George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor email@example.com
It isn't every day that high school athletes get a chance to make history. And while the Havre High wrestling team has already made some of its own in recent years, this weekend in Billings could be very historic. On Friday and Saturday at the Billings Metra, the top-ranked Blue Ponies will try for an unprecedented third straight Class A wrestling state championship at the All-Class State Wrestling Tournament at the Metra Park. HHS set a Class A record for team points during last year's state title run, backing up their 2007 state title. And this season, with all that HHS has accomplished, and the way the Ponies have dominated the season from start to finish, many are saying Havre could and should win by an even bigger margin. "There are alot of expectations on these kids," Havre High head coach Scott Filius, who's won five Class A titles in his brilliant career said. "But they aren't any bigger than the ones these kids have for themselves. "Right now, we're wrestling well, we're peaking at the right time," he added. "And we're healthy, and looking forward to going down there and doing what we're capable of doing." And if HHS does what's expected of it and what its capable of, Saturday night could be one for the ages. The Ponies have three returning state champions in seniors Chris Recio, Ethan Hinebauch and Myles Mazurkiewicz, and they bring as many as nine other wrestlers that placed at state a year ago. That's a wealth of state tournament experience already, but it's nothing compared to the total depth the Ponies have this season. It's the young wrestlers, which have done their part this season for HHS that makes Havre a team that has been almost unbeatable all year. Still, Filius knows that his wrestlers must prove it on the Metra mats one more time, and he believes they are fully capable of doing so. "It's a little different down there, it's a big venue and there's a lot of pressure," Filius said. "But our kids have wrestled under pressure and at the biggest tournaments in the state all season, and some of them for a long time now. They know every match in this tournament is tough, they know they are all big matches and they are ready to handle it." And if they handle it, Saturday night's Parade of Champions could feature a lot of blue and white. While not putting a number on how many points his team could possibly rack up this weekend, or how many state champions Havre might have, Filius said that there are a host of Ponies who expect to be wrestling in the finals. Among them are obviously the trio of Recio at 112, Mazurkiewicz at 135 and Hinebauch at 160. Recio (27-2) is gunning for an unprecedented third straight Class A title, and will start things off on Friday morning with Glendive's Joe Schieffer. A third state title won't come easy for Recio with returning state champion Tyler Stedman of Frenchtown looming in the finals. Mazurkiewicz (32-3) also has a tough task ahead as he will likely see rival Ryan Martin, a two-time state champion in the finals. Martin, a junior from Lewistown beat Mazurkiewicz in the finals as a sophomore, while the HHS senior has been to the finals all three previous years of his career. Hinebauch (38-1) has had a remarkable senior campaign, and will open his repeat quest with Josiah Coker of Libby. Sidney's Mac Collins and Ronan's Toby Cheff are his chief rivals at 160. Duell Stadel, Kent Pattison and Phillip Sutherland are looking to avenge heartbreaking losses at last year's tourney as is Mitch Schnittgen. All are expected to reach the finals this weekend along with Aaron Olson and Paul Jensen. Stadel (28-5) is a favorite at 105 pounds but has a returning state champion in Sidney's Brennan Gorder in his way. Sutherland (35-8) is looking to get back to the finals and a rematch with Polson's Brock Picard at 171 pounds. Picard beat Sutherland in the final a year ago despite suffering a concussion during the match. Ironically, Picard was almost a Blue Pony this year, but transferred back to Polson in the fall. Pattison (38-5) is a heavy favorite at 140 pounds, but does have solid competitors like Frenchtown''s Beau Nordahl and Miles City's Shane Cooley in the draw. Pattison opens the tourney with Logan Fulcher of Anaconda. At 145, Olson (27-8) is the favorite, but Mickey Cheff of Ronan and Nathan DuBose of Corvallis will both be tough draws. Then there's Schnittgen and 215-pounder Paul Jensen. Schnittgen (25-6) has dominated the heavyweight division all season long and will open his state title quest with Charlie Schmitz of Billings Central, while Hamilton's Wes Sherman also stands in his way. Jensen (32-8), a favorite last year at 215, was suffering from illness during the state meet and didn't place, so he is on a road to redemption as well. Jensen opens the meet with Derek Crittenden of Whitefish, and has a loaded bracket with the likes of Sidney's Chad Dunn, Libby's Justin Graham and Central's Alexi Grosulak. HHS 119-pounder Brett Normandy was perhaps the surprise of the 2008 state tourney finishing third overall. But Normandy (21-11) isn't sneaking up on anybody after a strong season this year. Normandy opens with Laurel's Ryan Salincski and has defending state champ Kylan Zumpf of Miles City as a possible matchup in the finals. And while Havre could place as many as 10 veterans in the finals Saturday night, a pair of newcomers should also make plenty of noise. At 130 pounds, freshman Eli Hinebauch (40-4) has stormed onto the Class A scene and is the favorite to capture the state title. Hinebauch opens with Frenchtown's JayDee Page, and has teammate Kristian Honadel (15-12) and returning state champion, Miles City's Casey Makor in his way, but with how he's wrestled as a freshman, he's certainly capable of bringing home a state title. At 98 pounds, Zack Smith (22-15) should also be right there this weekend. Smith opens with Dan McGrath of Dillon. Havre's depth will also play a huge factor. Dillon Seely (19-16) at 125 pounds, Layne Waid (16-11) at 135 pounds, Kameron Pribyl (31-8) at 145 pounds, Casey Schaub (23-19) and Cody Johnson (17-9) at 152 pounds and Josh Salapich (18-13) at 189 pounds are all capable of making deep runs in the tournament, placing and helping to give HHS perhaps the most dominant state title run in Class A history. "Ronan, Sidney, Belgrade and Miles City are all solid teams, they will all score some points," Filius said. "But we have the depth and the talent that other teams probably just don't have. We have to go out and take care of things on the mat, but we're wrestling well right now and we feel good about our chances. I know we've got nine or ten kids that expect to be in the finals, and that would be big for us, but we also have a lot of depth and that's going to be a big factor in this tournament." The 2009 All-Class State Wrestling Tournament gets under way Friday morning and runs through Saturday night at the Metra Park in Billings.