Rivalry Twist: Lights, Argos put on a show in Billings
Providence beats Northern on the eve of state wrestling
Last updated 2/14/2020 at 12:30pm
BILLINGS - The final score was not what the Montana State University-Northern Lights were after. But the bigger result was.
On the eve of the 2020 All-Class State Wrestling Tournament, fans and high school wrestlers from every corner of the state packed the Billings Senior Gym Thursday night to watch the state's only college wrestling programs go at it. And the Lights and University of Providence Argos did put on a show.
The No. 9 Argos beat the No. 20 Lights 28-14 on the mat, earning a rare season sweep in the heated rivalry, but in the end, both teams won.
"It was a great experience," Northern senior Landon Bailey, a Class AA Helena native said. "It's a pretty cool way to end my wrestling career in Montana. You have two really tough Montana programs going at it the night before the biggest wrestling day of the year. So it was big; it was big for us."
Throngs of fans poured into the Bronc's home gym to watch Montana's only college wrestling programs close out their regular season.
Bailey was an early catalyst for Northern as he earned a 6-3 decision at 133 pounds, giving the Lights an early 6-0 lead. Bailey's win came on the heels of an exciting 5-1 decision from sophomore Nick Kunz, helping the Lights got off to a great start.
Unfortunately for Northern, Providence quickly joined the battle, and won four straight matches, starting with T.J. Braun flipping the script on Clayton Currier at 141 pounds. Braun scratched out a 6-4 win.
Northern was still ahead 6-3, but third-ranked Shonn Roberts and fourth-ranked Casey Dobson recorded back-to-back pins for the Argos to put them ahead 15-6 through 157 pounds. Then, the Lights lost their second heartbreaker of the night when freshman Nakoda Siegel couldn't overcome a late 2-1 deficit against UP's Jaren Komac, and with just four matches left, the Argos led 18-6.
"I thought, the matches we expected to do well, we let them (Argos) back in those matches," Northern head coach Tyson Thivierge said. "They got us tired, we got them tired, too, but they would get re-energized in the third period. That's something we need to do a much better job of, we need to believe we're a third-period team. Tonight, they (Argos) did a much better job of that, and then their seniors did what they were supposed to do. Their seniors wrestled really well, and it's hard to come back from that.
"We lost two really close matches that could have gone the other way," Thivierge continued. "And those are just little things we need to tweak, and we'll be OK. The effort was there, we just need to get better in certain situations, and those are mostly situations they (Argos) took advantage of tonight."
Northern tried to battle back, winning two of the last four matches, starting with a dominant performance by Great Falls native Chase Short at 174 pounds. Short took apart Alex Quick in a 20-4 technical fall, while second-ranked Isaac Bartel took down sixth-ranked John Hensley, 6-2 at 197. However, UP's Hayden Schrull got a pin at 184 to clinch the dual, while highly ranked heavyweight Justin Harbison picked up a major decision over Rylan Moldenhauer in the final match of the night.
And while, at the end of the night, it was the Argos who were victorious, both teams, both programs, and especially the wrestlers and fans, were all winners.
Thursday night's dual, in a way, kicked off the state wrestling weekend, and included 14 different Lights and Argos who spent their high school careers wrestling in the Metra on this weekend every year. Yes, it was a big night, and one that Thivierge hopes will continue.
"It's tough. We wanted to win, and we lost some really close matches," Thivierge said. "But the score aside, this was a tremendous atmosphere, it was a fun night. It was a big night for both programs, and I'm pumped that we got this started, and I hope it not only continues but only gets bigger and bigger."
Thursday night marked the end of the 2019-2020 regular season for the Lights. They will now head to California for the Cascade Conference Championships next weekend.
Argos 28, Lights 14
125 - Nick Kunz, MSU-N dec. Eli Walston, UP, 5-1;
133 - Landon Bailey, MSU-N dec. Clayton Gilliam, UP, 6-3;
141 - TJ Baun, UP dec. Clayton Currier, MSU-N, 6-4;
149 - Shonn Roberts, UP pinned Lane Paulson, MSU-N, 1:15;
157 - Casey Dobson, UP pinned Caden Hilliard, MSU-N, 1:47;
165 - Jaren Komac, UP dec. Nakoda Siegel, MSU-N, 2-1;
174 - Chase Short, MSU-N tech. Fall Alex Quick, UP, 20-4;
184 - Hayden Schrull, UP pinned Carl Hansen, MSU-N, 4:50;
197 – Isaac Bartel, MSU-N dec. John Hensley, UP, 6-2;
HWT – Justin Harbison, UP maj. dec. Rylan Moldenhauer, MSU-N, 12-0.