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Lights steamroll rival Argos in regular season finale


February 8, 2018

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Montana State University-Northern's Andrew Bartel, right, takes Providence's Josh Beckler to the mat during their 165-pound match Wednesday night in the Armory Gymnasium. Bartel was one of six Lights to be victorious in their dominant win over the Argos.

The Montana State University-Northern Lights have been laser-focused on improving before the Cascade Conference Qualifier, which is right around the corner. So, there wasn't a lot of rivalry talk leading into the final dual of the season with the University of Providence Argos.

However, Wednesday night in the Armory Gymnasium, it was plain for everyone in attendance to see, the Lights wanted to beat their bitter rivals from Great Falls.

And beat them they did.

In the annual, season-ending matchup between Montana's only two college wrestling programs, the 13th-ranked Lights dominated the sixth-ranked Argos 27-15.

"Revenge," MSU-N junior Matt Weber said. "They (Argos) shocked us down there and we wanted revenge. This whole week, we prepared really hard for this, and once we got the momentum going, we kept it going. Everybody wrestled really well. We kept the pressure on them (Argos) all night."

Momentum was a big factor for the Lights, who lost to the Argos back in November in Great Falls.

Freshman Nick Kunz, ranked 13th in the NAIA, came out with his hair on fire, and pinned Austin Dodson in just 1:46 to give the Lights a quick lead. But Northern's start was far from finished. Sophomore Landon Bailey followed Kunz' win with an impressive 7-1 decision over 16th-ranked Isaac Wilson. Bailey came out aggressive and built a 4-1 lead, and never it let it go.

And for the second straight dual, Weber followed Kunz and Bailey with a pin at 141 pounds. The fifth-ranked Weber and Jaren Komac had a good battle going, with Weber leading 6-4 early in the third period. Then, Weber ended it with a fall, and all of sudden, the Lights had swamped the Argos with a 15-0 lead.

"It's been a while since we've had the confidence from our lighter weights to go out and start a dual like that," MSU-N head coach Tyson Thivierge said. "Those three did a phenomenal job tonight, and we've really got something going with that trio. And I said it last week, it really takes a lot of pressure off the rest of our guys when those three go out and do the job like they did tonight. So that momentum they gave us was huge."

Following Weber's pin, the Argos got on the scoreboard when Northern's Dylan Veis suffered an injury against highly ranked Shonn Roberts. But it didn't slow the Lights down one bit.

At 157 pounds, eighth-ranked Brandon Weber, still fighting his way back from injury, gutted out a win over 11th-ranked Casey Dobson, and sixth-ranked Andrew Bartel came right behind Weber with a dominant 8-2 decision at 165. Then, in what turned out to be one of the most important matches of the night, Northern's Chris Nile knocked off fourth-ranked Adrian Lyons-Lopez 4-3 at 174. Nile fought and scrapped his way to a 3-3 tie after two periods, before earning an escape early in the third, then riding out what was his biggest win of the season.

"Chris can beat anybody," Thivierge said. "We know that. He just hasn't gotten a chance to wrestle too many ranked guys this year. But you saw it tonight. His match and Brandon's match were really pivotal matches for us. It was great to see Chris wrestle so well, and I'm really glad to see Brandon starting to come back from his injury. So those were both big wins for us."

And the Lights would get one more exciting win to cap the night.

After Steeler French lost a heartbreaker in overtime, sixth-ranked MSU-N freshman Isaac Bartel squared off with eighth-ranked John Hensley in the 197-pound finale. The two have had a couple of great matches this season, and for the second time in a dual, Bartel came out on top, as he battled his way to a 3-1 win in overtime, with one final take down.

Bartel's win put a cherry on top of what was an impressive performance by the Lights, who had lost their last three meetings with the Argos.

"You know, we're still just trying to improve every day, our conference tournament is a week and a half away," Thivierge said. "But this is an important dual, there's no doubt about that. It's a lot of fun, and it's great to see our guys end the regular season on a high note. We had lost three in a row I think to them (Argos), so tonight was a lot of fun for our guys and for the fans that were here. There was some great matches, the crowd got into it and gave us a lot of great momentum. So this win does mean a lot to our guys, and to do it in this fashion, it's really fun."

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

MSU-N's Chris Nile, left, hangs on to UP's Adrian Lyons-Lopez during their 174-pound match Wednesday night. Nile scored a huge win over Lyons-Lopez, who's ranked fourth in the NAIA.

The Lights will now prepare for the Cascade Conference Qualifier, which takes place Feb. 17 in Ashland, Oregon. And Matt Weber said that a win over the Lights' biggest rival is the perfect way to go into the postseason.

"It's big, it gives us even more confidence, going into regionals," he said. "Now we just have to keep pushing ourselves, and make sure this momentum we've got carries over into the rest of the season."

Lights 27, Argos 15

125 - Nick Kunz, MSU-N pinned Austin Dodson, UP, 1:46; 133 - Landon Bailey, MSU-N dec. Isaac Wilson, UP, 7-1; 141 - Matt Weber, MSU-N pinned Jaren Komac, UP, 5:47; 149 - Shonn Roberts, Up inj. def. Dylan Veis, MSU-N, 157 - Brandon Weber, MSU-N, dec. Casey Dobson, UP, 9-5; 165 - Andrew Bartel, MSU-N dec. Josh Beckler, UP, 8-2; 174 - Chris Nile, MSU-N dec. Adrian Lyons-Lopez, UP, 4-3; 184 - Tyler Webley, UP dec. Steeler French, MSU-N, 3-1 in SVO; 197 - Isaac Bartel, MSU-N dec. John Hensley, UP, 3-1 in SVO; 285 - Matt Hopkins, UP won by FFT.


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