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No end in sight to pony power

Havre matmen look to continue their Class A dominance

 

November 30, 2017

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Havre High's Martin Wilkie, top, is part of a loaded Blue Pony wrestling team. The Ponies have won five Class A state championships and are heavy favorites to do it agains this winter.

Over the years, the Havre High wrestling team has produced some historic seasons and some historic runs. Well right now, the Blue Ponies are in the midst of winning five consecutive Class A state championships and at this point, they have no intention of slowing down.

Some teams around the state may view the 2017-18 wrestling season as a chance to take down the Ponies, following the graduation of three state champions in Parker Filius, Jase Stokes and Dane Flammond. However, with three state champs returning, along with a slew of others with experience finding the podium at state, Havre isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

"We are spread out well, we have three state champs back and two other finalists in the lineup," HHS head coach Scott Filius said. "So it's not like the cupboard is bare. Right now, the kids are really buying in and working hard. We have great leadership and we are spread out, so it's going to be fun."

Havre may return just two individual state champions from the 2017 Class A state tournament, but the healthy return of Tyler Schaub, who won a state title at 205 pounds as a sophomore in 2016, gives Havre three former state champions.

"He is 100 percent," Filius said. "He has been looking good. Having him back means a ton. We missed him last year."

Schaub will be going for his second state title this winter, while Wilkie, a junior, will be looking to win his third straight championship. Reno, a sophomore, will also be going for two in a row. In addition to those three wrestlers, Havre also returns Lane Paulson and Cameron Pleninger, who were each finalists a season ago.

Yet, those five are far from the only Havre wrestlers with a successful pedigree at the state tournament. Ryan Stewart has placed three times at state and will be looking to add that elusive individual state title this season, as he will wrestle at 132 pounds. Havre also got a pair of top-three finishes from Mason Dionne and Connor Harris, who were third at 152 and 132 pounds respectively, last season as freshmen.

In all, Havre has eight wrestlers back that found the podium at state in 2017, as well as others such as Austin Ratliff, Taylor Gopher and Marc Ramirez that have previous state wrestling experience, as does Schroeder, who also missed last season due to injury.

"We have a lot of young guys that did really well last year," Filius said. "But I don't think any of them are satisfied with that. I would suspect that all of them want to keep pushing to reach that next level and I expect them to get there. All these kids have worked really hard, not only in these first couple weeks of practice, but all offseason."

Havre will certainly have a lot of the same faces back from last season, but many of them will be wrestling at different weights in 2017. At the top of the lineup, in the 103-pound weight class, Havre will turn to freshman Mick Chagnon. Pleninger will then move up to 113 pounds and Reno will bump up to 120. Ramirez will wrestle at 126 pounds for HHS, followed by Stewart at 132 pounds, Paulson at 138 pounds and Wilkie, who will move up from 126 to 145.

Harris, a sophomore is another that is jumping up in weight this season, wrestling at 152 pounds, as is Dionne, who will go up to the 170-pound weight class. Gopher will wrestle at 160 pounds for the Ponies and when Schroeder is healthy he will wrestle at 182 pounds, followed by Schaub at 205 pounds and Ratliff in the heavyweight division.

In addition to his group of veterans, Filius has a solid class of freshmen and while Chagnon is the only one who will crack the initial lineup, the long-time coach said he has high hopes for the class in general.

"I think that it's a good group of kids," Filius said. "They have a lot to learn. Some of them are a little raw and will take some time, but down the road, I expect some really good things from this group."

As usual, the Ponies will open the season at the Havre Invitational, which starts Friday. However, after that, Havre has a busy road ahead of it. HHS will head to Butte next week for the Butte Central Mixer Dec. 7, followed by the Mining City Duals, which are Dec. 8-9. HHS will then head to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, for the Tri-State Wrestling Tournament, before closing the first part of the season with road duals in Lewistown and Sidney.

After the first of the year, Havre will head to the Cut Bank Invitational Jan. 5-6, before taking part in the Jug Beck Rocky Mountain Classic in Missoula Jan. 12-13. The Eastern A Divisional meet will be held in Belgrade Feb. 3 and the Class A state tournament will be in Billings, at the All-Class state meet Feb. 9-10.

When the Ponies do make it to the state tournament, there is little doubt that they will come in as the odds-on favorite to win a sixth straight championship, but according to Filius, Havre will have no shortage of challengers.

"I think there should be some good competition," Filius said. "I think that Sidney is going to be pretty salty. They had some good, young kids last season. Lewistown is another team that should be right there, they also had some really nice young kids. We will see, but those are a couple that come to mind."

Whether or not there is a team that can stand in the way of the Havre wrestling dynasty remains to be seen, but either way, the journey to another title defense starts Friday, with the Havre Invitational.

 

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