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Thin lines separate Hawks, Argos

DICKINSON - In every comparison between the Dickinson State and University of Great Falls wrestling teams, the Blue Hawks always find themselves on the short end of the stick.

DICKINSON - In every comparison between the Dickinson State and University of Great Falls wrestling teams, the Blue Hawks always find themselves on the short end of the stick.

Great Falls is ranked second in the NAIA. The Blue Hawks are fourth.

Between the two teams, 15 wrestlers are ranked among the top eight in their respective weight classes, according to the latest NAIA rankings.

Great Falls has eight wrestlers ranked and DSU has seven. Three of those wrestlers are ranked No. 1.

Great Falls has two Nos. 1 - seniors Wayne French (157 pounds) and Mike Kummer (184) - while DSU has senior Justin Schlecht, the two-time defending national champion at 197. Neither has lost to an NAIA opponent this season.

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However, when the teams meet at 6 p.m. tonight at Scott Gymnasium, DSU coach Thadd O'Donnell knows numbers, rankings and history won't mean a thing.

"We want to wrestle with them and I think it's going to be a really good dual," O'Donnell said. "Whoever wrestles well that night is going to win."

Between the teams, there is a nationally wrestler ranked in every weight class. On paper, the teams look to pit ranked wrestlers against one another in at least four weights.

"On paper, it looks close," O'Donnell said. "But in a dual, one pin one way or another can be a 12-point swing."

The most intriguing match could be at 125, where DSU senior Cory Johnston is ranked third and Great Falls senior Forrest Bouge is seventh.

Johnston beat Bouge by a 9-6 decision in their last meeting at the Blue Hawk Classic on Jan. 5.

"It's going to be a great dual," Great Falls coach Caleb Schaeffer said. "I don't know if you can say we have an edge by any means. Anytime you come into their gym and they have the home crowd there, that's an edge to them."

However, illness may take a toll on the Blue Hawks.

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Jake Toavs, the fifth-ranked 184-pounder, has been sick all week. O'Donnell said a decision on whether or not Toavs can go up against Kummer will be made as the dual approaches.

"You've got to wrestle with what you have," O'Donnell said. "You definitely want to have your best lineup in when you're wrestling the No. 2 team in the country. We want to give them a good match."

The Blue Hawks have also had their share of injury troubles since they took third at the National Duals in mid-January.

Junior Matt Pridgeon, the seventh-ranked 149-pounder, is expected to return today after sitting out the past month with a shoulder injury he suffered at National Duals. He'll likely tangle with eighth-ranked Ross Mosher.

"That's going to be a big test," O'Donnell said. "... He's going to need to be able to jump in the thick of things."

While O'Donnell believes the Blue Hawks are a team best built for tournaments, the Argonauts have shown this season that they are, without a doubt, fit for duals.

They are 14-3 in duals with two of their losses coming against major opponents. NCAA Division I Boise State defeated Great Falls 26-12 last Friday. Lindenwood (Mo.), the top-ranked team in NAIA, edged the Argonauts 19-18 in the National Duals championship match.

DSU is 7-2 in duals and had trouble against 19th-ranked Jamestown College last Tuesday before pulling away for a 23-21 win.

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"We're probably a better tournament team than we are a dual team at this point," O'Donnell said.

However, O'Donnell knows how important a win over the Argonauts could be with the North Region Tournament just around the corner.

"On any given night, anybody can beat anybody," O'Donnell said. "We're going to have to beat some guys who are better than us if we want to win the dual."

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