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Havre grapplers face their toughest test yet

Blue Ponies head west to defend their title at the prestigious Tri-West Tournament


December 14, 2017

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Havre High senior Ryan Stewart finished second at 113 pounds in the 2016 Tri-State Tournament last season, helping the Blue Ponies win the team title along the way. Stewart and the Ponies return to Idaho this weekend for another shot at what is one of the biggest high school wrestling tournament's in the northwest.

Back in 2014, Havre High wrestling coach Scott Filius started taking his Blue Pony wrestling team to the Tri-State Wrestling Tournament in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, to take part in one of the most challenging and prestigious wrestling invites in the Northwest.

Now, after his team gets ready to make its fourth trip to compete against the best teams from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, Filius said the benefit to his program and his athletes has been significant.

"The first year that we went we took six kids," Filius said. "And I think five of them placed. All those kids that went that first year had a marked difference to their approach to competition in Montana. And the next year, we took eight kids and all eight of those kids came back with a marked improvement and last year we took the whole team. I think you just see a lot of confidence in our kids, knowing that they have faced some of the best competition in the Northwest. It's really a building tool for our kids and it's a blessing."

While Havre started competing at the Tri-State tournament with six and eight kids, as Filius said, in 2016 the Ponies had their full team and, thanks to individual titles from Parker Filius and Jase Stokes, as well as five other top-seven finishers, Havre won the team title with 184 points, edging out Post Falls, Idaho, which wound up with 182.5.

In addition to being without Filius and Stokes, Havre will also try to defend its title without the third-place showing of Dane Flammond. However, the Ponies have Martin Wilkie back, who was third at the Tri-State a season ago, as well as Ryan Stewart, who finished runner-up at 113 pounds. Cameron Pleninger finished fifth at 98 pounds and at 106 pounds, Quinn Reno was seventh.

But even though the Ponies return just four wrestlers who placed at the meet a season ago, they will bring back of a number of sophomores that made their debuts at the Tri-State last December. Those include Connor Harris and Mason Dionne, as well as junior Lane Paulson. Senior Tyler Schaub will also make a return trip to the tournament after being forced to miss out last season due to injury.

"You know a year ago, our young kids went out there and got knots put in their heads," Scott Filius said. "I think they all won a match and contributed but we didn't scratch our potential. But by the end of the year, those freshmen were reaching their potential and this year they look good, so I would expect that you are going to see a lot of those sophomores wrestle like they have no fear."

One major difference between wrestling in Idaho and Montana, is that in Montana, there are only 13 weight classes available to wrestlers. This weekend at the Tri-State tournament, there will be 15. One of the additions comes at 98 pounds, where Havre will wrestle freshman Mick Chagnon. The other difference is in the higher weights. In Montana, there is just a 205-pound weight class, but this weekend, there will be 195-pound and 220-pound weight classes for Havre to try and fill.

After wrestling Chagnon at 98 pounds, the Ponies will send out another freshman, Dylan Young to wrestle at 106 pounds. Pleninger will man his usual spot at 113 pounds, but then at 120 pounds, Havre will double up with Reno and Stewart. Marc Ramirez will wrestle at 126 pounds and Paulson, who has been at 138, will go down to 132.

Wilkie, the Ponies two-time defending state champion will also drop a weight class this week and wrestle at 138 pounds, followed by Harris who will take the spot at 145 pounds. At 160 pounds, Havre will wrestle Dionne, followed by Schaub at 195 pounds and Austin Ratliff at 220. Havre will be open at 152 pounds, 170 pounds, 182 pounds and in the heavyweight class.

"Anytime you are leaving a weight blank, you are leaving points on the table," Filius said. "But we are going to double up in one of those weights and we will do fine. The kids will be alright."

While the open weights will make it harder for Havre to repeat as the team champions, Filius said his team can't worry about that and needs to focus on what it can control, which is winning as many matches as possible.

"It's just hard to tell who you are going to see," Filius said. "There are 70-some teams at this tournament and you can't keep track of all of them, so it just depends on who is there. We can only worry about what we can control. But I think the kids will do well. They will win matches and score points, it's just a matter of if being enough or not."

The Tri-State Wrestling Tournament will get underway Friday and will continue through Saturday in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, at North Idaho College.


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