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THE FINAL CLASH

Lights close the regular season with their annual rivalry dual against the Argos in the Armory

 

February 7, 2018

The Montana State University-Northern Lights are just two weeks away from the biggest tournament of their season - the Cascade Conference Qualifier in Ashland, Oregon. First though, the Lights have a little business to take care of.

Tonight, Northern renews its rivalry with the University of Providence Argos, in a dual which always features the only two collegiate wrestling programs in Montana. Tonight's meeting between the 12th-ranked Lights and seventh-ranked Argos starts at 7 in front of what should be an electrified crowd at the Armory Gymnasium.

And while the Lights are focused on continuing to improve with the postseason looming, they also know, it's always special when the Argos come to Havre.

"Having only two teams in Montana, this to me, is the premiere dual of the season ... especially right before the high school state championships," Northern head coach Tyson Thivierge, who will be inducted into the Northern Hall of Fame this spring, said. "The atmosphere that this dual creates and the fans make this an exciting dual meet finale.  The dual does have meaning and both programs are going to come out swinging for the fences."

The Lights will come out fighting. Northern is fresh off a hard-fought home win over Embry-Riddle last Saturday night, and while they last saw the Argos back in November, they certainly haven't forgotten the 25-15 loss they suffered in Great Falls.

However, much has changed since MSU-N and Providence last saw each other. Both lineups will look at least, a little different tonight, and both teams are much more seasoned now, including Northern's young grapplers at 125 and 133 pounds, in true freshman Nick Kunz and sophomore Landon Bailey, both of whom scored big wins against ranked ERAU opponents last Saturday.

"We are looking forward to improving on our performance we had against (ERAU)," Thivierge said. "We are getting better at our lighter weights and it helps alleviate the pressure on those big guys."

The lighter weights also include star Matt Weber, who is currently ranked fourth in the NAIA, as well as sophomore Dylan Veis, who has made big strides in the second half of the season. And those four wrestling well against the Argos, who will send out Austin Dodson at 125, veteran Isaac Wilson at 133, Jaren Komac at 141 and fifth-ranked Shonn Roberts at 149, will be keys as the dual progresses into a bunch of star-studded matchups in the upper weights.

Those matches start with a huge one at 157 pounds, where second-ranked Brandon Weber and sixth-ranked Casey Dobson will renew their rivalry. Weber missed more than a month of mat time with an injury but is back now, and he and Dobson have had some intense previous matches. Northern, junior Andrew Bartel will go at 165 against either Josh Beckler, or Arram Price, before a key match takes place at 174. The Lights will go with either Chris Nile or Chase Short against fifth-ranked Adrian Lyons-Lopez, who is one of the Argos' top wrestlers.

The Lights will also likely forfeit the heavyweight spot, so the final two matches will be big as well. At 184, the Argos are without highly ranked Randy Keesler, so MSU-N's Steeler French will face Tyler Webley, before another 197-pound showdown between MSU-N freshman sensation Isaac Bartel, ranked sixth and UP's John Hensley, ranked ninth. Bartel beat Hensley back in November.

However, this isn't November. It's February, and the NAIA national tournament is less than a month away, so there's no question, tonight's dual will be much different than the one wrestled in Great Falls, which now seems like a long time ago.

"Providence has made some moves in their lineup, and it makes them stronger than what we faced earlier in the season," Thivierge said. "They are a salty team, well coached and this dual will live up to the hype. 

"If we just stick to who we are as a team, this will be an exciting dual."

Tonight's dual between the Lights and Argos starts at 7 in the Armory.

 

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