George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor email@example.com
The good thing about wrestling your arch rival twice a year is that you get a shot at some redemption. And that's exactly what the Montana State University-Northern Lights will be seeking when they match up with the University of Great Falls on the mat tonight in Great Falls. When the No. 9 Lights square off against the No. 4 Argos in a matchup of two of the NAIA's elite wrestling programs tonight at the McLaughlin Center, there will be plenty at stake, mostly pride. Northern has beaten UGF just once in the last five meetings. Included in that stretch was a 30-12 UGF win back in November in Havre. But Northern is a different team than it was the first time the Argos and Lights met, and while UGF is not ready to give up the crown as Montana's top collegiate wrestling program, Lights head coach Tyson Thivierge said that things have a chance to be different this time around. We are looking forward to stepping up to this challenge," Thivierge said. "We have been getting better everyday in the room and the guys are definitely hungrier this time around considering the close matches of the last dual. We have worked a lot on overcoming defi- cits and that has showed in the last few events." Indeed, the Lights could have seen 18 points go a completely different way the first time they faced the Argos. Tay Todd lost in overtime for MSU-N, and Colter Dimas, Austin Ouelette, Evan Hinebauch and Robbie Shaw all lost late in their matches. If those matches alone go a different way, Northern is right there and Thivierge said his team knows it. "The difference is going to be who can go deeper into the third period and score those last takedowns for wins and majors," Thivierge said. "In the first meeting, Todd, Dimas, Ouellette, Hinebauch and Shaw all lost close decisions that either came down to the wire or the last takedown. These guys have gotten better as the year has gone on and are capable of overcoming those mental mistakes they made last time." Northern is already ahead of UGF 6-0 heading into tonight's dual as the Lights No. 1-ranked 125-pound Cory Borges will earn a forfeit. The 189-pound match will be the one to watch tonight as Hinebauch, now ranked second nationally will take on No. 1-ranked Michael French for a third time this season. If Northern wrestles well, that match could be a swing match for the Lights, and it's rare fans get to see the two top-ranked wrestlers in the country go head-to-head in a regular season dual. The rest of the dual will also feature some outstanding matchups. MSU-N senior Colt Heger takes on Kyle Middlemist at 133 pounds. Middlemist is normally UGF's 125-pounder, but he'll move up tonight. At 141, Beau LaSalle will battle Anthoni Heffernan in another critical match, as is the 149pound match between Jack Goodrich and either Jason Costello or Noah Hatton. Todd wrestled at 149 last time out, but he has since moved up to 157, and he'll have his hands full tonight with Jeremy Montang. But as expected the upper weights will likely make or break both teams tonight. Besides the Hinebauch/French showdown, Dimas, Ouelette, Cody Dennis and Shaw will all be up against ranked UGF wrestlers. Dimas squares off against No. 3 Ross Mosher while Ouelette renews his rivalry with seventh- ranked Brandon DeCock. Cody Dennis, who didn't wrestle last time out, will got at 197 and take on secondranked Alex Calvi, while Shaw takes on sixth-ranked Brad Fraser in another heated rivalry match. Tonight's dual in Great Falls is the first of two straight for the Lights. MSUN will be in Dickinson, N.D. on Thursday to face the third-ranked Dickinson State Blue Hawks. The Blue Hawks have five ranked wrestlers in their lineup and the match will be a another big test for the Lights. "We have to step up against a team (DSU) we haven’t seen much this season," Thivierge said. "They are very solid up and down the line-up and should be a great test for us heading into our West National Qualifier." Tonight's dual between the Lights and Argos will start at 7 at the McLaughlin Center on the campus of the University of Great Falls.