When it comes to the sport of wrestling, there aren’t many things former Havre Blue Pony Myles Mazurkiewicz hasn’t done. His wall and trophy case is full of accolades from years and years of competing on the mat.
But in what will likely be his final two days of competition in a long and storied career, the University of Great Falls senior has one thing left to do.
Mazurkiewicz will compete for the Argos today and Saturday in the 2013 NAIA national tournament, a tournament in which he’s already earned NAIA All-American status three times. But now, with only a handful of matches left in his career, a national championship is the only thing he has left to get.
Mazurkiewicz, who will be seeded second in the national tourney in Des Moines, Iowa, has already come close. In his freshman season at UGF, he reached the 133-pound championship match before falling. After that, he finished fifth at 141 pounds as a sophomore and sixth last year, while teammate Anthony Varnell captured the 141-pound championship.
But entering his last national tournament, and looking to become UGF’s first four-time All-American, the former Havre great doesn’t have as much tunnel vision on the national championship as one might think. Instead, Mazrukiewicz, who won two Class A state championships at Havre High and wrestled in four state championship matches, knows from experience just how important it is to stay in the moment. He knows that it’s not cliché’ to take it one match at a time.
“I’m trying really hard not to think about the championship or that this is my last tournament, or any of that,” Mazurkiewicz said. “I’m really not worrying about it. I am trying to treat this tournament how I would any other tournament in my career. I’ve seen a lot of guys get upset in those first couple of rounds, and I have a lot of experience in this tournament which is going to help me stay in the moment. I know I can’t look ahead. I know I have to just focus on the one match in front of me.”
For someone as good as Mazurkiewicz, who is UGF’s all-time win’s leader with 126 victories, and has been ranked No. 1 for most of the 2012-13 season, staying focused on the task at hand might be difficult. When you’ve done everything but win a national championship, that’s easier said than done. But he has already been there and done that. He’s a veteran among veterans and he’s coming off an outstanding senior season in which he’s posted 34 wins against just three losses. So he knows exactly what to do this weekend.
“It’s been a great season,” Mazurkiewicz said. “I’ve accomplished a lot this year, and I’m really excited about the national tournament. It’s been a really fun year. I really love this team, this is a great group of guys and they’ve helped me this year as much as I’ve helped them. I’ve done pretty well at some big tournaments this season. I’m going to nationals with a lot of confidence and I know exactly what I need to do.”
Confidence is something Mazurkiewicz, who’s father Mike was a two-time NAIA All-American at Northern, has always had. And it will be needed over the next two days in Des Moines. But Mazurkiewicz has always had that burning desire to succeed on the mat, and it’s helped carry him to heights few wrestlers have been too. And it’s not lost on his head coach, Caleb Schaeffer, who also knows a little something about winning a national championship in the final tournament of a great career. Schaeffer did at as a senior at Northern not long ago.
“Myles has been a tremendous competitor for the University of Great Falls,” Schaeffer said. “You cannot coach his will to win. Myles has reached all his main goals, but one has eluded him (national champion). The way he has been focused and training the last month, if he does not reach that goal it would be a huge shocker.”
And even Mazurkiewicz will admit the 141-pound national title is his main goal. He knows it won’t be easy, especially with an old rival and current teammate, Ryan Martin breathing down his neck this week. He knows his bracket is filled with capable wrestlers and he has seen first-hand just how difficult it is to get to the top of the NAIA mountain.
And that’s why he’s not looking ahead. That’s why he’s not allowing himself to get too far ahead. And it’s why he’s going to Iowa taking nothing for granted.
“I’ve been through a lot over the years,” Mazurkiewicz said. “I haven’t had a lot of time to reflect because I’ve just been working hard and training hard. But I do know it’s coming to an end. I won’t be done with wrestling because I’m definitely going to go into coaching, but I do realize this is it for me in my career as a wrestler. And it’s been a lot of fun.
“So this week, I’m really just going to enjoy it as much as I can,” he continued. “And I’m really focused on just taking it one match at a time, and making sure I wrestle my best each time I step on the mat. That’s the way I have to approach it. That’s all you can do in this tournament.”
Note: Mazurkiewicz is one of three Havre Blue Ponies competing in this week’s NAIA national tournament. Northern’s Ethan Hinebauch and Duell Stadel are the others. Evan HInebauch (2011) and Kyle Fisher (2004) are former Blue Ponies to win national championships. Havre High head coach Scott Filius also won a national title for Northern in 1991, while Lights’ head coach Tyson Thivierge won his individual title in 2002. Schaeffer, originally from Columbia Falls, won his championship for Northern in 2004.