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MSU-N grapplers get a taste of a big-time NAIA tourney atmosphere this weekend in Missouri


January 17, 2019

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Montana State University-Northern heavyweight Jase Stokes, right, won an individual title at last weekend's Tyler Plummer Classic in Dickinson, North Dakota. Now the Lights are set to compete in the even tougher Missouri Valley Invitational.

The 2019 NAIA national wrestling tournament is still seven weeks away. But the Montana State University-Northern Lights will get as close to a look at what nationals will be like as they can get when they travel to Marshall, Missouri, this weekend.

The third-ranked Lights will be in Missouri for the annual Missouri Valley Invitational, a tournament which attracts most of the top NAIA programs in the country.

So, as in years past, the tourney in Missouri will have a national-tournament feel to it, especially with top-ranked Grand View, the five-time defending champions in attendance.

However, Grand View and the Lights won't be the only top teams in the field this weekend. Joining the Lights and Vikings are such NAIA powerhouses as, second-ranked Indiana Tech, as well as Baker, Menlo, Midland, Missouri Valley, Reinhardt, Lindsey Wilson, Oklahoma City, Cumberlands and more. In fact, 14 of the Top 20 teams in the NAIA Coaches Poll will be in a field of over 40 squads this weekend.

And that means, the Missouri Valley Invite will be a stern test for Northern's 12 grapplers in attendance. Those set to compete for the Lights include, second-ranked Brandon Weber (157), second-ranked Isaac Bartel (197), second-ranked Chris Nile (174), fifth-ranked Andrew Bartel (165), 12th-ranked Nick Kunz (125), 14th-ranked Landon Bailey (133), 19th-ranked Jase Stokes (HWT) and 16th-ranked Chase Short (174). Steeler French will also be a key grappler for the Lights this weekend. Top-ranked Matt Weber (141) is currently sidelined with an injury.

Make no mistake, it's a big weekend for the Lights, too. After dominating Minot State and the Tyler Plummer Classic last week, Northern is on a roll, and the Missouri Valley Invite marks MSU-N's final tournament before next month's Cascade Conference championships.

The rest of MSU-N's schedule for the regular season will be duals, starting with next Thursday's senior night dual against Dickinson State. The Lights were set to host both Northwest College and DSU in the Armory Gymnasium, but Northwest won't be making the trip. Following the dual against the Blue Hawks, Northern closes out the regular season with a Jan. 26 dual at ranked rival Embry-Riddle, and the Feb. 6 rematch with the University of Providence in Great Falls.

The Missouri Valley Invite will start Friday morning and run through Saturday afternoon in Marshall, Missouri. Next Thursday's final home dual for the Lights against DSU will start at 7 p.m. in the Armory.


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