With the season just getting under way one week ago, the Havre High wrestling team is already preparing for one of the toughest tournaments in the state.
Last week the defending state champion Blue Ponies started their season with the Havre Invitational at the Havre High gymnasium. But heading into another weekend filled with competition, the Central A Ponies will face the state’s toughest Class Aa, A and B-C talent at in Butte.
Friday and Saturday the Ponies will attend the annual Mining City Duals in Butte.
“This is huge,” Havre High head coach Scott Filius said. “And the good thing is everybody gets seven matches. In other tournaments your low end guys might just get two matches, but here everybody gets seven and it’s a real growing weekend for us.”
Last year the Ponies finished in the No. 2 spot, losing to Kalispell Flathead 35-34 in the championship dual. And two years ago the Ponies earned the No. 1 spot.
With schools such as Kalispell Flathead, Kalispell Glacier, Great Falls, Butte, Missoula Sentinel, Billings Skyview, Bozeman, Helena Capital, Hardin, Huntley Project, Dillon, Whitefish, Corvallis, Conrad, Ronan, Sidney, CMR, Billings West, Polson and Billings Senior all in attendance, the to-ranked Pony grapplers will face the state’s toughest talent for two straight days.
And none of the Ponies’ conference opponents will make the trip to Butte this weekend, but the Ponies are looking forward to facing the Class AA squads they will run into.
“I always like wrestling the best AA schools because you only get to see those guys a couple of times,” Filius said. “But we are just looking to get better ourselves.”
The Blue Pony lineup isn’t 100 percent set just yet, but getting the nod this weekend will be Nate Kennelly (105), Gilbert Bara (112), Duell Stadel (119), Thomas Gruber (125), Zack Smith (130), Dillon Seely (135), David Borris (140), Eli Hinebauch (152), Kameron Pribyl (160), Casey Schaub (171), Jared Ruttkofsky (189), Josh Salapich (215) and Tyler Adams (HWT).
The Ponies don’t have a wrestler at 98 pounds, and it’s still a toss up between Zack Plum and Grant Pattison at 145 pounds.
With the season still young, Filius is still really focusing on some individual wrestler. And with the tough competition ahead of them, Filius is curious to see how Seely, Smith and Gruber progress this weekend. Their ability to keep improving everyday and to just compete hard when they might be up against a wall will really be a huge step for the program.
“Right now we are getting really good production out of the middle of our lineup and I would like to see that continue,” Filius said.
Wrestling at home last weekend, the Ponies looked good. But as all teams do, they still had some work to do before they can become state contenders. And using the last week of practice to really take some positive steps, the Ponies are really looking to compete this weekend.
“A big part of what we had to change was wrestling hard the entire match,” Filius said. “A lot of that is attitude and you can take care of some of that at practice, but some of that you can only take care of with competition. Hopefully we are going to improve this weekend and take another step in the right direction. We will do well, we would like to at least scare somebody anyway.”
The Ponies were also scheduled to compete at the Butte Central Match-Up today, but will just wrestle their junior varsity grapplers instead. Normally the Ponies would dual Belgrade, but the Panthers will be at another tournament.
The Ponies junior varsity will see other junior varsity talent from Butte, Anaconda, Livingston and Belgrade.
Friday and Saturday the Ponies will be in Butte where they will make a run at another top finish at the Mining City Duals.