Lights, Eagles hit the mat tonight
Montana State University-Northern 157-pounder (Mickey Cheff) (top) holds down a Southern Oregon wrestler during an NAIA dual in October in Havre. Tonight at 6, the Lights host Embry-Riddle University in a nationally-ranked showdown at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse.
The Montana State University-Northern wrestling team has already taken on one of its West Region rivals in Southern Oregon. Tonight, the Lights will face another in Embry-Riddle.
The No. 7 Lights host No. 16 Embry-Riddle in a nationally-ranked dual at 6 at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse. The dual starts a big stretch for the Lights as they travel to Great Falls for the Battle of the Rockies in Saturday, then return to Great Falls for a dual against rival UGF on Tuesday night.
Tonight's dual with the Eagles will be a good test for the Lights, who boast six nationally-ranked wrestlers. And many of those wrestlers will be in key matchups against the Eagles. But a big matchup will come at 125 pounds where Northern freshman Riley Miller takes on fourth-ranked Sean Silva. Miller has been tested in matches against tough regional opponents and Silva will be a tough one tonight.
The only other nationally-ranked wrestler for the Eagles is 11th-ranked Josh Chang, who will battle MSU-N's Garrett Tennant at 141 pounds. Hunter Azure has been a roll for the Lights as of late but won't wrestle tonight due to being banged up.
Tonight's other matches could include third-ranked Anthony Weerheim against Matt Hamilton at 149 pounds, Mickey Cheff taking on David Snook at 157, Cole Gorder taking on either Luke Riley or Trent Gardner at 165, either fifth-ranked Jared Miller or Max Payne at 174 against Jose Cruz, Kody Reed taking on Trey Kilgore at 184, top-ranked Evan Hinebauch at 197 Nick King battling Dennis Foster at heavyweight. The Lights will be without fifth-ranked Ethan Hinebauch tonight at 165, but Northern does get back fourth-ranked Cameron Neiss at 133. Neiss will be making his regular season debut after injuring his elbow in the preseason.
Tonight's dual and Saturday's tourney in Great Falls are big for the Lights. Embry-Riddle beat then No.1 Southern Oregon last week in a dual and the Eagles are a team on the rise after finishing 12th at the national tournament a year ago. Saturday's tournament in Great Falls will feature plenty of NAIA firepower with the Argos, Lights, Eagles and former NAIA power Simon Fraser. NCAA Division I's Utah Valley State will also be in attendance Saturday, as will Northwest College and others. The Lights will enter 17 wrestlers in Saturday's tournament hosted by UGF.
"They (Eagles) took down the No. 1 team in the country," Northern head coach Tyson Thivierge said. "They went into Ashland, Oregon and won so we know they're not going to come in here and lay down for us. And we've got a little bit of the injury big right now, so this is going to be a challenging weekend for our team."
Tonight's dual between the Lights and Eagles gets underway at 6 p.m. at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse. Saturday's Battle of the Rockies Open begins at 9 a.m. at the CMR Fieldhouse in Great Falls.