HAVRE — When Havre’s Jase Stokes walked off the mats at the 2017 Class A state wrestling tournament with his fourth state championship, he thought it was the last match he would ever wrestle.
Stokes, also an all-state running back and linebacker, had turned down several college wrestling opportunities and signed to play football at Montana Tech.
But after just a few months in Butte, he felt the call of his hometown and his past wrestling glory tugging at him. He approached Montana State-Northern coach Tyson Thivierge about returning to the Hi-Line following his redshirt season with the Diggers.
“Just missed the team aspect of wrestling and the camaraderie,” Stokes said. “Wrestling in Havre was kind of always in my back pocket. Just kind of a nice place to come back to and wrestle for the town.”
It didn’t take much convincing for the Lights to welcome back to Havre with open arms.
“We tried hard to get Jase to come here right out of high school,” laughed Thivierge. “It’s one of those situations where he kind of feels like he needs to leave town. I don’t think he spent four or five months away and he realized where his heart was.
“He missed Havre, he missed wrestling and we were friends. So we talked to him quite a bit and I provided some guidance and I told him whatever decision he made, I would support it.”
So far the fit has been mutually beneficial. Stokes had enjoyed wrestling with the Lights and Thivierge has a freshman heavyweight in the lineup willing to do anything for the team.
“I’ve loved it,” Stokes said. “It’s pretty cool, everyone on the team loves everyone and treats them like a brother. That really helps us get through the six months which is kind of grueling, but in the end it all pays off.”
At 225 pounds, Stokes is a little small for the heavyweight division. But what he lacks in size, he makes up for in grit and energy.
“He’s at that point where he’s starting to take off,” Thivierge said. “He’s really gaining confidence in himself and I think he believes he’s a 97-pounder, but he’s accepted the role at heavyweight and he’s my kind of heavyweight. He goes hard, he gasses people and that’s my kind, is people who can go into deep water and come out on top.”
Stokes, who won his fourth title at 205 pounds in high school, has enjoyed moving up in weight classes.
“Not as bad as I’ve thought,” he said “Once you get to the upper-level kids, you can definitely feel a difference. The biggest part is wearing people out. My gas tank is a little bit better than most heavyweights.”
Stokes certainly misses football but still gets his fix on Saturdays.
“I think I’d rather watch college football on TV than go back and play,” he said. “I’m happy where I’m at and I’m going to stay here.”
The No. 4 Lights will close the regular season Wednesday night at 7 p.m. with a road dual at No. 9 Providence.