Havre High has gone two years without a state championship in wrestling. For some, that may seem like it’s not all that long. But for the Blue Ponies, who have been the premier program in Class A over the last eight years, it might feel like an eternity.
However, a younger-than-usual Blue Pony squad heads to Billings this weekend on a mission to change all of that.
Last year, the Ponies placed third at the state tournament, and two years ago the Ponies finished in second place. Before that, HHS captured four straight state titles, and the Ponies are on a run of nine consecutive years of earning a state trophy on the mat. And that’s something which won’t change this weekend as Havre is certainly one of the elite teams in the field.
Friday and Saturday, the Ponies will compete at the Rimrock Auto Arena at Metra Park in Billings, taking on the rest of the Class A talent at the Montana All-Class State Wrestling Tournament.
“We are really looking forward to this weekend,” Havre High head coach Scott Filius said. “We have a great group of kids who are young, but we have gotten a ton of experience. We have won a lot of matches, and we have taken these kids all over this part of the country including Washington, Idaho, Colorado, and North Dakota for matches and camps. We are as prepared as we can be and are ready to go. If we relax and perform, we will accomplish what we are capable of.”
And holding a No. 2 state ranking for the majority of the season, the Ponies have to be considered a favorite. But Glendive has taken huge strides as of late, defeating formally No. 1 ranked Sidney last week at the Eastern A Divisonal. Columbia Falls is also garnering attention, as is defending Class A champion Corvallis. Belgrade, which finished second to Havre at last week’s Central A meet also figures to be a contender this week, while Lewistown could also score well.
But the Ponies are taking 17 talented and capable wrestlers to compete against the best completion in the state. And if they can execute at the high level they have been at all season long, they could very well come away with the coveted team title.
Wrestling will be 98-pounder Keegan Kennelly, 105-pounder’s Logan Pleninger and Grayson Brenna, 112-pounder Dylan Stewart, 130-pounder Thomas Gruber, 135-pounder Gilbert Bara, 140-pounder Kody Pribyl, 145-pounder Gunnar Aageson, 152-pounder Jordan Schroeder, 160-pounder’s JT Belcourt and Jason Kohler, 171-pounder Jake Williams, 189-pounder’s Grant Pattison and Jace Billy, 215-pounder’s Tyler and Travis Adams and heavyweight Dustin Odegard.
Brenna finished second at 98 pounds last season, while Stewart finished third at 105 pounds. Gruber also finished in fourth at 130 pounds a year ago, while Tyler Adams was fifth at 215 pounds. They all have the ability to place again this season, as does the majority of the Pony lineup. Pattison has been the No. 1 189-pounder all season long and is favored to win an individual title in his senior season finale. Kennelly is also a favorite, as is Brenna and Stewart. Tyler Adams could finish No. 1, as could Gruber, but both find themselves in very talented weight classes.
Havre has seven divisional champions, which will be top seeds, including Brenna, Kennelly, Stewart, Gruber, Pribyl, Pattison and Tyler Adams. The Ponies graduated their two state champs from last year in Eli Hinebauch and Casey Schaub, and they are also sending in a core group of freshmen, the most they’ve taken to the state tournament in quite some time. HHS has just two seniors in Pattison and Bara so the Ponies certainly are as youthful a state tournament favorite as there is.
And, while it’s going to take a great weekend for anybody looking to place in the top three, let alone win a state title, the Ponies will also have to overcome being open at 112 and 119 pounds if they hope to bring the state championship home.
“We can’t control (open weights) so we aren’t worrying about it,” Filius said. “I think every team will have a few open spots, but where we are doubled up, we have kids that can all score points. Qualifying all of our guys was nice, but qualifying all of our guys and having them go to state and compete well is even nicer. That is what we are shooting for, to have guys perform to their ability.
“It is always more fun to win than it is to come up short,” Filius added. “And this crew of kids grew up watching (past teams) win titles, so I think they are all hungry to join them.”
“That’s the ultimate goal,” Pattison said. “We’ve come up short the last two years and we want to go down there and make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Friday and Saturday the Ponies will compete in Billing at the state wrestling meet at the Metra.
Follow all the state wrestling action with the Havre Daily News
The Havre Daily News will have continuous live coverage of the 2013 All Class State Wrestling Tournament Friday-Saturday in Billings. Fans can follow the Havre High and Hi-Line action with round-by-round updates at www.havredailynews.com and on Twitter. Be sure to also see Thursday and Friday's sports pages for full previews, as well as Monday's Havre Daily News for complete coverage of all the state wrestling action in Billings.