When it comes to the wrestling mat, there’s no love lost between the Montana State University-Northern Lights and the University of Great Falls Argos. After all, the two teams are the only college wrestling programs left in Montana.
And after two spirited duals a year ago, the Lights and Argos are ready for more fireworks.
Tonight at 7 in Great Falls, the No. 5 Argos and No. 7 Lights renew their wrestling rivalry at McLaughlin Center in Great Falls. Tonight’s dual is the first of two this season, as the Lights will host the Argos in February.
Last year, the Lights pulled off a dramatic comeback in Havre to forge a tie with the Argos in one dual, while UGF edged Northern last February in Great Falls. Tonight’s dual should have similar results with close matches and key matchups determining the outcome.
“I think we’ve closed the gap on them (Argos) in the last few years,” Northern head coach Tyson Thivierge said. “I really see us as dead even right now, and this dual will come down to bonus points. Of course, momentum can go either way and we have to avoid it going against us. But overall, this dual should be close and it should be a tough, hard-fought dual with some specific matchups being the determining factor.”
The Lights have lost just one dual this season and are coming off an impressive Friday night win over Embry-Riddle. But Northern won’t be at full strength tonight. MSU-N lost 141-pound freshman Hunter Azure to his second knee injury in three years, and 165-pound, nationally-ranked Ethan Hinebauch is out for an unknown amount of time with an injury as well.
As a result, Thivierge sill juggle his lineup some tonight, inserting James Petersen in at 157 pounds and moving Mickey Cheff up to 165 pounds. Those will be crucial matches as Petersen battles Michael Hader, who ranked eighth for the Argos and Cheff takes on fourth-ranked Noah Hatton.
The Lights will kick off the dual with Riley Miller at 125 pounds, then big matches will go at 133-149. Cameron Neiss, ranked fourth is back for Northern and he’ll take on former Conrad standout Johnny Schlosser. At 141, Garrett Tennant steps up for Northern to battle former Havre Blue Pony Myles Mazurkiewicz, who’s ranked third. Mazurkiewicz’s teammate, Anthony Varnell is ranked first at 141, but the two-time former Blue Pony state champion will get the start against the Lights. At 149, third-ranked Anthony Weerheim will square off against eighth-ranked Mike Vasser.
Northern will look to get big points at the top end of the dual with either seventh-ranked Jared Miller or 11th-ranked Max Payne facing 12th-ranked Shawn Lau at 174 and Kody Reed battling Brock Picard at 184. Top-ranked Evan Hinebuach will move back up to 197 to face fourth-ranked Kameron Jackson and Nick King will face eighth-ranked Sears Tiernan in the heavyweight bout.
“I think their biggest strength is the middl
e, from 141 to 165,” Thivierge said. So those are big matches for us. It will be a good dual, they are tough in some of the same places we are and then there are areas where each team has an advantage. For us, it comes down to us wrestling well. We just need to wrestle like we’re capable of.”
Tonight’s dual starts at 7 at the McLaughlin Center in Great Falls. The match is preceded by a dual between Great Falls High and Bozeman High.
Note: Northern placed eight wrestlers at Saturday’s Battle of the Rockies in Great Falls. Evan Hinebauch was first at 184 pounds, while Kody Reed was third and Toby Cheff fourth. Kane Zetterberg was fourth at 133, Weerheim was second at 149, Mickey Cheff was fourth at 157, Miller was second at 174 and Payne was third at 174.