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Lights sending five grapplers to NAIA national tournament


Last updated 2/23/2021 at 8:21am

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Montana State University-Northern's Carl Hansen, top, is having an outstanding season for the Lights, and he was rewarded by being selected for the NAIA national tournament next month in Kansas. Hansen, at 184 pounds, is one of five Lights headed to nationals, which run March 5-6 in Park City, Kansas.

Three were already locks. Now, two more Montana State University-Northern Lights will be making the trip to the NAIA national tournament next month.

This past weekend was supposed to be the 2021 Cascade Conference Championships in Havre, but the tournament was canceled by the CCC last fall. Instead, criteria and voting was used to select the league's qualifiers for the national tournament, which is a mere two weeks away.

From their Top-15 rankings in the last NAIA Coaches Poll, Northern's Isaac Bartel at 197 pounds, Nick Kunz at 133 and Chase Short at 174 had already punched their tickets to nationals, and over the weekend, the Lights added sophomore 184-pounder Carl Hansen as well as true freshman and former Havre Blue Pony Connor Harris at 149 pounds.

In all, the CCC had 32 individuals punch tickets to nationals. University of Providence led the way with six selections while, Eastern Oregon University, Arizona Christian University, MSU-Northern and Vanguard University each have five. Corban University, Southern Oregon University and Warner Pacific University rounded out the talented group with three, two and one respectively.

Nick Kunz

Late last year, as a result of COVID-19, the NAIA adjusted the normal way a conference would be awarded qualifiers in men's wrestling, using the past three-year average for the conference. It was determined that allotments would be reduced if teams opt out of competition due to the pandemic. Originally the CCC was to be allotted 46 but Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Menlo College opted out of participation, which dropped the number of allocations to 32.

In lieu of a conference tournament, which was viewed as unlikely to be successful during the pandemic with such a large wrestling footprint covering Arizona, California, Oregon and Montana with limited participation opportunities, the league chose to identify the 2021 qualifiers through a combination of rankings and selection by head coaches. Alternates were also selected, with Northern's Dylan Veis (149) and Devin Crawford (165) named.

Northern is currently ranked No. 19 in the NAIA. Vanguard is the only CCC team ranked ahead of the Lights. The Lions are ranked 15th.

The 2021 NAIA national tournament is scheduled to be held in Park City, Kansas March 5-6.


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