By George Ferguson
The Montana State University-Northern wrestling team began its yearly drive toward an NAIA national wrestling title with the annual alumni duals on Saturday morning.
The Lights ended up losing the dual with former Lights stars by a score of 19-15. But head coach David Ray, who is now in his 10th year guiding the Lights, was happy with the way the morning went.
"Every year I get a good idea of what our team will be like from what the alumni wrestlers think," Ray said. "And after the dual all of those guys were telling me that we are going to have a pretty tough team this year. So I was happy to hear that."
Ray also thought the outcome of the dual could have been different because of a couple of key factors.
"Several matches were tied at the end of the third period and in this case the alumni have the choice of taking a draw," Ray said. "If we would have wrestled those overtimes, I think a couple of those matches could have gone our way."
"We also held out a couple of wrestlers because of injuries and they could have possibly been a factor in the final score as well," Ray added.
In the opening match of the dual, four-time all-American Carl Valley was defeated 4-2 by Lights senior Andy Thompson. Thompson scored a takedown late in the third period to preserve his win.
Junior Caleb Schaeffer knocked off former national champion Matt Campbell by a score of 2-1.
The Alumni got their first win when two-time all-American Mike Lane, wrestling in place of Chad Edgar, shut out freshman Aaron Jensen 5-0. Northern answered as Dustyn Azure took apart three-time all-American Chris Faber 8-1. Azure scored takedowns in each period en route to the victory.
A pair of freshmen wrestled well in the next two matches for Northern. Anthony Haukenberry wrestled to a draw with two-time all-American Mike Mazurkiewicz. Mazurkiewicz, who was competing in his 19th alumni dual, opted not to wrestle the overtime period with the score tied at one a piece. Freshman Lance Nelson, a Big Sandy grad, defeated 2000 all-American and assistant coach Lyle Cronk by a score of 3-1. Nelson scored a two-point takedown in overtime to seal the victory.
Dan Eaves got the Alumni on the board again by soundly defeating freshman Mike Cravens 7-2. Eaves, who finished his career at Northern in 2000, scored five points in the first period in his win over Cravens.
Three-time all-American Dan Dekaye then soundly defeated freshman David Waters 5-0.
Mike Lane returned to the mat for a second time in the day and wrestled a solid match with senior Bobby Mantle. The 1-1 match went to overtime and neither wrestler managed a point in the extra period. Lane then opted for the draw after the one-minute overtime.
Lane's twin brother, 2000 national champion Mark Lane, picked up a close 2-1 win over junior standout Kyle Fisher. Lane scored the go-ahead takedown late in the second period to cap the victory.
The alumni capped off their come-from- behind win with a 9-4 victory from three-time all-American Anthony Taylor. Taylor defeated freshman Andrew Leichtnam 9-4.
Despite Leichtnam's loss, Ray was pleased with his effort.
"He is a kid who is new to our program and hasn't wrestled much for us," Ray said. "He is one of those kids that works really hard and is fun to coach."
Former national champion Tyson Thivierge wrestled senior Matt Carter to a scoreless draw after one overtime period. In the final match former national champ and Lights assistant Turk Lords scored a hard- fought 6-3 victory over junior standout Emmett Wilson in a matchup of former national champions.
The Lights will be in action on Saturday in a dual meet with the University of Calgary on Saturday at 4 p.m. at the MSU-Northern gymnasium.