If there is any program that practices the true definition of reloading, and not rebuilding, it is the Havre High wrestling program.
The Central A
Blue Ponies are known all across the state of Montana, as not only the best team in the Central A, but one of the best Class A teams in the entire state year-in-and-year-out. Last season the Ponies finished as the No. 3 team in the state, and two years ago the Ponies finished as the No. 2 team in the state. Four straight No. 1 finishes preceded the last two top finishes by the wrestling dynasty as well.
“We are excited,” Havre High head coach Scott Filius said. “As a group, we are just trying to get better every day. And if we approach it that way, then by the end of the season, the improvements will be apparent.”
This season the Ponies have just two seniors, but are loaded with deep and talented underclassmen.
Grant Pattison (189) and Gilbert Bara (135) are the two senior leaders and will look for top finishes at state this season. Last year, Pattison and Bara both finished fifth for the Ponies. But the Blue Ponies also bring in 11 new freshmen, as well as a slew of other sophomore and junior grapplers. Other key returning wrestlers include sophomores Grayson Brenna (105), Dylan Stewart (119), Jordan Schroeder (152), and juniors Thomas Gruber (130/135) and Tyler Adams (215). Brenna finished in second place at state last season, while Stewart was third, Gruber was fourth, and Adams was fifth. Schroeder did not place at state last season, but has improved immensely this summer and has shown a lot of good things early.
Other notable wrestlers include Gunnar Aageson, Jace Billy, Matt Emge, Dustin Odegard and Jake Williams.
“We have 11 new freshmen coming in,” Filius said. “And those freshmen add to the group of last year’s freshmen that were deep and talented. We are pretty thin with seniors, but the ones we do have are very good, so yeah, we are excited about the kids that we have. I haven’t got everybody filled in yet. We might have a little bit of an opening at 125 and 130 pounds, but other than that, we should be pretty full with competitive kids. I am very pleased with our depth this season.”
But while there is youth up and down the roster, it will be hard to point out any inexperience.
Most of the Pony grapplers have come up through the ranks of the very successful local youth wrestling program. And the only way to get better is to face tough competition, exactly what the Ponies will do this season with one of the tougher schedules in the state. They face some of the state’s best wrestlers nearly every weekend, and the competitive meets and duals should be enough to give the Ponies the edge over the rest of the Central A in Belgrade, Lewistown, Livingston and Browning.
HHS will open up the season with its annual Havre Invite on Friday and Saturday, but things don’t even begin to slow down after this weekend.
The Ponies will also travel to other notable tournaments in December like the Mining City Duals in Butte and CMR Holiday Classic in Great Falls. Beyond that, the Ponies will also compete at the Cut Bank Invite, the Missoula Invite, and the always-tough Class A Duals.
The Ponies’ other tough outings include traveling to Lewistown, Big Sandy and Malta. HHS will also host CMR, Conrad and Forsyth this season before making another strong appearance at the Class A state tournament on February 8 and 9 in Billings.
“A lot of these kids have grown up watching tournaments like the Rocky Mountain tournament and the Great Falls tournament,” Filius said. “But now it is their turn to participate. We are excited for this season and for the schedule we have, and we have a lot of kids that have put in a lot of time wrestling, and that makes it fun.
“We have spent a lot of time with this group of kids the last four or five years,” Filius added. “And their technique is sound. We have traveled to Denver, Colo., multiple times with a lot of them, as well as Iowa, so we have put in a lot of miles with this crew, and as a group, everybody has good technique right now.”
With a lot of youth, but also with a lot of depth and skill, the Ponies are looking to have another standout season. They will get a true test this weekend at the Havre High gymnasium but will also be tested all season long. HHS will look to get off to a hot start on Friday and Saturday with the annual Havre Invite that is expected to bring in around 14 teams this year.