From the Fringe...
The Havre High wrestling team sure does know how to put a stamp on an All-Class State wrestling tournament. But one thing the Blue Ponies, under head coach Scott Filius, don’t seem to know, is how to slow down.
Havre racked up 294.5 points in winning its second straight Class A state title Saturday night in Billings, and in the process, tied its own record for most points scored in a Class A state tournament. Those numbers are staggering considering how good arch-rival Sidney was this weekend, too.
The Eagles did their best to chase down the Blue Ponies, but as Havre’s Parker Filius beat Sidney’s Jordan Stevens in the 138-pound state championship match Saturday night, the chase was all but over.
Havre was just too good, even for a wrestling powerhouse like Sidney. Sidney had depth but the Blue Ponies had more. The fact that not one, but two freshmen captured individual state championships was proof positive of just how deep and talented HHS is.
And, with four more individual state titles, 13-of-17 wrestlers reaching the podium and a ninth state championship since 1997, the Blue Ponies put a stamp on something else Saturday night, the debate about which program is the best in what I like to call the modern era.
For me, there is no doubt it’s Havre, and I say that with all due respect to Sidney, because make no mistake, Sidney is a true wrestling powerhouse with a great and legendary head coach, and like the Blue Ponies, the Eagles just continue to be a strong program, year-after-year.
But the numbers don’t lie. Since Scott Filius took over the Blue Pony program, he has guided HHS to nine state championships. In that same time frame, the Eagles have won five. Now, five state titles is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, for almost any wrestling program in the state, that’s a dynasty in itself.
But here’s what makes Havre a cut above the rest. Since 2003, the Blue Ponies have finished in the top three at the state tournament every season and have had at least one individual state champion since 2004. During what has become an incredible 11-year run in which the Ponies have won five state titles, no other team has earned a trophy each season during that same stretch. Not even Sidney. Sidney did win three straight state titles during that time, but Havre garnered a trophy in each of those years too, and the Ponies did the same when Laurel won in 2011 and Corvallis won in 2012.
Even when Havre was supposedly down, the Ponies were still very good.
In other words, the consistency with which Havre has performed over the last decade-plus is unmatched, on any level. Even the great Flathead High teams, Conrad and Glasgow at the Class B-C level, Billings Skyview, it’s just hard to find a program in Montana that has been as consistently good as Havre has.
Sports dynasties don’t last. At some point, they fade away. It’s happened to even the greatest wrestling programs in Montana, a sport rich with wrestling tradition.
But for nearly two decades now, Havre hasn’t faded. Under Filius, the Blue Ponies have stayed in the light. Hundreds upon hundreds of kids have come through the Havre program helping make it what it is. There have been state champions and heroes, surprises and great stories. And there was plenty more from HHS this past weekend in Billings.
And when the lights went out at the Rimrock Auto Arena, and another wrestling season came to end Saturday night, something else ended too … any debate about where Havre’s legacy now stands in the annals of Class A wrestling.
For now, the debate is over. Havre High stands alone.