Sports rivalries can go many different ways. Sometimes they’re heated, with bad blood on both sides of coin, and sometimes, they are just a lot of fun for everybody involved.
In the case of the rivalry between the Montana State University-Northern wrestling team and the University of Great Falls Argos – it’s a little bit of both.
But whether the rivalry is unfriendly or just plain fun, it’s always intense because the Lights and Argos are the only two collegiate wrestling programs, and there’s always a lot at stake when they go head-to-head on the mat.
And for the first
time this season, the No. 7 Lights and No. 6 Argos will do just that when they meet tonight at the Armory Gymnasium in Havre. The dual between the two NAIA powers is set to begin at 7.
“Regardless of rankings and experience, this dual brings out the best in both teams,” Northern head coach Tyson Thivierge said. “Like last year, and every other time, bonus points are going to be important. It’s an exciting dual and our guys are excited.”
Last year, as in just last February, the Lights got the final say in the series as Northern upended the Argos 21-18 in Havre. It was by far one of the most heated and intense duals in the rivalry, much like in the 2010-11 season when MSU-N and UGF fought to a tie on the mat in Havre.
But as close as the last two meetings between the Lights and Argos have been in Havre, tonight’s battle could be even more interesting. Both teams come into the dual with rosters chalked full of nationally-ranked grapplers. Both teams are ranked high in the NAIA, and both squads just put up a great showing at the Battle of the Rockies last weekend in Great Falls, where neither the Lights, nor the Argos lost a dual, and the two teams combined to place 27 wrestlers in the tournament portion of the event.
The Lights will likely send out seven nationally-ranked wrestlers tonight, while UGF head coach Caleb Schaeffer, a former national champion at MSU-Northern, will bring eight ranked grapplers to Havre. And that means five matches will likely feature ranked wrestlers going head-to-head tonight, with 11 wrestlers who have won high school state championships in Montana. So the stakes couldn’t get any higher.
“With regards to this dual, we just need to go out and do our jobs at each weight, that’s really all you can do,” Thivierge said.
There are big matches all over the mat tonight, but one of the biggest will be at 141 pounds where a healthy Hunter Azure will battle UGF’s Myles Mazurkiewicz. Azure is ranked seventh, while Mazurkiewicz, a former Havre Blue Pony great comes to Havre for the final time in his brilliant UGF career as the top-ranked 141-pounder in the NAIA.
And while the dual is intense regardless of rankings and names in the lineup, it’s rare to see this much firepower in one matchup. But that’s exactly what fans will be treated to tonight, because Mazurkiewicz is one of two top-ranked wrestlers in tonight’s battle. Northern’s Ethan Hinebauch is having a monster season for the Lights and is ranked No. 1 at 165 pounds. Hinebauch has yet to lose to an NAIA opponent this season, and he’ll take another former Montana high school state champion in UGF’s Shaun Lau, who’s ranked seventh in the NAIA.
The dual will also start with a critical meeting between Northern’s Duell Stadel, yet another former Blue Pony great, and UGF’s Danny Luttrell at 125 pounds. Luttrell is ranked seventh, and though Stadel is un-ranked, he’s coming off his best weekend of his brief career, having went 6-2 last weekend in Great Falls. Luttrell did have to forfeit to Stadel last weekend in Great Falls due to an injury but he should be good to go tonight.
Other head-to-head matchups involving ranked wrestlers tonight include, Northern’s Mickey Cheff, ranked 10th taking on fourth-ranked Ryan Leonard at 157 pounds, and MSU-N’s Toby Cheff, ranked No. 12 at 197 battling UGF’s Dylan Lemery, ranked No. 15.
The remainder of tonight’s critical matches will pit MSU-N’s Cameron Neiss, ranked No. 11 against UGF’s Eric Bergerson at 133 pounds, Northern’s Trevor Goss against sixth-ranked Mike Vasser at 149 pounds and MSU-N’s Max Payne, ranked fifth taking on another former Montana state champion in UGF’s Brock Picard at 174. In two big matches in the upper weights, Northern’s third-ranked Kody Reed will face off against UGF’s Adam Wolfe, while true freshman heavyweight Tucker Erickson goes up against UGF’s sixth-ranked Siers Tiernan.
“We just have to go out and impose our will on them, that's all I can say,” Thivierge said. “They (Argos) are a tough squad and this match is going to make for an interesting night.”
Tonight’s dual between the Lights and Argos will begin at 7 in the Armory Gymnasium. The two teams will meet again Feb. 6 in Great Falls.
The Battle for
No. 7 MSU-Northern
No. 6 UGF
Tonight at 7 p.m.
Mat Facts: MSU-N and UGF split their two duals last season, with each team winning on its home mat. The Lights have seven nationally-ranked wrestlers, while UGF has a total of eight. There are three former Havre High state champions in tonight's dual, in MSU-N's Ethan Hinebauch and Duell Stadel, as well as UGF's Myles Mazurkiewicz.