The NAIA national wrestling tournament is just around the corner. So it was important for the Montana State University-Northern wrestling team to put on a strong showing at the Western Regional.
For the most part, that’s exactly what the Lights did. Northern placed third in a loaded Western Regional tournament Saturday night in Ashland, Ore. The Lights finished just behind regional champion Southern Oregon and second-place Great Falls.
MSU-N advanced three grapplers into the regional finals with senior Anthony Weerheim winning the talented 141-pound weight class. The 141-pound division in the West is chalked full of the best wrestlers at that weight in the NAIA, and Weerheim knocked off defending NAIA champion Anthony Varnell of Great Falls in the championship match. Weerheim beat Varnell 5-3 in overtime, in what was the first-ever meeting between the two stars. Weerheim also beat former Havre Blue Pony Myles Mazurkiewicz 10-3 in the semifinals Saturday. Mazurkiewicz battled back to place third, beating another great 141-pounder, SOU’s Kyle Wikurty in the consolation match.
Also reaching the finals for Northern was Mickey Cheff, who placed second at 157 pounds, and Jared Miller, who took second at 174. Both Cheff and miller lost to SOU grapplers in the finals.
Also at 174, Northern’s Max Payne went 2-1 to finish third, while Kody Reed placed third at 184, going 1-1 on the day. Northern senior Evan Hinebauch sat out the regional tourney with a minor injury.
At 133 pounds, the Lights got a great performance from sophomore Cameron Neiss. After losing in the first round, Neiss won four matches in a row, including a major decision over UGF rival Scott Schlosser in the consolation match. At 165 pounds, Ethan Hinebauch placed fourth, losing to two different SOU wrestlers in the process. At 149, former Pony Beau LaSalle went 1-2 and placed fifth, while James Petersen went 0-2. Nick King went 0-2 for the Lights at heavyweight, while Riley Miller went 0-3 at 125 pounds.
The Lights will send 11 wrestlers into the NAIA national tournament, which runs March 1-3 in Des Moines, Iowa.