Lights set to make Montana mat history with rival Argos

On the eve of state wrestling, Northern and Providence meet in first-ever neutral site dual in Billings


February 13, 2020

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Montana State University-Northern's Isaac Bartel battles a rival from Northwest College during Northern's senior-night dual Friday in the Armory Gymnasium. The Lights officially have one more home dual this season, but that match will take place tonight in Billings when they wrestle arch rival University of Providence.

The first salvo in the rivalry series between the Montana State University-Northern Lights and University of Providence Argos took place way back in the beginning of November inside the McLaughlin Center in Great Falls. So normally, the rivalry would shift to Havre this month.

Instead though, the rivalry is heading south, as in Billings - as the Lights will use their turn to host the Argos to hold Montana's only collegiate wrestling showcase on the night before the All-Class State Tournament.

The dual between the No. 20 Lights and No. 9 Argos will start tonight at 7 at Billings Senior High, and, given that it's state wrestling weekend, everybody in Billings should be excited to see Northern and UP go at it.

"It almost feels historic," Northern head coach Tyson Thivierge said. "To pull the trigger on it, for Billings Senior to step up and be the location of it, we're extremely happy about it. We're really excited about it."

Everybody is excited about it, because bringing the Northern/UP dual to Billings will only enhance what's already one of the biggest sporting events in Montana each year.

But as big as the event itself is, it's also an important dual for both the Lights and Argos, because it's the final one before the NAIA postseason, which starts with next week's Cascade Conference Championships in California.

In the November matchup in Great Falls, the Lights lost a heartbreaker to the Argos 25-22, but the first half of the season, Northern had open weights and, Thivierge said, that's one of the many things that is different this time around.

"We have a full lineup now, we're injury free right now, we're healthy," Thivierge said. "They've made some changes in their lineup, too. So yeah, that dual (in November) was a long time ago. We're both different teams now, and it's going to be interesting. But no matter what the lineups are or where it's at, I'll say it again, this dual brings out the best in both programs. So we gotta show up. We have to show up and set the tone right away."

The Lights have been doing that in recent weeks. Now at full strength, Northern has two choices at 125 pounds in Nick Kunz or Rob Pair, while a healthy Landon Bailey is looking very tough at 133, as is a healthy Clayton Currier, ranked No. 20 at 141. Freshman Lane Paulson continues to improve at 159, as does true freshman Caden Hilliard at 157, while freshman transfer Nakoda Siegel has been a sparkplug at 165.

The Lights then hope to use their strengths in some of the upper weights, including 10th-ranked Chase Short at 174 pounds and second-ranked Isaac Bartel at 197. Carl Hansen or Cody Goulding (184) and Rylan Moldenhauer (HWT) will round out Northern's lineup tonight.

On the other side, first-year Argo head coach Steve Komac is hoping his team can sweep the Lights for the season. The Argos will lean on leaders like third-ranked Shonn Roberts at 133, fifth-ranked Casey Dobson at 157 and sixth-ranked Justin Harbison at 285. John Hensley is also ranked sixth at 197, while Eli Walston is 12th at 125, Jordan Komac is 12th at 165 and Hayden Schrull is 12th at 184.

But no matter what the rankings are, who is wrestling who, the dual between the Lights and Argos is always close, it's always intense, and it's always fun. And now, when you throw it in Billings the night before state wrestling, it's going to be amped up even more.

"It's going to be fun to put on a show down there," Thivierge said. "It's going to be a big event, I think it's going to be bigger than everyone even expects. I think it's going to be a lot of fun for the fans, and a lot of fun for both programs."

Tonight's dual between the Lights and Argos will start at 7 at Billings Senior. The Cascade Conference Tournament is set for Feb. 21-21 in Menlo, California.

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

MSU-N head coach Tyson Thivierge has long thought the February dual between Northern and Providence should be held in Billings the week of state wrestling. Tonight, that idea becomes a reality as the Lights and Argos meet at 7 at Billings Senior.


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