By Ryan Divish
It won't be the toughest competition the Montana State University-Northern wrestling team will face all season. But it will be close. The Lights will face off against each other this weekend in a pair of intrasquad dual meets that will help determine the starting lineup for next Thursday's dual against Dickinson State University in Havre.
However fans hoping to see the first two intrasquad meets of the season will have to take the road. Today's intrasquad dual will be held in Butte at the Butte High School gymnasium at 7 p.m. Saturday's intrasquad dual will take place in Laurel at the Laurel High School gym and will also start at 7 p.m.
There are several reasons for having the duals on the road. First and foremost, it helps recruiting by showing off the program to people who might not otherwise see the Lights wrestle. But it is more than that according to head coach David Ray.
"Hopefully the meets will attract more fans for the national tournament this year," Ray said. "I thought we should go to Butte since it's senior Eric Dunmire's hometown."
Ray decided on having the dual in Laurel with the help of former wrestler Nate Laslovich, who is teaching and coaching at Laurel High School.
"Nate asked me to come down," Ray said. "He thought it would be good PR for our program as well as letting his kids see us wrestle."
But the duals serve more than just showing off the Northern program. They serve a purpose on the mat as well.
"The give the guys some competition and let them get after it," Ray said. "It should be very competitive."
That may be a bit of an understatement from Ray. Because they're competing for spots in the varsity lineup the competition will be spirited. Ray hopes that his solid corp of freshman will use the duals to get better.
"The freshmen need to use these meets to build confidence," Ray said. ""They might do as well against these guys in practice, but in the short period of a match they can experience some success. It's important because it will help them in the open tournaments later in the season."
Northern will be missing two of its top wrestlers for the Maroon and Golds. Mike Lester remains sidelined with a strained AC joint in his shoulder. Ray hopes for his return by Thanksgiving. Besides Lester, senior Dustyn Azure will also miss the duals because of strained left elbow that happened last weekend in Calgary. Azure will still wrestle off for the dual against Dickinson State, but he will do it on Tuesday.
The exhibition lineup will be the same for both duals with the exception of the 165 lb. Weight class. The winner of the Luke Heuberger-Trevor Floerchinger match today will wrestle Aaron Jensen in Saturday's dual.