The wait is finally over, as the Havre High Blue Pony wrestling team has started the new season.
Friday and Saturday, the Central A Blue Ponies hosted their annual Havre Invitational at the Havre High gymnasium. And with 14 teams in attendance, filling the gym on three mats, the Ponies got off to a great start. HHS finished as the No. 2 team with 277.5 points. Class AA Great Falls High was the No. 1 team with 313 and CMR finished third with 200.5.
Libby finished No. 4 with 169 points, while Lewistown finished No. 5 with 117, Glasgow finished No. 6 with 92, Fort Benton finished No. 7 with 90, Chinook finished No. 8 with 76, Butte Central finished No. 9 with 69, Cut Bank finished No. 10 with 63.5; Browning finished No. 11 with 61, Malta finished No. 12 with 57.5, Chester/J-I finished No. 13 with 44 and Big Sandy finished No. 14 with 18.
“In years past we had kind of a big invite.],” Havre High head coach Scott Filius said. “But it got smaller and now we have big again and that was nice. This year we had 170 kids and a lot of quality kids, and that makes it a lot of fun. I was really pleased with the quality of the tournament. And we got lots of matches. We had several kids get eight matches and a lot of them got seven. That is what we need right now, matches and time on the mat.”
And with all the matches, came a lot of good success for the Ponies.
HHS grabbed the majority of their points earning two No. 1 finishers, three No. 2 finishers and four No. 3 finishers. Eli Hinebauch (152) went 4-0 and Kameron Pribyl (160) went 3-0, and both grabbed individual championships. And Grayson Brenna (98), Dylan Stewart (105), and Casey Schaub (189) only lost one match, those losses coming in the championships, earning them No. 2 finishes. Thomas Gruber (130), Matt Emge (135), Dillon Seely (145) and Tyler Adams (215) all earned No. 3 finishes for the Ponies.
But the Ponies also got two No. 4 finishes and three No. 6 finishes. Nate Kennelly (112) and Grant Pattison (171) finished fourth for the Ponies and Dustin Seely (119), Jordan Schroeder (145) and Dustin Odegard (215) all finished in sixth place.
“I expect those kids to beat the kids they are capable of beating and they did that,” Filius said. “You are never satisfied, at least if you are being honest. But you have to weigh the good with the bad and overall we are right where I thought we would be. We have some young kids that need more experience and time, and we are getting that, so if we don’t focus on what we don’t have and do focus on what we do have, we feel pretty good.
“I was really pleased with Casey Schaub,” Filius added. “He performed really well. Yeah in the end he got pinned, but there is no crime in that. All of those matches where you get thumped on make you better, you have to learn something, so the more times you can hook it up the better you will get.”
Schaub looked very impressive in all of his matches. He had a first round bye, but took the mat and pinned Dustin Fisher of CMR (:54) in the quarterfinals and them pinned Austin Reichelt of Fort Benton (1:28) in the semifinals. In the championship Schaub ran into Ben Stroh of Chinook and was pinned in 1:40 by the Division 1 wrestling prospect.
Hinebauch and Pribyl did what they were expected to do with the No. 1 finishes. They are two of the more experienced wrestlers for the Ponies, and got off to a hot start already. But even with the early success, veteran leader Hinebauch knows his Ponies till have some work to do.
“It is always good to start the season with a win,” Hinebauch said. “And for the most part the team wrestled well, but there are a few areas to touch up and we are a work in progress. Mostly we just need to get in shape, work a little harder and work on technique and we will be good. But this was a very good starting point for us.”
Coach Filius also saw some areas that need work early. Filius said the Ponies need to work on their mat awareness. Filius said they got scored on near the edge, and didn’t scramble when they really needed to in some matches. He also saw some lethargic moments, but knows that can be managed moving forward.
“In our room it is always go, go, go,” Filius said. “And that needs to translate to the mat better.”
Coming into the tournament Filius liked what he was seeing from Gruber, and Gruber wrestled well on route to a No. 3 finish. Gruber earned a 24-9 technical fall in the first round, and pinned Chinooks Geoff Qualls (3:08) in the second. In the quarterfinals Gruber lost 9-4 to Riley DeBrucker of Fort Benton, leaving Gruber disappointed as he defeated DeBrucker on Friday. But Gruber battled back through the consolation bracket and defeated Jake Tri of CMR 4-3 to take third place.
“I thought I did ok.” Gruber said. “I think I wrestled tough and I hope I can keep doing that this season. I need to get a little more technique under my belt when I am on top, but that is something for me to work on. Coach always tells us that the more matches we wrestle the better we get, so that is what I am looking for this season, and I hope it works out.”
But overall, Gruber was also pleased with how the team performed. HHS had 14 kids place in the top six, and also got a lot of younger kids vital wrestling experience against great talent. Gunnar Aageson (130), Kyle Gooch (140), Robbie Mooney (140), David Borris (152), Keenan Bibeau (160), Jake Williams (171), Keenan Blackbird 9171) and Jace Billy (171) also wrestled this weekend and didn’t place, but did get good experience to start a new season.
“We looked good.” Gruber said. “There were a few matches we should have won that we lost, but so far everybody looked pretty good I thought.”
The Ponies travel to Butte for the Mining City Duals Friday and Saturday.