Six years is a long time any way you look at it. But when you haven’t beaten your biggest rival on the wrestling mat in such a span, six years must feel like an eternity.
day night at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse, the Montana State University-Northern Lights finally put the last six years to rest as they upended the fourth-ranked Great Falls Argos 21-18 in a thrilling NAIA showdown.
Northern last beat Great Falls in a dual in December of 2006, though the Lights forged a 24-24 tie back in November of 2010 in Havre. The Lights were narrowly beaten by the Argos, 21-16 in an intense dual back in December in Great Falls, and they finally pushed over the hump thanks to four straight wins by MSU-N underclassmen.
“This was a fun night,” Northern head coach Tyson Thivierge said. “I couldn’t be happier for our guys. As coaches, we didn’t really do anything, we just have the privilege of watching these guys go out and compete. And both teams went at it tonight, and it was an honor to watch our guys step up to the challenge.
“UGF is a great team. Caleb (Schaeffer) has done a phenomenal job with that program, and we’ve kind of taken a back seat to them over the last few years,” he added. “We have all the respect in the world for their program and what they’ve achieved. But we talked to our guys about believing they can compete with UGF, believing each one of them can go out and win, and tonight, they carried that into their matches. It was a great night, it was a lot of fun and I’m really happy for these guys.”
Northern also sent its seniors out in style on senior night.
Though former Havre Blue Ponies Evan Hinebauch and Beau LaSalle lost tough decisions in their last-ever matches in Havre, senior Anthony Weerheim got the Lights on the board with a hard-fought, 8-2 decision over another Pony great, Myles Mazurkiewicz. Weerheim recently dropped from 149 pounds to 141 and his win helped the Lights avoid falling too far behind as UGF jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead after Danny Luttrell tech-falled Riley Miller at 125 pounds and 12th-ranked Luke Schlosser edged Cameron Neiss at 133.
“I was more nervous for this dual, for this match then I have been all year,” Weerheim said. “It’s my last ever match at home and I’ve never lost here. And I’m wrestling Myles, who is a really tough kid and it’s his home town and everything. So I was really nervous. But I just tried to get the lead early and build on it. Myles is really tough once he gets on top of you, so my plan was to go for takedowns early, and build a lead, and thankfully, I was able to do that.
“We built a lot of momentum with those four wins a row, but Anthony Weerheim was the one who really got us going,” Thivierge added. “Myles is a stud, a great wrestler, and I hated to see him hurt out there (Mazurkiewicz clearly injured an ankle or leg during the match). But we were in an early hole and Anthony’s match was one we had to have and he went out and wrestled a really smart match. He stayed within himself and just really stepped up.”
UGF came right back with Mike Vasser’s 10-4 decision over LaSalle — and that’s when redshirt-freshman Mickey Cheff changed the complexion of the dual.
Cheff, who hasn’t been ranked at 157 pounds all season, battled ninth-ranked Mike Hader deep into the third period. With the match tied at 4-4, Cheff got a reversal to take the lead, then wrenched Hader onto his back and got a pin with just a little over a minute left in the match. The win brought a huge roar from the biggest Northern crowd of the season, but perhaps more importantly, it gave the Lights the momentum they needed to pull off the upset.
“There’s ebbs and flows in every match and every dual,” Thivierge said. “And I just think Mickey did a great job of not panicking, of not rushing things. He kept on wrestling and when he got his opening he took it. He really gave us a huge lift with those bonus points and those are the differences in duals between us and UGF. But for a young guy like Mickey to wrestle a great match like that, it’s very impressive.”
And the Lights were just getting started.
At 165 pounds, Ethan Hinebauch wasted little time in dispatching 10th-ranked Noah Hatton. Down 2-0 just a minute into the match, Hinebauch powered Hatton to the mat and never let him up. The back-to-back pins gave the Lights their first lead at 15-11 and they never let the Argos come back.
At 174 pounds, Jared Miller wrestled a classic against Shaun Lau. The duo went into the third period scoreless before Miller earned two escapes in the final two minutes to pull off a 2-0 decision.
Kody Reed then came in with the clincher.
Reed took on former Polson great Brock Picard in another thriller, and perhaps Northern’s most important victory up to this point in the season. Picard took a 7-4 lead deep into the second period, but Reed made a swift move and earned a 3-point near fall just before the buzzer to knot things up. In the third, Reed picked up an escape and a takedown and was ahead on riding team before eventually winning 11-9 and putting the Lights ahead 21-11.
“I didn’t wrestle well at all early in the match. I just wasn’t smart at all,” Reed said. “Our guys had done such a great job of getting things rolling and I almost let it slip away by digging that huge hole.
“But fortunately, I was able to dig deep and make a comeback,” he added. “It wasn't pretty, but a win is a win and I’m glad I was able to come back and help out our team. This dual was a huge boost for our confidence, and I’m really happy for our seniors because they have never beaten UGF. Coach just told us we had to go out tonight and show a lot of heart and a lot of determination and I think these guys did that. It was a dogfight and this a great win for us.”
UGF won the last two matches, including a 197-pound war between third-ranked Kameron Jackson and Evan Hinebauch, who’s ranked second at 184. Hinebauch gave up plenty of weight and appeared to be hampered a bit by injury, but he never quit. The two went into double overtime before Jackson finally took the lead on an escape, and Hinebauch couldn’t counter. It was a tough way for the warrior Hinebauch to end his Havre career, but his biggest goals are still in front of him.
“Evan was courageous tonight,” Reed said. “He was injured out there and he showed why he’s one of the toughest wrestlers I’ve ever seen. I really look up to Evan and I’ve learned so much from him the last few years. So my hat’s off to him for moving up and battling tonight the way he did.”
Despite a few hiccups, it was a night in which the Lights can be proud of. It was a victory the program needed and desperately wanted, and through tremendous heart and some great execution, the Lights got the win and the springboard into the postseason that Thivierge was hoping for.
“Just very proud of guys like Mickey and Jared and Ethan, Kody Reed, Beau LaSalle, Evan, Anthony Weerheim, all our guys really,” Thivierge said. “They all really stepped up and didn’t back down from a great UGF team and that’s what we needed to do. This is a win this program was striving for and I think it gives us a lot of momentum going forward. I also think it’s only going to intensify the rivalry. UGF is going to want to get this back and I would like to see us go on a run with it. So it’s only going to make it that much more exciting.
“It’s awesome, it’s a great feeling,” Weerheim added. “We’ve wanted this for a long time. We’ve worked hard for it. Hats off to the young guys. They really stepped up. Those pins at 157 and 165 were huge. But yes, this is a great win for us and it feels awesome to do it in our last home dual of the year.”
What a Night!
Lights 21, Argos 18
125 – Danny Luttrell, UGF tech. fall Riley Miller, MSU-N, 18-1; 133 – Scott Schlosser, UGF dec. Cameron Neiss, MSU-N, 7-3; 141 – Anthony Weerheim, MSU-N dec. Myles Mazurkiewicz, UGF, 8-2; 149 – Mike Vasser, UGF dec. Beau LaSalle, MSU-N, 8-2; 157 – Mickey Cheff, MSU-N pinned Michael Hader, UGF, 5:49; 165 – Ethan Hinebauch, MSU-N pinned Noah Hatton, UGF, 1:33; 174 – Jared Miller, MSU-N dec. Shaun Lau, UGF, 2-0; 184 – Kody Reed, MSU-N dec. Brock Picard, UGF, 11-9; Kameron Jackson, UGF dec. Evan Hinebauch, MSU-N 2-1 in 2 OT; HWT – Sears Tiernan, UGF dec. Nick King, MSU-N, 14-3.