Ponies had 11 individuals place in the top five. In the championship round, Jade Rauser of Townsend pinned Duell Stadel (105) in 5:17; Zach Wichman of GFH earned an 8-4 decision over Phillip Sutherland at 189 pounds and John Frandsen of Glacier beat Paul Jensen, 3-1 at 215 pounds; which landed all three Pony grapplers a second-place finish. And locking down third place was Eli Hinebauch at 130 pounds and Kent Pattison at 140 pounds. Wrapping things up was Brett Normandy finishing in fourth place at 119 pounds, and Aaron Olson (145) and Mitch Schnittgen (HWT), both landing fifth-place finishes. Freshmen Dustin Seely (125) and Casey Schaub (152) also wrestled well for the Ponies, but didn’t place. Both wrestlers went 3-2, and provided crucial points for the overall team. “We try to keep our expectations awful high.” Filius said. “And their own expectations are high and when you come out of a quality tournament you feel good for some kids, and you hurt for others. If you step back and look at the totality of it we had an awful good effort, and whether we get the results or not I was real pleased with the effort that our kids wrestled.” Not only did the Ponies come home with 11 top-five finishes and as tournament champions, they also had every wrestler record a winning record, something that’s never happened before at the CMR Holiday Classic. And on top of all that, Mazurkiewicz and Ethan Hinebauch received two more individual awards. Mazurkiewicz was chosen for the Outstanding Wrestler award after defeating opponents like Lewistown’s twotime state champ Martin, and Hinebauch earned the Quick Pin award. Hinebauch manhandled the competition, pinning his five opponents, including Chinook’s Stroh for the championship, in a combined 7:21. The Sugarbeeters also had a strong showing, finishing 13th overall with 93.5 points which was tops for the Class C schools and second-best for B-C teams behind Conrad. The Beeters also had one individual champion in Robert Stroh at 152 pounds. But the weekend, as it has the last three years, belonged to the Ponies. “Right now it’s just a lot of fun” Filius said. “They are really working hard, and their work is paying dividends. They are doing well. We got a good feel for where our kids are at, and if we go down to state and we place 11 kids we will be fine. I expect to do that, and actually expect to place a few of those kids who didn’t. We will be hungry here, and we will see if we can’t get some work done over the break.” The Ponies are back in action on Jan. 3, after winter break. They will host Lewistown and Glasgow at the Havre High gymnasium, and the duals will get under way at 10 a.m.