By Special to the Havre Daily
An early test of integrity is what the MSU-Northern coaching staff is calling tonight's dual versus the defending national champions North Idaho College Cardinals. The dual is built to be one of the most exciting match ups in recent years.
Last year Northern traveled the seven plus hour trip to Coeur d' Alene, Idaho and came away with a loss. A loss that coach Ray says still hurts, "We knew that it was going to be a very competitive dual, especially giving up six points with a forfeit at 125 pounds. Mark Nay filled in at heavyweight and it was going to be his first match of the season. Still, the coaches and the team felt we were capable of winning the dual. It was a disappointment; you put it behind and look forward to the next meeting and hope you come out with more victories and pins."
Northern managed only four victories, losing 27-12, giving up pins at HWT, 141 and a forfeit at 125. That was eighteen of North Idaho's 27 points, a deficit very hard to recover from. If Northern would have won the remaining seven matches they would have won by three points 21-18, it was not to be. This year the dual is in Havre, which coach Ray says has its advantage, "The team does not have to travel and having the gym filled with your own fans are an edge. This dual will be exciting, I think that the spectators are in for a very quality match."
Key weight classes are at 133 pounds where NJCAA national runner-up Ozzie Saxon will face Caleb Schaeffer. Schaeffer defeated Saxon last year 12-6 in their only meeting in the finals of the Cowboy Open. National Champion Josh Birt will face 3X All-American Tyson Thivierge, Tyson defeated Birt 13-8 in last year's dual.
"These are key matches 133 and 184, but I truly feel every match is special," Ray said. "We need to pick up the pace, control the motion of the match and gradually wear our opponents down."
Tonight's dual is going to be a test for both teams with the winner getting a boost of momentum until Christmas break.
"Winning this dual will give a positive boost for the season, it does not mean if you lose the season is going to be unsuccessful. Winning this dual is a confidence builder and good for team and fan moral," Ray said.
Are the Lights and Cardinals at full strength?
"We have some guys that are not 100 percent," Ray said. "On Monday we had a starter break a rib, two weeks ago All-American Dustyn Azure dislocated his kneecap (patella) but should be back by the Las Vegas Duals in December. We are not set at 141 pounds and a few other team members will become eligible spring semester that will give Northern added depth and strength. North Idaho I'm sure has some similar situations. The most important aspect of coaching is keeping in prospective that it is early in the season. Our (the coaching staff) intentions are to get every individual mentally and physically prepared for the national tournament."