GREAT FALLS -– Week 2 of the 2017-18 University of Providence men’s wrestling season will reveal a lot about who the No. 3 Argos really are. Over course of four days, UP will face its first ranked opponent of the year and compete in its first two tournaments.
UP will host its first home meet of the season against longtime rival No. 17 Montana State University-Northern on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the team’s first test against a ranked opponent.
The Argos swept both regular-season duals with the Lights in 2016-17. But the Lights finished eighth in the nation at the 2017 NAIA Wrestling Championship, while the Argos were 14th.
Northern does have the only returning national champion between the two schools with Brandon Weber, who was the 2017 national champion at 157 pounds, back for his redshirt-junior season. The team’s other all-American, Ben Stroh, is gone, however, as is Drake Randall, a strong 157 wrestler that transferred to Eastern Oregon University in the offseason.
The 157 weight class will be the highlight of the night, with No. 1 Weber taking on No. 7 Casey Dobson. Dobson wrestled at 149 last year as a redshirt freshman and went into nationals unranked, but he upset the defending national champion in the first round. He has picked up where he left off in 2017-18, going 2-0 in two duals including a win over Randall.
UP enters the dual with seven ranked wrestlers in the team’s lineup, while MSUN has four. The only other match that had two ranked wrestlers pitted against each other will be at 184 where No. 8 Randy Keesler will take on No. 18 Steeler French.
Wednesday’s dual will feature 10 matches which could include as many as 13 Montana wrestlers.
125 – Isaac Wilson (UP) vs. Rob Pair or Nick Kunz (MSUN)
133 – Elias Walston (UP) vs. Landon Bailey (MSUN)
141 – Jarren Komac (UP) vs. Matt Weber (MSUN)
149 – Shonn Roberts (UP) vs Dylan Veis (MSUN)
157 – Casey Dobson (UP) vs. Brandon Weber (MSUN)
165 – Gage Bentley (UP) vs. Andrew Bartel (MSUN)
174 – Adrian Lopez (UP) vs. Chase Short (MSUN)
184 – Justin Harbison or Randy Keesler (UP) vs. Steeler French (MSUN)
197 – John Hensley (UP) vs. Isaac Bartel (MSUN)
HWT – Matthew Hopkins (UP) vs. Jake Ferris (MSUN)
“There’s going to be a lot of Montana kids,” said Providence sophomore Shonn Roberts, who wrestled at Columbia Falls. “So I expect a lot of Montana fans to come out and support. A lot of these guys are from Montana and when I was in high school, we had a tough class and it’s going to show because a lot of those kids are in the national rankings and we’re doing good things so far.”
Following the dual, the Argo wrestling team will split up to compete in two different tournaments over the weekend.
The team’s top wrestlers will travel to Des Moines, Iowa for the Grand View Open on Nov. 11. The tournament, hosted by No. 1 Grand View University, will be a high-level event that will give 11 of UP’s top wrestlers the chance to go up against a loaded field of competitors.
Five other ranked NAIA programs will be sending wrestlers, along with some top NCAA Division I, NCAA Division II, and JUCO schools, including the University of Iowa, Iowa State, and the University of Nebraska.
Those not traveling to Iowa will go to Wyoming for the Northwest Open hosted by Northwest College. That tournament will have a much smaller field, but still won’t be easy. MSU-Northern will be sending wrestlers, as will the University of Wyoming and Air Force. The Northwest Open will be on Nov. 12.