Five things to watch in prep wrestling

 

November 20, 2018

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Havre High's Martin Wilkie, top, recently signed to wrestle for the NCAA Division I Minnesota Golden Gophers. Wilkie is looking to become Havre's third four-time state champion.

The winter sports season is right around the corner and along the Hi-Line, that means wrestling season as much as anything.

Of course, Havre and Chinook are two schools known for their success in wrestling and both the Blue Ponies and Sugarbeeters will be among the contenders in their respective classifications again this season after each finished as the runner-up in Class A and Class C, respectively, a season ago. Yet as much as things stay the same, things are also going to be different this wrestling season and unquestionably, the biggest difference is going to be the absence of Havre High coaching legend Scott Filius, who retired as the head coach of the Ponies after last season.

And the replacement of Filius as head coach seems as good a place as any to start when looking at the five things you should watch this wrestling season.

Beau LaSalle takes over for Scott Filius

If you are familiar at all with Blue Pony wrestlng then you know plenty about Beau Lasalle. Not only was LaSalle an assistant under Filius the past few seasons, but he was also a state champion wrestler in his own right for the Ponies.

LaSalle will certainly have plenty of talent to work with this season, including three-time state champion Martin Wilkie and a number of individuals who have previously placed at state. For nearly two decades, Filius set a championship standard for Havre wrestling and in his absence, we will see if the Ponies can continue to meet that high bar.


Can Martin Wilkie become a four-time state champion?

While LaSalle replacing Filius is going to be an important wrestling story to follow, another is going to be whether Martin Wilkie can complete the four-peat.

If Wilkie can win a fourth consecutive individual state championship, he would become just the third wrestler in Havre High history to do so, following in the footsteps of Jase Stokes and Parker Filius, who each completed the feat back in 2017. Going into the season, Wilke will be the heavy favorite to win another state championship, especially after he cruised to a state title a season ago, with three pins on his way to the 145-pound state championship in Class A.

And since Wilkie has already committed to wrestle at the University of Minnesota next year, he should have no distractions as he tries to carve out his own place in the history of Pony wrestling.

Can Chinook bring home more wrestling hardware?

Last season, Chinook had a bounce-back year as the Beeters finished second at state and had five different wrestlers qualify. Two of those individuals, Rebecca Stroh and Reuben Swenson placed. Stroh, a female wrestler, finished sixth in her first state tournament appearance as a freshman, while Swenson was third.


Though Swenson transferred to another school, the Beeters still have Stroh, Garrett Pruttis, J.T. Hauer and Favion Couturior. Hauer will be a junior this season, while Stroh, Pruttis and Couturier will all be sophomores. With all those pieces back, as well as some other up-and-coming talent, Chinook should be a contender again in Class C. The question is, just how high can the Beeters climb?

Other state champions?

Outside of team titles, another story to watch is local individual wrestlers who win state championships. Obviously, Wilkie is favored to win another title this year, however, there are also a number of other local wrestlers, from Havre and beyond, who could have a shot to do the same.

When it comes to the Ponies, guys like Lane Paulson, Quinn Reno, Cameron Pleninger, Mason Dionne and Connor Harris are all names to watch. All of those wrestlers have either won a state title, wrestled in a state championship match or finished in the top three. It can be a big leap going from just being on the podium, to standing at the top, yet they all possess the tools to make a run at it. Swenson, who will be wrestling for Chester-Joplin-Inverness, is another name to keep an eye on this season. He made a great run to finish third as a sophomore and if he can build on that, it's possible he can contend for a state title, too.


Can the Ponies take the Class A state championship back from Sidney?

The Havre High wrestling team put together a really solid performance at the state tournament last season, yet the 188 points scored was only good enough for second place. The top spot, with 250 points went to Sidney, ending a run of five straight championships for HHS.

Like Havre, Sidney will return a number of experienced wrestlers from last season's team including five guys who finished in the top four a season ago, highlighted by state champion Kaiden Cline. Both teams will be dealing with some key losses but each school is loaded with talent. Certainly, there will be some other contenders in Class A, but two teams that should be in the state championship mix at the end of the season are Havre and Sidney once again.

 

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