Daniel Horton Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Just last week, the Havre High wrestling program was chomping at the bit to hit the mats against somebody beside themselves. And after shining at their own Havre Invitational, the Blue Ponies are heading into another long weekend of tough competition. Tonight the to-ranked Class A Blue Ponies will take to the road where they will first face the conference rival Belgrade Panthers in Butte. And Friday and Saturday, the Ponies will remain in Butte where they will defend their title at the Mining City Duals. To face the Panthers, the HHS varsity roster is set. But depending on how things look, or who they end up facing, the roster may change for the duals. Wrestling in the 112-pound weight class for the Ponies will be Duell Stadel, while the rest of the lineup will be made up by Zack Smith (119), Brett Normandy (125), Dillon Seely (130), Riley Harwood (135), Tyson Gruber (140), Eli Hinebauch (145), Kent Pattison (152), Kameron Pribyl (160), Casey Schaub (171), Josh Salapich (189), Jared Ruttkofsky (215) and Mitch Schnittgen (285). HHS isn’t quite as deep this season, and will have to give up forfeit wins at 98 and 105 pounds. It’s not an ideal situation, but for now the Ponies will have to manage. “That’s going to cost us,” Havre High head coach Scott Filius said. “We are giving away 12 points in a dual to start with. But the kids we do have are pretty competitive so we will be alright.” Last time the Ponies and Panthers met was at last season's Class A Duals. And though the Ponies captured the win, they know it isn’t going to be effortless. This year's Belgrade team is sort of a mystery, but the Panthers are already talked about as possibly being in the mix of the top 10 teams in the state, especially after finishing second at state a year ago. “Traditionally we compete very good against them,” Filius said. “And I would expect that to continue. I don’t know when the last time we lost a dual in the Central A was, but it’s been several years. Belgrade has been up and coming the past few years and they will probably be as good as they have ever been. We will see.” Little is known about who all the Panthers have on the roster this season. But including Tucker Taylor, year in and year out they have state caliber wrestlers. Taylor is the reigning state champion at 152 pounds, and getting the opportunity to face him is the Ponies' reigning 140-pound state champion Pattison. Tonight’s matchup is a significant test for Pattison and the Ponies as a whole. It will be a statement dual, and will give them a clear view of where they are as a team as well as a good indication on where their season is headed. “If we can handle Belgrade,” Filius said. “I presume we will represent ourselves very well in the duals.” The Mining City Duals house some of the top programs in the state. And though the Ponies will be going head -on with top Class AA schools, they have to like their chances of defending last year’s tournament championship. Last year the Ponies defeated Billings Skyview 39-36 in the championship dual. It was the Ponies third tournament championship, and their first since 2006. They also won it all in 2004, and are looking to do the same this time around. But just like the Belgrade dual, it’s not going to be easy. The duals will house some stiff competition, including Anaconda, Dillon, Billings Senior, Kalispell, Billings West, Columbia Falls, Huntley Project, Skyview, Sidney, Helena High, Missoula Sentinel, Great Falls, Helena Capital, Polson, Corvallis, Conrad, Butte, Whitefish, Ronan, Bozeman, Glacier, Hardin and CMR. “There will be a really good smattering of Class AA schools and top Class A schools in the state,” Filius said. “It’s always a fun one.” But the bigger the competition, the less likely the Ponies are of overcoming their holes in the lineup. Finding a way not to give up points at 98 and 105 is a must, and if it all possible the Ponies will do some rearranging before Friday. “It’s a size and numbers game that they are able to play a little bit better than we are,” Filius said. “But it’s nice when our quality matches up with theirs. It means we are doing something right.” Kalispell Flathead is going to really push HHS for the championship this weekend, and after finishing second last year, Billings Skyview is going to be tough to beat as well. Great Falls, Bozeman and Billings senior will also be tough to beat after they all finished near the top at the Class AA state tournament last year. But staying optimistic, the Ponies like their name in the mix as well. They have the talent and should match up very nicely this weekend. “I am excited to see where our kids stack up,” Filius said. “If we can go down there and compete with some of the top teams in the state, then we know we are on the right track. Then we can start fine tuning and getting ready for the big tournaments that are coming.” Tonight the Ponies will dual the Panthers on the road in Butte. And staying in Butte, the Ponies will also attend the Mining City Duals.