By Rob Everingham
They're looking for the three-peat.
"This is what it's all about," said MSU-Northern head coach David Ray.
Ray and 12 Northern wrestlers will be competing in St. Charles, Mo., this weekend at the 43rd NAIA National Wrestling Tournament.
The Lights come in as the two-time defending champion, but are ranked No. 3 in the nation going into the tournament. Missouri Valley is ranked No. 1.
Ray said Missouri Valley has a lot of depth. He said their coach is in his third year of building the program and they will be very solid.
"Everything we have prepared is for this Friday and Saturday," Ray said.
When you're two-time defending champions, Ray said, no one will be overlooking them.
Ray said he thinks his team is at its best right now, and they are all positive and ready to go out and perform well.
Seven of the Lights wrestlers are nationally ranked in their weight classes. Ray said they have other wrestlers who have been ranked during the season, but fell out of the rankings after regionals.
What will it take of the Lights to win another national title?
Ray said they will have to have at least nine wrestlers place and three or four of them make the finals.
The biggest thing for Northern will be the bonus points. Ray said they need to get the pins, major wins, and technical falls to stay in the hunt.
It has been a long year for the Lights, who started the year back on Oct. 9 with the Alumni Dual.
Ray said hopes they are able to go to nationals and lay it all on the line.
"If we get beat I hope it is by a better team and not about a bad day, " Ray said.
At 125 pounds will be Abel Valdez. Valdez finished the season with a record of 24-8 and also was honored as an Academic All-American.
Jason Fratzke will fill the 133-pound spot with a record of 9-1 on the season.
At 141 pounds Northern brings Jessie Schaeffer. With a record of 31-10, Schaeffer was also honored as an Academic All-American. Schaeffer went to Nationals last year with the Lights, and finished fourth at 133 pounds.
Northern's Lyle Cronk will fill the 149-pound spot. Cronk was also on last year's national championship team. Cronk comes into nationals this year with a record of 30-15.
Brendan Burns, at 157 pounds, brings a 24-11 record with him as he heads into the national tournament.
Also at 157 pounds for the Lights will be Tamien Labuff. The Browning native finished the season with a record of 15-10.
At 165 pounds will be Chris Hayes. Hayes' record on the season stands at 21-13.
The Lights return a national champion at 174 pounds in Mark Lane. Lane won the individual title last year at 174 pounds and comes into nationals with a record of 16-2. Lane also comes in ranked No. 1 in the nation.
Tyson Thivierge will fill the 184-pound slot with a record of 30-7 on the season. Thivierge finished in third place at last year's national tournament.
At 197 pounds Northern returns a two-time defending national champion in Turk Lords. Lords rounded out the season with a record of 31-3 and is the No. 1-ranked wrestler in his weight class.
The Lights will be taking two heavyweights in Dane Jacobsen and Damion Martindale. The two battled for the Nos. 3 and 4 spot at the Great Plains Regional. Martindale placed third at nationals last year.
Northern has the most returning national champions. The only other school returning a champion is Missouri Valley.