The Montana State University-Northern wrestling team wasn't at full strength for its biggest dual of the season thus. And while it may or may not have mattered the Lights came up just shy on the mat Tuesday night in Great Falls.
The No. 7 Lights made the short trip to Great Falls to battle the fifth-ranked University of Great Falls in an NAIA rivalry dual. And in keeping with the tradition of the rivalry — the dual was ultra-close with the Argos earning a 23-16 win.
"It didn't start out well for us," Northern Thivierge said. "Right off the bat we lose a match by one point, and then we gave up a pin early as well. Bonus points were a big difference in the match and they (Argos) got them and we didn't."
The Lights had to close the gap late with three wins in the upper weights, but it wasn't enough. At 174 pounds, Max Payne earned a 10-3 win over Shaun Lau, then Kody Reed beat Brock Picard at 184, 5-1. Northern senior Evan Hinebauch, who is ranked No. 1 at 184, moved back up to 197 and did all he could to help Northern's chances with a pin of UGF's Levi Morgan in 6:41. Hinebauch's victory gave the Lights a chance, but UGF heavyweight Sears Tiernan, ranked eighth in the NAIA, earned a hard-fought 5-3 decision over Northern freshman Nick King to close the dual.
And the end of the dual and the beginning were tough spots for the Lights. Northern's Riley Miller lost a heartbreaking 7-6 decision to Holden Gagner at 125 and Garrett Tennant was pinned by former Havre High star Myles Mazurkiewicz at 141. Mazurkiewicz pinned Tennant in the third period, in what was a well-wrestled match by both former Class A standouts. It was UGF's only pin of the night and it was a huge difference in the match.
Sandwiched in between the two early losses was perhaps the most exciting match of the night. MSU-N's Cameron Neiss, wrestling in only his second match of the year, edged UGF's Scott Schlosser, 2-1 at 133 pounds. Neiss, ranked fourth at 133, had been injured most of the season, but he grabbed a huge win for the Lights on Tuesday night.
"Cam wrestled well," Thivierge said. "That match got us right back in the dual."
But with Mazurkiewicz's pin, the Argos put some daylight between them and the Lights. Third-ranked Anthony Weerheim was upset by UGF's Mike Vasser at 149, Mike Hader then beat Northern's James Petersen at 157 and UGF's Noah Hatton edged Mickey Cheff, who moved up to 165 for the injured Ethan Hinebauch. Those matches gave UGF enough of a cushion for Tiernan's win to make the final difference.
"We just weren't at our best tonight," Thivierge said. "We weren't aggressive, we didn't take the fight to them often enough and they took advantage of it. We'll just have to work hard and get things back in the right direction. And we will."
The Lights will get another shot at the Argos when they host UGF in early February. Northern will close out the month of December on Dec. 18 when the Lights travel to the Reno Tournament of Champions.
UGF 23, MSU-Northern 16
125 — Holden Gagner (UGF) dec. Riley Miller 7-6; 133 — Cameron Neiss (MSU-N) dec. Scott Schlosser 2-1; 141 — Myles Mazurkiewicz (UGF) pinned Garrett Tennant 5:20; 149 — Mike Vassar (UGF) dec. Anthony Weerheim 10-2; 157 — Michael Hader (UGF) dec. James Petersen 21-10; 165 — Noah Hatton (UGF) dec. Mickey Cheff 12-8; 174 — Max Payne(MSU-N) dec. Shawn Lau 10-3; 184 — Kody Reed (MSU-N) dec. Brock Picard 5-1; 197 — Evan Hinebauch (MSU-N) pinned Levi Morgan 6:41; 285 — Sears Tiernan (UGF) dec. Nick King 5-3.