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Many young Ponies to get their first taste of the prestigious Rocky Mountain Classic


January 16, 2020

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Havre High freshman Kale VanCampen, right, competes in the Havre Invitational last month. VanCampen is heading to his first Jug Beck Rocky Mountain Classic this weekend in Missoula, a tournament often considered the best regular season tourney in Montana each winter. Still, as tough as the competition will be, VanCampen has been making big strides of late and has solidified his 138-pound spot in Havre's lineup.

It may be a week of bitter cold along the Hi-Line, but the Havre High wrestling team is looking to stay hot Friday and Saturday down in Missoula for the Jug Beck Rocky Mountain Classic against some of the elite talent in the northwest.

The Jug Beck Rocky Mountain Classic has had a history of being one of the toughest, if not the toughest, wrestling tournaments in Montana. There is no holding back on the mat down in Missoula, where the competition is fierce and intense. It will be no easy feat to climb to the top for the Blue Pony grapplers.

But HHS head coach Beau LaSalle is excited to get to see his team throw down against a wide variety of opponents spanning across the northwest.

"I think Missoula is one of the tougher tournaments in the state of Montana," LaSalle said. "You get a lot of Washington and Idaho teams we don't see. You get mostly all of the AA schools there and most of western Montana. It's a great test for us and all of our guys to kind of see where we stack up with the best in the Northwest. It's one of my favorite tournaments to go to."

Even with the tough competiton, the Ponies have had their successes in Missoula over the years. Still, with Washington and other northwest schools attending, a young HHS squad will have some new experiences there for sure.

But there is a sense of familiarity for the Ponies in Montana's neighbor to the west, Idaho. HHS has traveled to compete in Idaho in recent years and has faced some stellar wrestlers.

The Ponies have some motivation going into the tough scene after taking the crown once more in the Cut Bank Invitational last week. Havre got some great matches in Cut Bank with the experienced wrestlers gaining a good series of tests, while the younger part of the team was given a boost with some good match wins.

On top of that, the older members of the squad will be expecting a lot of great matches in Missoula. But the younger HHS grapplers, especially the freshman, will be experiencing something new in the Rocky Mountain Classic.

One of those grapplers is freshman Kale VanCampen, who has made some big improvements since the season began in Havre last month. VanCampen will face a lot of exciting opponents on the mat in Missoula.

But VanCampen knows he has a job to do on the mat and is glad to be able to compete in a classic that so many have been telling him about, as well as show just how much he has grown so far.

"I'm excited to compete," VanCampen said. "It'll be a good eye-opener for competition and I'm looking forward to it. I'm looking to place at the Missoula Invite at 138 pounds. I want to compete every match; every minute and finish on the podium. I've had a better work ethic and been competing harder, knowing every match is going to be a dog fight. You just got to go out there and win."

LaSalle has seen a lot from VanCampen throughout the year, as well, and has seen just how much progression the young wrestler has made in just his first season.

"One of the most improved kids we got is VanCampen," LaSalle said. "He's a freshman that placed last weekend and has been on the verge of doing that a couple times. He broke through this last week as far as getting on the podium in the tournament."

Newcomers and veterans alike, the Blue Ponies will look to get as much out of the prestigious Rocky Mountain Classic, which runs Friday and Saturday in Missoula. Havre then comes home to wrestle Glasgow for senior night Tuesday.


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