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2019 State Wrestling: Ponies in 2nd, send eight to semifinals

Havre qualified eight wrestlers for the semifinals at the Class A state tournament Friday in Billings, including three-time state champion Martin Wilkie, who is now two wins away from being the third four-time state champion in Havre High history.


February 8, 2019

Colin Thompson

Havre freshman Riley Pleninger takes on an opponent at the All-Class state wrestling tournament Friday. He was one of two Havre freshman to advance to the semifinals Saturday.

BILLINGS -- On the first day of the All-Class state wrestling tournament in the Metra, the Havre High wrestling team didn't do anything spectacular. Instead, the Blue Ponies did just about what they expected to -- advancing eight wrestlers to the state semifinals Friday inside the Rimrock Auto Arena at the Metra.

Of course, while Havre head coach Beau LaSalle and the Ponies weren't surprised to see freshman Riley Pleninger (103 pounds) and Orion Thivierge (145 pounds) reach the semifinals, those were the two surprises -- if there were any -- among Havre's eight semifinalists, a list that includes three-time state champion Martin Wilkie, as well as Mick Chagnon, Cameron Pleninger, Lane Paulson, Connor Harris and Austin Ratliff.

"I am was pretty pleased with the first day," HHS head coach Beau LaSalle said. "There was a couple of matches that I thought we could have won. But, it was what we expected. We got eight in the semis and those are eight matches we can win tomorrow if we wrestle well."

Wilkie, who is attempting to become just the third Havre High wrestler to become a four-time state champion and just the 33rd in the history of the Montana High School Association, pinned both of his opponents with ease, notching two pins in 23 and 46 seconds respectively. Chagnon, a 103-pound sophomore, was even more dominant, winning his first match by fall in 13 seconds, followed by a win in the quarterfinals by fall in 12 seconds.

Junior Cameron Pleninger, a state runner-up in 2017, was also sharp Friday, getting to the semifinals for the third straight year with back-to-back pins. His first pin took 1:29 before he defeated Jake Murnion of Miles City to get within one win of another final. Paulson and Ratliff, two seniors, also gutted out hard-nosed victories in the quarterfinals. Paulson won 10-2 over Laurel's Keagan Campbell, while Ratliff scored a 5-0 win over Sidney's Ryan Wyman.

"He is on the podium and that's huge," LaSalle said. "He has been close to placing a couple of times and didn't. So to go out and dominate that match the way he did was big for him."

Many of those wins were expected but the cherry on top for Havre was seeing the two freshmen, Pleninger and Thivierge, clinch sports on the podium for the first time. After opening with a pin, Pleninger earned an 11-9 decision to move onto Saturday unbeaten. Thivierge matched his classmate with a technical fall in the opening round, followed by third-period pin to knock off Western A Divisional champion Trey Thompson of Libby. Harris also advanced after he won his match by injury default.

"Orion beat the No. 1 kid from the west," LaSalle said. "And we kind of thought that we could. He just kept grinding. He stayed in the match and got a couple of turns on the kid and ended up pinning him. That was big and with Riley (in the quarterfinals) that was a kid we thought we should handle and he wrestled a smart match. He took shots when he needed to and I am really happy with both of those guys who punched their ticket to place."

Dominic Perkins and Brayden Stadell also won matches before getting eliminated from the tournament. Others that didn't get past the first day were Taylor Gopher, Wyatt Hansen, Randy Tommerup and Kendall Pleninger. As far as the team race is concerned, Sidney, the defending Class A state champions hold a comfortable lead at 140.5, with Havre in second with 86.5. Giving chase in third in Polson with 73.5, followed by Frenchtown in fourth with 65.5 and Miles City in fifth with 63.

Colin Thompson

Havre wrestler Mick Chagnon competes on the first day of the 2019 Class A state wrestling tournament. Chagnon was one of eight Blue Ponies to make it to the semifinals Saturday morning at the Metra in Billings.

"We put eight in the semis," LaSalle said. "Anytime you placed eight out of 14 and that's not bad. I don't think the team race is completely out of reach. Sidney dropped a few matches (quarterfinals) and Saturday morning will tell the tale. There are some big points scored in the semifinals and that will tell us a lot."

In addition to Havre, some other Hi-Line teams were represented at the state wrestling tournament Friday, including Fort Benton/Big Sandy, Chester-Joplin-Inverness, Chinook and Harlem. Fort Benton/Big Sandy scored the most team points with eight, but only Chinook and CJI have wrestlers that advanced to Saturday in the Class B-C competition. Reubin Swenson, who finished third last season, lost in the quarterfinals in the heavyweight division for the Hawks. JT Hauer of Chinook also lost in the quarterfinals. Both Swenson and Hauer will wrestle Saturday morning to clinch a spot on the podium.

The All-Class state tournament resumes at 9:30 Saturday morning. The Parade of Champions is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. with finals night to follow soon after.


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