By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editorfirstname.lastname@example.org
The 15-hour drive home from Sioux City, Iowa, might have been a little bit easier for the members of the Montana State University-Northern wrestling team if there was a trophy from the 2005 NAIA national wrestling tournament riding in the van with them.
Instead, the Lights have only individual hardware to show from this weekend's national tournament, having finished fourth as a team with 111 points. No. 1-ranked Lindenwood University won the team title with 178.5 points. Missouri Valley was second with 128.5, while Cumberland College of Kentucky edged out the Lights for the third-place trophy with 115.5 points.
"I have mixed emotions," Ray said in a phone interview. "We had five guys place and they did a good job. But this team was more than capable of finishing third or even second, but we didn't get the performances that we needed or expected."
Of Northern's five placers, three claimed individual championships.
At 157 pounds, senior Stryder Davis wrapped up a brilliant two-year career at Northern with his second straight national title.
Davis was dominant all weekend, opening with a pin over Brian Seibel of Southern Oregon in the second round. In the quarterfinals, Davis found himself down 4-3 in the second period. But that changed in a hurry as he went on to whip Angelo Love of William Penn 17-6. In the semifinals, he outlasted sixth-ranked Darion Terry 4-0 and then went on to defeat second-ranked Jake Diffenbach of Lindenwood 4-0 in the finals.
"In a word, Stryder was dominant," Ray said. "In the finals, his opponent stalled and didn't even try to take shots. He should've been penalized two more stalling points. But Stryder did a good job of staying focused."
For his efforts in the tournament and the season overall, he was named the tournament's outstanding wrestler.
"It was our fifth straight year of winning the outstanding wrestler," Ray said. "It is definitely an accomplishment. No other team has ever won it more than twice in a row. Stryder deserves it. He had a great season. He finished 41-1 with his only loss coming to the No.1 ranked wrestler in NCAA Division I."
Northern got another national champion at 133 pounds as senior transfer Brian Luna capped his brilliant, but all too brief Northern career with a pin of Kyle Jahn of McKendree in the finals. Luna was the odds-on favorite to win the title coming in and did little to make people think otherwise.
He pinned Nick Ripsom of Southern Oregon just minutes into their first-round match. In the quarterfinals, decisioned fourth-ranked Brad Cooper 9-5 in a tough match. Lunda then picked up another pin in the semifinals, sticking Louis Edmonds of Lindenwood.
"Luna was all business," Ray said. "He pins three of his four opponents. You can't complain about that. He was on a mission to win a national title and that's exactly what he did."
Northern's other national title came at 184 pounds as senior Jesse Juarez scored a 12-4 major decision over Joffre Lander of Embry-Riddle. Juarez, who had battled injuries late in the year, put together a solid stretch of wrestling starting with a pin of Webster Farris of Dana College in the second round. He then scored a tough 5-3 decision over sixth-ranked Matt Juncal in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, he defeated No. 1-ranked David O'Brien of Southern Oregon 7-6.
"Jesse had a great tournament," Ray said. "He said before the tournament that it was his goal to win a national title and he came and did what he had to do. He beat some very good wrestlers in the quarters and semis."
Northern's only other placers came at 141 and 149 as seniors Dan Shaw and Dustyn Azure each placed sixth in their respective divisions.
Shaw started off the tournament on a roll with a 12-6 win over Josh Sorum of Bacone College in the first round. In the second round, he defeated last year's national runner-up Jason Lozier of Dana College 9-4.
"That was a huge win for Shaw," Ray said. "Lozier was banged up a little, but he's still a competitor. Shaw wrestled one of his best matches of the year."
The win over Lozier moved Shaw into the quarterfinals against Nick Vogt of McKendree. He dispatched of Vogt to move into the semifinals, where his short run was stopped by Brad Stockton of Waldorf, who would eventually finish second. Shaw lost to Mark Dugan of McKendree in the consolation quarterfinals and he fell to Leo Martinez of Lindenwood to finish sixth, but still earn All-American honors.
"Shaw had to face some tough opponents right after he got beat," Ray said. "He wrestled tough, but just wasn't quite as sharp as he had been earlier in the tournament."
Competing in what was labeled as the toughest weight division, Azure scrapped and fought his way to a sixth-place finish in the final wrestling tournament of his career.
Azure opened with a technical fall over Lewis Settle of York College and followed that up with a pin of Southern Oregon's Early Ulrey. His championship hopes were derailed in the quarterfinals as Simon Fraser's Chris Harada edged him 7-5.
"That was a tough loss for Azure," Ray said. "We knew it would be a tough match because Harada is solid. He just came up a little short."
Azure bounced back from the loss to score another technical fall, this time over Kelly Rydberg of Waldorf in his first wrestlback match. He scored a 3-1 win over Shane Cristelli of Missouri Valley. In the fifth-sixth place match, Cumberland's Ernie Spreitzer edged Azure 5-4.
"Dustyn Azure left everything he had on the mat," Ray said. "He wrestled with a lot of heart and effort. He had some tough losses. That was one the deepest weight classes in the tournament."
While most teams would love to have five placers and three national champions, Ray knows that by his program's lofty standards, it must be better.
"We had three guys that didn't place that I thought were capable of being All-Americans," Ray said. "Obviously they didn't go in there to lose, but they didn't find ways to win, which is what it takes to be an All-American."
