It’s cold outside. Below zero temperatures are arriving in Havre, just as it should be this time of year. But inside a couple of gyms around town, things are hotter than ever.
Wrestling season is in full swing, both at Havre High School and at MSU-Northern. And if you haven’t noticed, both the Lights and Blue Ponies are pretty darn good this season.
Northern, under the direction of head coach Tyson Thivierge, has really been impressive in the last few weeks. The Lights took on two perennial NAIA powerhouses in UGF and Southern Oregon in back-to-back weeks and came away with an impressive split.
The Lights seem to have a flare for the dramatic this season, as they erased a huge deficit to beat arch rival Great Falls two weeks ago in Havre. And on the road last weekend, Northern nearly toppled second-ranked SOU, falling short in only the final two matches of the dual.
Individually, the Lights are young, talented and hungry. Northern has plenty of nationally ranked grapplers right now, including Ethan Hinebauch, who sits atop the 165-pound standings, as well as Max Payne and Kody Reed, who are both having monster junior seasons so far.
The young part is exciting too. The Lights have no seniors, only a few juniors, and with stars-in-waiting red-shirting this year, like former Havre Blue Pony Eli Hinebauch, Laurel’s Tommy Cooper, Chinook’s Jorrell Jones, Garrett DeMers and others, the Lights’ rosters is built for not only the present, but for the future as well.
And that’s what’s so impressive about what Thivierge has done.
Before he arrived, the Lights had dipped some as a program, especially after the departure of legendary head coach David Ray. When Thivierge, a former Lights’ great himself, arrived four years ago, fans expected him to get Northern wrestling back to where it belongs, and while it’s certainly been a process which takes patience, he’s doing just that.
The Lights are back in the national championship picture. Each year Thivierge has been here, they’ve gotten better and better, and this season is shaping up to be the best yet.
And while wrestling fans have plenty to get excited about from the Lights this season, the same can be said inside the wrestling room at Havre High.
The Blue Ponies have been a Class A powerhouse for seemingly ever, including winning four straight state titles from 2007-2010. And though HHS has been on the trophy stand for over a decade now, the Ponies have taken a back seat to Laurel and a couple of other programs the last two of seasons.
However, as this season reaches the holiday break, it looks more and more like the great Scott Filius has his Ponies right back in the front seat of the Class A bus.
The Ponies enter the break with an impressive string of results, including second-place finishes at both the Mining City Duals and the CMR Holiday Classic, as well as thrilling and close dual loss to the talented Great Falls High Bison.
Individually, Havre has been just as impressive, especially in the lower weights, where young wrestlers like Grayson Brenna, Keegan Kennelly and Logan Pleninger are scoring every time they step on the mat. Veteran grapplers like Dylan Stewart, as well as upper-weight stars Grant Pattison and Tyler Adams are also building for a state championship run, while in between, the Ponies are loaded with talent up and down their lineup.
And that’s what’s so impressive about high school wrestling in this town. I’ve had the pleasure of covering the Ponies for over 10 years now, and they’ve never had what I would call a “down year.” Whether it be team titles and great dual teams, or individuals like Jeff Hedges, Myles Mazurkiewicz, the Hinebauch trio, and so many more past and present greats, the Blue Pony logo is synonymous with wrestling success.
And the 2012-13 season appears to be no different as Havre High is picking up momentum with every match the Ponies wrestle.
So, with the Lights and Ponies both succeeding right now, it appears that the next few months are going to be as good as it gets on the mat. And with great coaches like Filius and Thivierge at the helm, it’s no wonder there’s so much good wrestling going on in Havre right now.
The Class A state tournament is less than two months away, and the NAIA national tournament isn’t much farther off than that. And with how the Lights and Ponies look right now, I can’t wait for both events to get here.
So it may be frosty outside during that time frame, but thanks to the Lights and Ponies, the wrestling is going to be a scorcher.