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In the Room Part 3: Training Days with MSU-N Wrestling

Iron Sharpens Iron: Maroon/Gold week means Lights go to the mat against each other


October 17, 2018

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

MSU-Northern wrestlers Matt Weber, left, and Tony Evans battle in a recent Lights' practice. With the regular season just one week away, the Lights are getting ready with wrestle-offs, which include the annual Maroon/Gold Dual Thursday night at 7 p.m.

The Montana State University-Northern Lights are a tight-knit wrestling team. And with the Weber's, the Veis', the Bartel's and the French's, there's even a lot of brotherly love inside the Northern wrestling room.

This week though, some of that love gets set aside, at least for seven minutes at a time, as Northern holds its first wrestle-offs of the new season, challenges that culminate with Thursday night's Maroon/Gold Dual.

"This is the fun part," Northern All-American senior Matt Weber said after Tuesday's grueling practice. "The focus kind of shifts for us now, where we're getting ready for competition, where we're trying to sharpen things. I mean, practice is always serious and it's tough, but now things are getting, maybe, a little bit more serious because we're getting ready to compete."

And part of that competition is the Lights competing against each other.

Northern has a talented roster full of returning All-Americans, a national champion in senior Brandon Weber, and a host of veterans who have already been through the rigors of NAIA wrestling. And yet, right now, no starting spot in Northern's dual lineup is safe. With Northern's depth at so many different weight classes spots have to be earned, and what a wrestler has done in the past doesn't mean anything come wrestle-off time.

"We graduated one guy off of last year's team," Matt Weber said. "And we have a bunch of guys in this room that have accomplished a lot. But still, your spot is up for grabs because we have so much talent on this team. I mean, Brandon and I were finalists last year, but that doesn't guarantee us anything. You have to go out and earn your spot in the starting lineup because, with this team, we want the guy who is wrestling the best to be at those spots. So you don't take anything for granted in this room. You have to get out there and earn it."

And earning it means competing against some of your best friends, and teammates you'll spend the next six months working with, traveling with and cheering for. It's not an easy thing to do at times, but it is the life of collegiate wrestling, and all the wrestlers in Northern's room understand it.

"It's part of being in a college wrestling program," Weber said. "You might come in here and there might be a fight. When you're competing, emotions can run pretty high. But at the end of it, when we walk out of here, we're friends and we're teammates and we're very close. You just have to have the mind-set that iron sharpens iron. When you have to compete against a teammate, you have to understand that he's there to make me better and I'm there to make him better. And Tyson (Thivierge) does a great job of managing all of that. He's got a great handle on this team."

There's another side to what Northern is going through this week - and that's the more great wrestle-offs there are, both inside the practice room, and in Thursday night's dual, the deeper and better the Lights know they are.

"Exactly," Weber stated. "There are a lot of really good wrestlers in this room. There are a ton of guys who can help us accomplish everything we are trying to accomplish this season. So when we compete against each other, we know it's making us better, and the fact that we understand that starting spots are up for grabs, we know that means we have a very good team with a lot of depth.

"There's a lot of competition in this room," Thivierge said. "And that only makes us better. It's not easy. These guys are all good friends and they're a close group. They're a family. But all these guys, they want to be the man at their spot, and they know they have to go out and earn that. So that kind of competition, that just breeds more competition, it makes everybody better."

There's no denying the Lights are deep and talented. When the first NAIA rankings come out next week, there's a chance Northern could have a nationally ranked wrestler at almost if not every single weight class. And that talent finally gets to showcase itself for real when the Lights square off against Cascade Conference rival Eastern Oregon next Friday night in Havre.

But first, Northern has to take care of some business and that's to compete against itself, both in the room today - with more wrestle-offs scheduled - as well as in Thursday night's Maroon/Gold Dual, which starts at 7 p.m. inside the Armory Gymnasium.

"It's exciting," Weber said. "We're going through some really tough practices this week, and we're getting ready to compete. The Alumni Dual was a lot of fun, but now things are getting a lot more serious. And I'm excited. For me, after falling short at nationals last year, it was hard to go home for the summer. I just wanted this season to get here as fast as possible. So I'm excited. This is a fun time of year for us, and we're all excited to get going. I've been waiting a long time for this to get here."


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