HAVRE — The Blue Ponies are keeping things in the family.
Twenty-nine days after Scott Filius announced his retirement from the Havre High wrestling program, athletic director Dennis Murphy released the news that Beau LaSalle will be the new head coach of the Blue Ponies.
“It’s pretty high right now,” LaSalle said of his excitement level. “I got the official call (Wednesday) morning and I’m excited to get things out there. We’ve been rolling for a little while with the guys, but I’m excited to move forward. It’s a great program and not a whole lot is going to change, we’ll keep rolling the way we have been. There may be a few different quirks and things like that, but we’re not going to fix something that’s not broke.”
LaSalle served as an assistant coach for Filius for six seasons, helping the Blue Ponies to five consecutive Class A state championships from 2013-2017. Sidney snapped Havre’s streak last month at the state wrestling tournament in Billings.
Filius guided Havre to 12 state championships, tied for second most in Montana’s history. The longtime mentor also led the Blue Ponies to 19 top-three finishes, while coaching 58 state championship wrestlers.
“It’s been great. Any time you get a chance to be right next to the best and see how he does things, how the offseason works and all of the ins and outs that people on the outside don’t see, you get a firsthand look at all that, it’s most beneficial,” LaSalle said of Filius’ tutelage. “I don’t know that I would want to shadow anybody else. As far as Montana wrestling goes, he’s kind of set the standard. It’s a hard act to follow, I’ll say that, but I have firsthand experience seeing how it’s done, so that’s a big help.”
“I know I’m excited, but I don’t know how nervous I’ll be,” he continued. “I don’t know that my mentality in the corner is going to change a whole lot from what is has been. Scott has helped me in that situation quite a bit and he let me make some of the calls in the corner as to what we need to do with some of our guys. I can’t tell you how nervous I’ll be, but I’m excited, for sure.”
LaSalle won a 130-pound State A championship as a senior in 2007, helping the Blue Ponies to 239 points and the team championship. He defeated Columbia Falls wrestler Cody Kolodejchuck 7-4 in the 130-pound finale. In 2006, LaSalle captured a third-place finish at 125 pounds, defeating teammate Nathan Harada 1-0 in the consolation match, though he joked that the Montana High School Association archives have Harada winning the match.
He also placed fifth as a sophomore and fourth as a freshman for the Blue Ponies.
Despite being more than a decade removed from the Havre wrestling program as an athlete, LaSalle jokes about being able to relate to high school-aged student-athletes.
“I feel like I relate pretty well. It’s getting a lot farther away than it seems, I feel like I just got done wrestling in college and in high school, but it’s getting to be farther and farther away,” he said. “I feel like I can relate to a lot of the things they’re going through, because as far as wrestling goes, we all experienced the same ups and downs and went through the same grind of the offseason. Those things don’t really change, so I can relate to those pretty well.
“Socially relating to them is getting harder and harder because there’s so much different with social media and all that. I feel like I’m up-to-date, but it turns out I’m behind on some of that. I catch myself Googling a lot of the abbreviations and things that come out on Twitter and Facebook. I guess I’m not quite as up-to-date and cool as I thought, but I’m working on it.”
Prior to joining Filius’ staff at Havre, LaSalle enjoyed a fine collegiate career at MSU-Northern, twice qualifying for the NAIA national tournament under coach Tyson Thivierge. Wrestling for the Lights and learning from Thivierge was another key step in LaSalle’s progression as a coach.
“The experience of being in a college room and getting to see that next level of competition was very beneficial,” LaSalle said.
LaSalle and the Havre wrestling coaches have already implemented offseason workouts for the Blue Ponies, including weight programs and conditioning. Havre’s new head coach says he looks forward to the 2018 season, where he and the entire program have one goal in mind.
“Getting back to the state tournament and taking another crack at Sidney,” LaSalle said. “We’re ready to go back after them.”
Only hours on the job and already making Filius proud.