When the Montana All-Class State Wrestling Tournament begins Friday morning inside the Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark in Billings, several Hi-Line teams, as well as many individual grapplers from the area will be chasing history in different ways.
The Class B-C state tournament kicks off Friday morning, with the Chinook Sugarbeeters seeking a fifth straight Class C title. The Beeters have won every Class C only trophy since the MHSA began giving them out and though the Beeters graduated the legendary Ben Stroh last spring, they’re poised to keep ahold of the state title yet again after qualifying 10 grapplers from the Northern B-C Divisional last week in Chester.
Meanwhile, the Harlem Wildcats would like to earn some hardware too. Harlem has really established itself as a major player in the B-C wrestling ranks in recent years, but the Wildcats have come up just short of getting in the trophies. However, after winning the B-C title last week, and getting eight wrestlers through to state, including four divisional champs, Harlem is set for a run at a top-three finish this week.
Of course, everybody would like to think they have a chance at the B-C state title, including the Wildcats and Beeters. But that may not be a realistic goal thanks to the dominant team Forsyth, the defending B-C champion will be bringing to Billings. The Dogies scored 211 points last year to beat out Choteau and Colstrip. Chinook finished fourth overall, while Harlem tied eighth with 67 points.
The same cast of characters will likely vie for the top spots this weekend. Forsyth is the clear favorite, while Choteau, Ronan and Colstrip have depth. Cut bank has also become a power this season, while Chinook will have Cascade-Simms as its main competitor in the Class C race. The Beeters will also factor in to the overall title race.
And then there’s Harlem. The Wildcats, under head coach Lyle Faulkinberry, might be the biggest wildcard in the tournament. And if Harlem’s big guns do what they’re capable of over the two-day tournament, the Wildcats could very well be hauling hardware back to the Hi-Line.
“We now have to put aside what we did this past weekend and concentrate on the state tournament that is our ultimate goal, doing great things in Billings,” Faulkinberry said.
Great things will hopefully include multiple individual state titles. At 125 pounds, junior Teague Jones is a heavy favorite after finishing third at 119 a year ago. At 112 pounds, Shay Snider is favored after he struggled a year ago due to an injury. Snider will likely meet Cut bank rival Kylan Berkram for the 112 title. And while Jones and Snider are favorites, Harlem will need stalwarts like Seth Adams (215), Brendan Johnson (135), Cody Blackcrow (215) T’Jay Allen (119) and Gus Taylor (119) to score big points this weekend. Adams certainly has a chance to get to the final in his bracket, while Johnson could be a big surprise at 135. Denton Cornell will also compete for the Wildcats at 160.
Chinook isn’t as top heavy as it has been in recent years, but the Beeters do have potential state champions in senior Rob Klingaman at 189 pounds and Donovan Moon at 98 pounds. Klingaman reached the 189-pound title match a year ago, losing in what was Stroh’s historic state title match. He’ll have competition from standouts from Ronan and Choteau, but after last year’s run, he certainly knows what it takes to get the job done this weekend.
Chinook should also get more points from the experienced Geoff Qualls at 135 pounds, while the Beeters will rely on newcomers like Jake Norby at 112 pounds, Owen Powell at 125, Ken Pruttis at 145, Jessen Dannels at 160, Garrison Mitchell at 98 and Kevin Young at 189.
“We pretty young this year,” Chinook head coach Perry Miller said. “But this team did a great job at divisionals. We’re taking seven freshmen and sophomores, and they all are doing a great job for us. And of course, our three seniors have really led us all year.
“We’re really excited and really looking forward to this state tournament and seeing what we can do,” he added. “This is a great group of kids. They have a great attitude and a desire to work and improve every time they step on the mat, and that’s what they’ve done all year. And we’re going to Billings to give it everything we’ve got.”
And while Chinook and Harlem are trophy hunting this weekend, the Hi-Line could be well represented on the medal stand by wrestlers from Big Sandy and Chester/J-I as well.
Big Sandy’s Lane Martin is ranked third at 171 pounds and has a strong chance to get to finals night, while teammate Adrian Gasvoda has a chance to make some noise at 160. The Pioneers also qualified Dusty Gasvoda at 162 and Jacob Schuster at 140.
C/J-I’s Shalon Norick is gunning for a state championship at heavyweight after finishing fourth a year ago. He and Shelby rival Cody Nelson are the favorites this week. The Hawks also
have Eric Kelly (152) back in the state tourney, as well as Ryan Temple at 130 and Wyatt Wickum at 189.
So, overall, the Hi-Line is sending a lot of firepower to Billings this weekend. Chinook and Harlem could come away with trophies and individual titles, and a ton of local wrestlers could be carrying medals back home. It’s going to be an exciting two days, and as usual, the Hi-Line is well represented.
The 2013 Class B-C state tournament gets underway Friday morning at the Rimrock Auto Arena in Billings. The tournament will run through Saturday night.