George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor firstname.lastname@example.org
When the Montana State University- Northern wrestling team hits the mat next fall, fans will see a familiar face in the Lights' corner as the search for a new head coach at MSU-N has ended. On Thursday afternoon, MSU-N Athletic Director Mark Samson announced the hiring of former MSU-N All-American and NAIA national champion Tyson Thivierge. "First and foremost, I have to thank the administration and the university for giving me this opportunity," Thivierge said from his home in Carson City, Nev., on Tuesday night. "I couldn't be more excited and thrilled right now. "I always knew in the back of my mind that coaching at the collegiate level would happen for me at some point," he added. "And it couldn't be better that the opportunity was to be coming back to my alma mata to do it. I know the program, I know the expectations of the community and the fans and that's why I dove head first into this and I was so excited about going after this opportunity." Said Samson: "I think Tyson is a great fit for this program. He brings a lot of energy and passion to what he's doing and we're very excited to have him as our head coach." Thivierge, who replaces Dan Troupe at MSU-N, was one of Northern's most decorated wrestlers under former head coach David Ray. Thivierge captured the 184-pound NAIA national championship in 2002 and was also named the tournament's Most Outstanding Wrestler that year. He also finished third in 2001, second in 2000 and third in 1999. Thivierge is also third on MSU-N's all-time wins list with 136 and third on the all-time list for pins with 53. He graduated from MSU-N with a degree in physical education and has been a teacher and the head wrestling coach at Carson City High School in recent years. Thivierge and his wife Stephanie, have two children, Orion and Marlee. Thivierge was also part of an ultrasuccessful team run at MSU-N and it's something he hopes to bring back to Northern in the near future. The teams he competed on while at MSU-N won national titles in 1999 and 2000, as well as finishing second in 2002 and fifth in 2001, all under Ray. "I know there are a lot of challenges ahead and I'm really excited about them," he said. "When I competed at Northern, the team concept under David Ray was huge. We believed in each other and in his philosophies. We did everything together, and I think when you're building a national-championship caliber team like what we want to be at Northern, team unity is big. It's certainly big to me and that's something I want to try and bring back to this program." Another challenge that awaits Thivierge is one that didn't exist when he wrestled in Havre, but it's one he is well aware of and that's competing with the University of Great Falls, not only on the mat, but in the recruiting game. "Obviously, UGF is at the top of the list of challenges for us," he said. "When I was (at MSU-N), we were the only program in Montana and we got the cream of the crop when it came to recruiting. Now, with the success they have had, it's a little harder to get kids to come to Havre. Recruiting is a huge thing in this sport and UGF has made it tough. But everywhere I have ever went since my eligibility ended, the people I run into know Northern wrestling. They know about the program's success and it's a highly-respected program. So I think in time, and hopefully fairly quickly, we'll be able to get back to being a national-championship caliber program." And Thivierge isn't wasting any time getting started. He was in Havre to meet the public last Wednesday during the interview process and he says he will return on Saturday to take care of some paperwork, as well as meet with the team and MSU-N administration before returning to Nevada to finish the school year. "I'm hitting the ground running," he said. "I've been on the phone all day. I've already called most of the team and I've spoke with several alumni already. I'm just really excited about getting started, and again, I couldn't be more thrilled about this opportunity. Notes: Northern adminstration also interviewed former MSU-N All-American and Chester native Mitch Overlie as well as Sidney High School coach Guy Melby for the position. In all, there were 35 applicants for the vacant position, and Samson said that the process went very well and he's excited to have a new head coach in place. "All three finalists were great candidates and all of them would have brought a great deal to our program," Samson said. "We as a committee were very impressed with all three of them and we felt like we couldn't have gone wrong with any of the three of them. This process went well and was an enjoyable experience, and Tyson really impressed everybody. He's very enthusiastic about this program and this university and we feel like we are getting a great fit for our program."