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Five things to watch in local prep wrestling

 

December 2, 2019

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Havre High's Mick Chagnon will be wrestling for a second straight Class A state championship this season. Chagnon and the Blue Ponies open their season this weekend with the Havre Invite.

Montana is a wrestling state. And Havre and the Hi-Line is certainly wrestling territory. So excuse all of us if we're just a little bit excited this week, because, the 2019-2020 high school wrestling season is here.

Starting with this weekend's Havre Invitational, the local wrestling season will again be fast and furious and, a while it's lot of fun, there will also be plenty of intrigue too, as area teams, led by the powerhouse Havre Blue Ponies, navigate their way back to Billings and the 2020 All-Class State Tournament in February.

So, in honor of the start of a brand new high school wrestling season, here's five things to watch on the local wrestling scene this winter.

1. Will girls wrestling become an MHSA sport?

The answer will more than likely be yes, but, we'll have to wait and see for sure until January. Last month, the proposal to add girls wrestling as an MHSA sanctioned sport was unanimously approved to go before the voting board, and that vote will take place in January.

Of course, if girls wrestling is added, there will be a lot of questions that people will have, including will it be a full team sport? Will there be enough interest for scheduled regular season duals, and, if the numbers are good, will long-standing regular season tournaments like the Havre Invite, CMR Holiday Classic and others, be able to accommodate girls brackets, or will girls meets have to be scheduled on their own due to time and facility space? Other questions will include coaching and how will girls affect the schedule of the All-Class State Tournament?

It will be interesting to see how it all plays out, but from the sounds of it, girls wrestling is certainly on its way to Montana, and that's a great thing.

2. Can the Blue Ponies stand up to Sidney?

Havre has fallen short against Sidney in each of the least two state tournaments, and due to the realignment of Class A sports, the Ponies have also had to play runner-up to the Eagles at the Eastern A level, too.

HHS second-year head coach Beau LaSalle once again returns a team that boasts a strong lineup, but the Eagles return a wealth of talent from last year's record-setting squad, and with likely a bit more depth, the Ponies are going to have to really sizzle in February to take down the Eagles.

3. Connor Harris' quest

In each of his three seasons as a Blue Pony, Connor Harris has walked out of the Metra a winner. Harris has won. Consolation final at the state tournament all three years of his career, including the last two at 152 pounds. And Harris' finishes have been nothing to be ashamed of, as he has been a part of some star-studded brackets, and some epic matches.

Now in his senior year, though, Harris has one last shot to get the state championship he covets, and has worked so hard for. There's no denying Harris is one of the best upper-weight wrestlers in Class A, and, from start to finish, he'll be on a mission finish his HHS career as a state champ.

4. Lyle's Back

The Harlem Wildcats have fallen on hard times as of late, with low numbers and tough times on the mat.

And, when one standout coach, Joe Schupe, retired last spring, another decided to come back. Veteran head coach Lyle Faulkinberry returns to the mat this winter. Faulkinberry is one of the most respected B-C wrestling coaches ever, and, he's guided the Wildcats to plenty of success in his past. So, it will be fun to watch the kind of spark Faulkinberry brings to the Harlem program in his second tenure.

5. Star Watch

While Havre's Connor Harris is on a mission this season, the Blue Ponies return just one grappler that has a state title to his name - junior Mick Chagnon. After winning a chipper at 103 last season, Chagnon will try to repeat that feat at 113 this winter.

Havre does have others who will certainly vie for state titles come February, though. Senior Cameron Pleninger was in a state championship match as a freshman, then he made it back to the finals last year before falling to star Jake Bibler. Pleninger, along with sophomore Orion Thivierge, give the Blue Ponies a quartet of grapplers who have high hopes this winter.

Chinook's Rebecca Stroh and J.T. Hauer also hope to make similar runs in the B-C brackets.

 

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