Daniel Horton Havre Daily News email@example.com
In preparation for the start of a new wresting season, the Class A Havre High Blue Pony wrestling team has been really hitting the mats hard. And because preseason workouts may often grow tiresome, the Central A Ponies are more than excited to fi- nally get the season underway Friday and Saturday with the Havre Invitational. “It will be nice to wrestle somebody else,” Havre High head coach Scott Filius said. “We have been beating up on ourselves for a couple of weeks and we are ready to get out there.” And with the teams making the trip to the Havre High gymnasium this weekend, there will be no shortage of competition. Malta, Chinook, Lewistown, Chester/J-I, Big Sandy, Shelby, Cut Bank and Browning will be in attendance this weekend, and will all bring some very talented wrestlers. The Lewistown Golden Eagles and Chinook Sugarbeeters both house extremely talented individual wrestlers. And they should push the Ponies more than anybody this weekend. And returning for the Class C Beeters will be Robert Stroh, Ben Stroh and Willie Miller. Last year, Miller finished No. 3 at state in the 145-pound weight class, while Robert Stroh was champion in 152 and Ben Stroh was champion in 160. “They (Chinook and Lewistown) are probably going to be the two strongest teams we see,” Filius said. “And they have as good of wrestlers we will see anywhere.” All of the HHS wrestlers are going to get two matches. And with no team scores being kept, Filius will also be using the Invite as a wrestle-off to see who holds the varsity spots. As of now, there will be nobody wrestling at the 98 and 105 weight classes. But Duel Stadel and Gilbert Bara will wrestle at 112, Zack Smith and Alex Greytack will wrestle at 119, Brett Normandy and Dustin Seely will wrestle at 125, Dillon Seely and Mathew Emge will wrestle at 130, Riley LaBuda and Riley Harwood will wrestle at 135, Tyson Gruber and Isaac Nault will wrestle at 140, Eli Hinebauch and Michael Halling will wrestle at 145, Kent Pattison and Grant Pattison will wrestle at 152, Kameron Pribyl and Pat Kinnburt will wrestle at 160, Casey Schaub will wrestle at 171, Josh Salipich will wrestle at 189, Jared Ruttofsky and Kolton Lodge will wrestle at 215 and Mitch Schnittgen will wrestle at heavyweight. “All we are after at this point is getting in matches and seeing what we need to work on,” Filius said. “You feel like an all-star in your own room until you go out and compete and find out what you have to work on. That’s where you have to start every year.” Opening weekend is going to be a good test for the Ponies. They will see how they match up against top state talent, and will finalize the varsity roster with the wrestle-offs. But overall, it will be the beginning of what will hopefully turn out to be the march towards Blue Ponies' fourth straight Class A state championship. And though they lost nine athletes to graduation, and numbers are down, they should have the personnel to fill the holes. It wont be easy, Havre wrestling always runs deep and HHS starts the season as the top-ranked team in Class A. Missing from this year’s roster is 135-pound state champion Myles Mazurkiewicz, 160-pound state champion Ethan Hinebauch and 112-pound state champion Chris Recio. Also missing is Phillip Sutherland who placed third (171), Aaron Olson who placed second (145), Paul Jensen who placed sixth (215) and Curtis Shandorf who placed fifth two years ago. Layne Waid who finished No. 6 at 135 pounds will also be missing after choosing not to wrestle. “We are little thin,” Filius said. “Our numbers are down compared to the last several years. And the class that graduated last year was a big and tough class. They are going to be tough to replace.” State champions, Schnittgen (HWT) and Kent Pattison (140) lead the group of returning wrestlers. But the Ponies also bring back Eli Hinebauch who placed No. 2 at 130 pounds, Stadel who placed No. 3 at 105 pounds, Normandy who placed third at 119 and Schaub who placed third at 152 pounds. With a solid returning group, the Ponies are in good position to bring home their fourth straight state championship. Like usual, they have put in adequate work during the offseason, and attended several different camps through the summer and fall. Seniors like Pattison and Schnittgen have also grown accustom to success at the state level. And with them leading another strong class, the Ponies chances are always high, no matter who they lost to graduation. “I would expect that we would be in the hunt,” Filius said. “We go in every year to win, and it’s been nice, we’ve achieved our goal the last three years. With this group of seniors, they have stepped on the mat and they have won as a team at the state level so I would assume their goal would be to repeat again.” The chances are high for the Ponies, but compared to last year it’s going to take a little more work to bring home another state championship. The Belgrade Panthers will be a tough competitor this year. They finished second at state last year, and bring back the majority of their kids. They have what it takes to push the Ponies for a state title. But overall, the Ponies losing talented wrestlers isn’t a rare occurrence. As a powerhouse program with deep roots, the loss of state champions is something they must overcome with each new year. And though finding their way to state dominance won’t be as easy this time around, it should never be ruled out. “The kids we have are working extremely hard,” Filius said. “I am really pleased with the kids so far. I am really excited about this year. Last year. We knew we had it won. That is always a good position to work yourself into, but it really isn’t as rewarding. I think this year we are going to have a lot more fun.” The Ponies start defense of their state championship Friday and Saturday with their own invitational. Friday's session will start at 1 p.m. and Saturday's session will begin at 9 a.m. All of the action will take place at the HHS gymnasium.