Lindenwood 178.5, Missouri Valley 128.5, Cumberland (Ky.) 115.5, Montana St.-Northern 111, Dana (Neb.) 86, Embry Riddle (Ariz.) 84, William Penn (Iowa) 77, Dickinson St. 62, Mary (N.D.) 55, Great Falls (Mont.) 54, S. Oregon 53.5, McKendree (Ill.) 52.5, Menlo (Calif.) 44.5, Bacone (Okla.) 33, Waldorf (Iowa) 32, Newman (Kan.) 30.5, Cumberland (Tenn.) 27.5, Jamestown, N.D. 23.5, Morningside (Iowa) 16.5, Simon Fraser 14.5, Campbellsville (Ky.) 12.5, Northwestern (Iowa) 12, Missouri Baptist 7, Bethel (Ind.) 6.5, Brian Cliff (Iowa) 4, Dakota Wesleyan (S.D.) 4, Si Tanka (S.D.) 0, York (Neb.) 0.
125 - Michael McPeak 3-2
McPeak, MSU-N dec. Michael Copeland, NEW 7-5
Andrew Bradbury, LIN dec. McPeak, MSU-N 8-4
McPeak, MSU-N dec. Jared Dingmann, DWU 15-10
McPeak, MSU-N pinned Jeff Aguilar, MEN F, 1:47
Kendall Horrocks, WPC dec. McPeak, MSU-N 6-4
133 - Brian Luna 4-0 (National Champion)
Luna, MSU-N pinned Nick Ripsom, SOU 1:45
Luna, MSU-N dec. Brad Cooper, CC 9-5
Luna, MSU-N pinned Louis Edmonds, LIN F 4:55
Luna, MSU-N (31-1) pinned Kyle Jahn, MKC (20-7) F, 3:40
141 - Dan Shaw 3-3 (sixth place)
Shaw, MSU-N dec. Josh Sorum, BAC 12-6
Shaw, MSU-N DEC. Jason Lozier, DC 9-4
Shaw, MSU-N dec. Nick Vogt, MKC 7-3
Brad Stockton, WAL dec. Shaw, MSU-N 13-3
Mark Dugan, NEW dec. Shaw, MSU-N 6-4
Leo Martinez, LIN dec. Shaw, MSU-N 10-3
149 - Dustyn Azure 4-2 (sixth place)
Azure, MSU-N WBTF. Lewis Settle, YOR , 5:25-8; 6:15
Azure, MSU-N pinned Earl Ulrey, SOU 3:36
Chris Harada, SFC dec. Azure, MSU-N 7-5
Azure, MSU-N WBTF Kelly Rydberg, WAL T1, 5:58
Azure, MSU-N dec. Shane Cristelli, MVC 3-1
Ernie Spreitzer, CC dec. Dustyn Azure, MSU-N 5-4
157 - Dale Seley 2-2
Seley, MSU-N major dec. John Wilcox, Missouri Baptist 22-9
Rich Vigorito, Southern Oregon dec. Seley, MSU-N 6-5
Seley, MSU-N F win by forfeit
Donaco Watts, Missouri Valley dec. Seley, MSU-N 5-4
157 - Stryder Davis 4-0 (National Champion)
Davis, MSU-N pinned Brian Seibel, SOU 4:40
Davis, MSU-N dec. Angelo Love, WPC 17-6
Davis, MSU-N dec. Darion Terry, MVC 4-0
Davis, MSU-N (41-1) dec. Jake Dieffenbach, LIN (22-7) 4-0
165 - Aaron Jensen 1-2
Jensen, MSU-N dec. Antonio Duarte, Dakota Wesleyan (S.D.) 9-4
Scott Vaughn, CAM dec. Jensen, MSU-N 3-2; TB1
Corey Johnson, LIN pinned Jensen, MSU-N F, 2:04
174 - David Waters 1-2
Casey Sullivan, WAL dec. Waters, MSU-N 11-2
Waters, MSU-N dec. Eugene Pierre, STH 9-6
Josh Fitzgerald, Southern Oregon dec. Waters, MSU-N 8-0
174 - Ryan Mattingly 1-2
Todd Allen, CC dec. Mattingly, MSU-N 7-1
Ryan Mattingly, MSU-N dec. Derek Pike, WAL 6-0
Junior Liberal, MEN dec. Mattingly, MSU-N 4-2
184 - Brian Fritchman 0-2
Blair Alderman, DC dec. Fritchman, MSU-N 7-3
Smith, WPC dec. Fritchman, MSU-N 13-9
184 - Jesse Juarez 4-0 (National Champion)
Juarez, MSU-N pinned Webster Farris, DC 2:54
Juarez, MSU-N dec. Matt Juncal, CC 5-3
Juarez, MSU-N dec. David O'Brien, SOU 7-6
Juarez, MSU-N (17-3) dec. Joffre Lander, ERU (29-22) 12-4
HWT - Chase Gormley 1-2
Gormley, MSU-N pinned Renwick Richardson, CC F, 3:51
Jacob Hallmark, MEN dec. Gormely, MSU-N 5-4; TB2
Keith McCleary, Mary (N.D.) dec. Gormley, MSU-N 8-4