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Hailing all the way from Iowa, it didn't take Northern senior Andrew Bartel long to call Havre home, or for that matter, become a star college wrestler


January 18, 2019

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Hailing all the way from Iowa, it didn't take Northern senior Andrew Bartel long to call Havre home, or for that matter, become a star college wrestler.

When Andrew Bartel arrived in the Montana State University-Northern wrestling room five years ago, he quickly realized, he was a long way from home.

But thanks to the relationships he's built, the program he's wrestled in, the success he's had, and the things Northern, Havre and Montana have had to offer, it didn't take long for Northern to become his second home.

And five years later, on the verge of wrapping up an incredible career on the mat, Bartel wouldn't change anything about his time away from home.

"It's been an incredible experience," the Lights' star 165-pounder said. "I've never once regretted my decision to come here. It's hard to put into words just what being here has meant to me. It's been amazing."

It didn't take Bartel long to fall in love with Northern either.

Hailing from Mason City, Iowa, Bartel's assistant coach in high school was former Northern standout Andy Thompson. And that's how it all began.

"My assistant coach, Andy Thompson, wrestled here at Northern," Bartel said. "When I was a senior and starting to look at schools, he set me up with Tyson (Thivierge), and eventually I went on a recruiting trip out here. And I loved it immediately, I loved Tyson immediately. I pretty much knew right away this is where I wanted to be."

Of course, it didn't hurt that, not only did Northern offer an elite college wrestling program, and a chance to get an education, but Havre and Montana in general also offered Bartel the ability to do the things he loves the most when he's not on the mat - spend time in the outdoors.

"I grew up hunting and fishing," Bartel said. "So when I came on my recruiting trip, I was just blown away by all of the things out here. Seeing the mountains and the ranches and everything else, it was just awesome. In the last five years, I've been able to enjoy the outdoors here so much, hunting and fishing and hiking with my friends, it's been incredible."

Bartel has also enjoyed a budding college wrestling career in his time at MSU-N.

After red-shirting his first year, he qualified for the NAIA national tournament in 2016, and again last season, where he finished fourth at at 165 pounds, earning NAIA All-American honors for the first time. For much of his career, he's also been ranked and has continually grown into not only one of Northern's top wrestlers, but one of the best in the country.

"There's been a lot of ups and downs," he said. "Not making it to nationals my sophomore year, that was pretty heartbreaking. But overall, I do feel like I've accomplished a lot. I feel like I've done a lot of good things."

Bartel's head coach would certainly agree.

"Bart has gotten better and better every year," Thivierge said. "He's already made a name for himself as a Northern wrestler. He's done it through hard work. He's such a hard worker, and a real positive kid. He's always fought through the adversity, he's always handled it really well. And, he's one of the strongest kids I've ever wrestled. He's just a really tough kid, and it's been amazing to watch his progress through the years."

That progress has also been aided by having his not-so-little brother in the room with him the last two seasons. Isaac, Northern's second-ranked 197-pounder, joined the Lights' program in 2017, which has made an already special journey even more so.

"It's been really nice having him here," Bartel said. "Our family has always been really close, so when I first came out here, being so far away from them, it was tough. So having him out here with me made it even feel more like home."

No question, Bartel, or Bart as he's better known, has made a home at Northern. And while his career has been a special one with a ton of victories, championships and All-American honors, he's not quite done.

Now, in his senior season, Bartel has his sights set on his biggest goals yet. He's ranked fifth at 165, and spent a portion of this season atop the polls. He's the top-ranked 165-pounder in the Cascade Conference, and he's wrestling as well as he ever has. So, with that said, there's just a couple of things left to do.

"Being this is my last season, I want to leave a lasting impression. So the goal is to win an individual national championship. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about it. There isn't a day that I'm not working towards that goal. I want to prove that I'm the best, and to do that, you've got to win the national title.

"And teamwise, winning the national title has been the goal from day one," he continued. "We want to be the team that knocks off Grand View. We know that's not going to be easy. They're really tough, but we also know it's possible. We know we're a very good team, and that we have a shot. So it's exciting. It's an exciting time to be a part of this program."

And being part of the program has meant so much to Bartel over the years, and at the same time, he has meant so much to the Lights, especially his head coach.

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Northern senior Andrew Bartel is currently ranked fifth in the NAIA at 165 pounds.

"There are too many good things to say about Bart," Thivierge said. "I could talk about him all day long. You couldn't find a nicer person. He would do anything for anybody. He's the type of kid a coach wishes everybody could be like. Everything about him makes him a coach's dream. He's a great person, a great student, and a great wrestler. He's just an amazing kid, and I feel very lucky to have been his coach the last five years."

Indeed. Bartel is a big part of the Northern family now. He started out as the wrestler furthest from home, but now, Havre - Northern, the Lights, and the room inside the Armory Gymnasium - is his home. And he wouldn't have it any other way.

"The best way I can describe Northern wrestling, it's family," Bartel said. "When you sign to come here to wrestle, you're getting a whole new family. Tyson does such a great job of bringing this all together. He is a great coach, a great leader, and he creates the family atmosphere we have.

"That's what this is to me, we're just one, big, happy family."


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