The Montana State University-Northern wrestling team has conducted two exhibition duals in the last five days. But now, the Lights are gearing up for the real thing.
Tonight, inside the wrestling room at the Armory Gymnasium, the Lights will officially open the 2012-13 season when they take on the always-tough North Idaho Cardinals at 7. Tonight is one of four home duals on the Lights’ schedule this season, and will be conducted in the wrestling room because men’s basketball will also be playing simultaneously in the gym.
MSU-N comes into tonight’s dual fresh off the Maroon/Gold Dual on Wednesday night. Several Lights in tonight’s lineup competed on Wednesday, while others were held out. But as the Lights got good preparation from the Alumni Dual and the intra-squad scrimmage, fourth-year head coach Tyson Thivierge said things will go up a few notches tonight.
“North Idaho is very good,” Thivierge said. “They are tough up and down their lineup and they have a bunch of kids back from last year. We’re going to have to wrestle really well to beat them.”
Northern’s lineup is bolstered by six nationally-ranked wrestlers, including Ethan Hinebauch at 165 pounds. The top-ranked Hinebauch will likely take on either Jake Mason or Jake Lindell tonight, but either way, he’ll be expected to anchor what is a solid group of Lights in the upper weights. And that starts with Mickey Cheff at 157 pounds. Cheff is coming off a great freshman campaign, but he will have his hands full tonight against NIC’s Ryan Zumwalt, who finished third at the NJCAA national tournament last spring.
Also ranked nationally for the Lights is Max Payne at 174 pounds and Kody Reed at 184. Reed, who didn’t wrestle on Wednesday as he’s Northern’s only 184-pounder, will have a big matchup tonight as he takes on Caleb Rivera, a returning NJCAA All-American from a year ago. But perhaps no match is bigger than the one Payne has at 174. He will be facing off against Kyle Swedman. The former Class A state champion from Libby placed second at the national tournament for the Cardinals last season, and is ranked No. 1 at that weight this season. At 197, Northern red-shirt freshman Toby Cheff will make his varsity debut for the Lights, while true freshman Tucker Erickson will man the heavyweight spot.
The Lights will start things off tonight with Havre’s Duell Stadell at 125 pounds, as he makes his Northern varisty debut. He could see action against either Blake Adams or Brock Banta. Northern will most likely forfeit the 133-pound spot tonight as Cameron Neiss has moved up to 141. Neiss will be taking on a returning All-American in Jarrett Morrill. At 149, standout red-shirt freshman Trevor Goss will start for the Lights.
“The guys are excited to get going,” Thivierge said. “But it’s going to be a tough dual. We’re going to have to wrestle much better than we did on Wednesday night. North Idaho is a very good team, they have some really good wrestlers and they are pretty much solid up and down their lineup. So we’re going to have come out hungry and ready to be aggressive. We have to take the action to them and control the circle.”
The Cardinals finished sixth at last year’s NJCAA national tournament and are ranked in the NJCAA Top 10 again this season. Northern starts the season ranked No. 12 in the NAIA. After tonight’s dual, NIC heads to Great Falls to take on UGF on Saturday afternoon. The Lights are back in action at Western Wyoming Nov. 1.
Tonight’s dual between the Lights and Cardinals begins at 7 in the wrestling room, which is located in the basement of the Armory Gymnasium.