By Rob Everingham
Just one more step.
The MSU-Northern wrestling team finished atop a field of seven schools to capture itsthird consecutive Great Plains Regional championship.
Northern finished with 111.5 points, while the University of Mary was second with 98 and Dickinson was third with 89.
The defending NAIA National Champion Lights placed 10 of the 12 wrestlers they took to the tournament.
Northern finished with seven finalists, four champions, three runners-up, two thirds and one fourth place finish.
At 125 pounds, Northern's Abel Valdez took on No. 1 Pat Runez of Mary for the individual title. Runez won the match 7-3. Lights head coach David Ray said their was a questionable near fall call that put Runez up in the match.
Lights Jason Fratzke won the individual title at 133 pounds as he won an 8-4 decision over Bryan Beil of Mary.
Northern's Jessie Schaeffer wrestled at 141 pounds. Schaeffer had not seen action in three weeks but came in and won by fall over Jesse Beckler of Dickinson State. The two were scheduled to wrestle three weeks ago in an MSU-Northern/Dickinson State dual, but Beckler forfeited.
Ray said Schaeffer looked very impressive in his win over Beckler.
At 157 pounds, Northern's Brendan Burns finished in third place as he won 3-1 over Dickinson State's Dusty Matson.
No. 1 ranked Bret Neden of Dickinson State downed Light Chris Hays at 165 pounds. Neden won a 2-1 decision on riding time, Ray said.
Mark Lane captured another individual title for the Lights as he won at 174 pounds. Lane downed Jason Hatchett of the University of Mary in a 4-1 decision.
At 184 pounds, Northern's Tyson Thivierge lost in overtime to Jeremy Englehardt of Mary ina 3-1 decision. Thivierge finished second overall.
Defending national champion Turk Lords ripped through Dickinson's Matt Meyer at 197 pounds. Lords won an 8-2 decision over the Blue Hawk wrester.
Finally, at heavyweight, it was two Northern wrestlers who met in the match for third place. The match set Light Dane Jacobsen up against teammate Damion Martindale. Jacobsen won over Martindale due to medical default.
Ray said even though his team finished tops at the tournament, it came to his surprise.
"Overall, our team did not perform to its individual capabilities," Ray said. "There were some individuals who were hesitant and worried more about individual ranking. Honestly, I was surprised we took first."
The Lights will now head to St. Charles, Mo. for the 43rd NAIA National Tournament on March 3-4.
Northern is the defending champion and will be contending for its third straight national title.
1. Montana State University-Northern, 111.5; 2. University of Mary, 98; 3. Dickinson State University, 89; 4. Briar Cliff College, 33; 5. Jamestown College, 24.5; 6. Dakota Wesleyan University, 12; 7. Huron University, 2.
125 2. Abel Valdez lost by dec. to Pat Runez (Mary), 3-7; 133 1. Jason Fratzke won by dec. over Bryan Beil (Mary), 8-4; 141 1. Jessie Schaeffer won by pin over Jesse Beckler (DSU); 157 3. Brandon Burns won by dec. over Dusty Matson (DSU), 3-1; 165 2. Chris Hays lost by dec. to Bret Nedens (DSU), 1-2; 174 1. Mark Lane won by dec. over Jason Hatchett (Mary), 4-1; 184 2. Tyson Thivierge lost by dec. to Jeremy Englehardt (Mary), 1-3; 197 1. Turk Lords won by dec. over Matt Meyer (DSU), 8-2; Hwt 3. Dane Jacobsen won by medical default over Damion Martindale (MSU).