By Kim Staudinger
In Bob Christensen's tenure at Ricks College, his wrestlers have only been shutout once. That shutout came at the hands of the Montana State University-Northern Lights.
The Lights came one minute away from accomplishing that feat again Thursday night at the Northern gym. Though Northern did not get the shutout it had hoped, the Lights dominated Ricks from top to bottom, winning 45-3.
Ricks had a great opportunity to start with a big lead. Eric Dunmire, wrestling for Northern at 141 pounds, has only been in competition for the last week. Dunmire wrestled in Northern's home dual meet last Thursday and traveled with the team to the Dickinson State Invitational Tournament on Saturday. After Dunmire, Bobby Mantle wrestled at 149 pounds. Mantle holds close to a .500 record at 16-13. Following Mantle was Dustyn Azure at 157 pounds facing the tough B.J. Wright for Ricks. Wright had pinned Azure two times already this season. B.J. Wright's brother, Jake, was up next, facing Kyle Klonizos for the Lights. Klonizos was at 1-2 on the season.
"They couldn't have asked for a better draw to start with," Ray said. "They started off with a perfect weight class. They started in the best area to get momentum." Ray said he wanted to take a break after the Kyle Fisher dual in hopes of breaking up a roll Ricks could have possibly been on.
But the Lights had other plans for the Ricks wrestlers. Dunmire won by fall in 4:17 over Kristian Beckett, Mantle won by decision 12-10 over Cody Fehlberg, Azure won by decision 6-3 over B.J. Wright, and Klonizos also won by decision 9-5 over Jake Wright to give Northern a 15-0 lead. The heart of Coach Ray's lineup, filled with guys who had been struggling, came through in a big way.
"Dustyn knocked a huge gorilla off his back, not a monkey, a gorilla," Ray said. "It was huge for us and huge for Dustyn Azure. That was the most important win of the whole dual meet."
With the Lights on a run of their own, Fisher came up next and it looked as though a shutout of Ricks was coming. But Fisher struggled, losing with 12.7 seconds remaining in overtime as David Anderson got two points for a takedown to get the 9-7 win. Fisher's dual was tied at 2 after the first period and Anderson led 6-4 after the second. Fisher received one point at the end of the third period for riding time, tying the dual at 7 and sending it to overtime.
"Kyle did not show the willpower or desire to take the guy into overtime," Ray said. "He slowed down in the third period.
"He was mentally not ready to compete tonight. He was focused somewhere else and not on the dual meet."
But after the Fisher loss and the intermission, the Lights rallied off five straight pins to complete the dominating 45-3 win.
"After we took the break, look at the momentum change," Ray said. "Look at the last five, look at what they did."
Tyson Thivierge, who had already pinned his competitor twice this season, controlled Steve Babcock nearly getting the pin as time expired in the first period. Just 1:03 into the second period, Thivierge pinned Babcock starting the Northern roll of consecutive pins.
Emmett Willson came up next at 197 pounds and took 2:30 to pin Renn Christensen. Heavyweight Matt Carter kept things going with a pin in 1:59 over Robert Perkes.
Ray said at one point in the Carter dual, he thought Perkes was going to get the win, but Carter came back quickly to get the pin.
"Nothing feels better to a coach than to be proven wrong," Ray said.
Carl Valley overcame a slow start to pin Tyler Price in 3:43 and Caleb Schaeffer made short work of Jesse Breinholt, winning by pin in 1:10 to end the dual meet.
Also wrestling for the Lights was heavyweight Trevor Nelson in an exhibition dual against Eric Freeman for Ricks. Freeman pinned Nelson in 4:27.
Although his wrestlers had their strongest showing in quite some time, Ray said the season is winding down and his team is starting to face wrestle offs for the national tournament.
"I feel some guys on this team take for granted because they are a starter right now they are going to the NAIA National Tournament," he said. "They don't realize they may be a spectator watching teammates on the sidelines or in the crowd."
The Lights are at home for their last home dual Saturday against Western Wyoming College at 7 p.m.
The following are the results from Thursday's dual meet with Ricks College:
125 Carl Valley won by pin in 3:43 over Tyler Price
133 Caleb Schaeffer won by pin in 1:10 over Jesse Breinholt
141 Eric Dunmire won by pin in 4:17 over Kristian Beckett
149 Bobby Mantle won by decision 12-10 over Cody Fehlberg
157 Dustyn Azure won by decision 6-3 over B.J. Wright
165 Kyle Klonizos won by decision 9-5 over Jake Wright
174 Kyle Fisher lost in overtime by decision 9-7 to David Anderson
184 Tyson Thivierge won by pin in 4:03 over Steve Babcock
197 Emmett Willson won by pin in 2:30 over Renn Christensen
HWT Matt Carter won by pin in 1:59 over Robert Perkes