Havre High senior Grant Pattison and Chinook senior Rob Klingaman have plenty in common. They are both wrestlers, they are both very good at wrestling, they are Hi-Line products and they are smart and productive student-athletes.
And heading into today’s All-Class State Wrestling Tournament inside the Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark in Billings, the duo’s commonalties and ultimately, their goals run much deeper.
Both Pattison and Klingaman ar
e 189-pounders for their respective teams. They both come from a long-standing tradition of wrestling at both programs. They are guided by two of the greats in the sport in HHS head coach Scott Filius and Chinook’s Perry Miller.
And finally, they both want to keep the 189-pound state championship right where it has resided for the last 365 days, in Havre and in Chinook. And they both want it badly.
A year ago, Pattison was a 160-pounder for the Blue Ponies as he watched good friend and Blue Pony teammate Casey Schaub capture the 189-pound Class A state title in Billings. Schaub dominated his bracket from start to finish, never being pressed in his four wins.
Meanwhile, Klingaman’s situation was even more unique a year ago inside the Metra. He didn’t watch teammate Ben Stroh capture the 189-pound Class B-C state championship, instead he was Stroh’s opponent in what was a historic match where Stroh, now a red-shirt freshman at the University of Wyoming, became the 19th Montanan to capture four consecutive state championships. In that match, Stroh pinned Klingaman for the exciting victory.
Oh, and that’s one more thing Pattison and Klingaman have in common — in their senior season, neither had to step on the mat against Stroh. And that’s probably just fine with them.
And while both Pattison and Klingaman saw history last year as their teammates made sure the 189-pound weight class was an all Hi-Line affair, they are both now on the verge of making history themselves.
And for both wrestlers, nothing short of a state championship will suffice.
“This whole season, every match has been a stepping stone,” said Pattison, who as a younger grappler watched his older brother Kent win state titles for the Blue Ponies. “But the ultimate stepping stone is to not lose this weekend. It’s four matches and that’s my goal. It’s been my goal all season.”
Pattison’s season has been an impressive one. He placed fourth at 171 pounds a year ago, and from that day on, he’s been working toward this weekend and winning four matches in Billings. He’s been ranked No. 1 in Class A at 189 all year long, and has performed well on the biggest stages, such as the Mining City Duals, the CMR Holiday Classic and the Rocky Mountain Classic. He’s lost just four times all season, and though there’s always going to be tough competition at the state tournament, there’s no doubt, like Schaub last year, that the 189-pound title is his for the taking.
“Having Casey (Schaub) in the room last year helped me a lot,” Pattison said. “He’s a big strong guy and knowing I was going up eventually, it was great to go up against him.”
“Grant has been a lot of fun,” Filius added. “But he is so quiet you can’t hardly tell if he is having fun or isn’t. He has cut loose with his personality this year, and he is just a neat kid. I had Kent, his older brother, and they are really alike in a lot of ways, and not alike in a lot of ways. But when you get one great kid, you typically get two, and that is what we have here. They are great wrestlers and great people too.”
While Pattison is on his quest this weekend, just a few mats away, Klingaman will be on one of his own. His quest is the same, but different, especially after getting as close to the mountain top as a wrestler competing in Stroh’s weight class can get last February.
Klingaman comes into the state tournament ranked third at 189, though he’s had to battle injuries all year. He was originally injured in the Class C eight-man football quarterfinals back in November, and that really slowed his progress down. But Chinook head coach Perry Miller said, after watching him cruise to the Northern B-C title last weekend in Chester, Klingaman is finally starting to wrestle at full strength.
“Robbie’s progression has been great recently,” Miller said. “You know, he got hurt in football, and he’s missed some valuable time this year. But he’s always been a leader for us, and he’s worked extremely hard to get to where he is. This weekend, he just has to hold up physically, because there’s no one that’s mentally stronger than he is, and he’s not going to get out-worked on the mat.”
Like his 189-pound counterpart in Havre, Klingaman has had the fortune of learning from some of the best. For three years, he was in Chinook’s grueling wrestling room with the likes of Stroh and fellow state champion Jorrell Jones, among others. And Miller says, it’s now Klingaman’s time to take over.
“Robbie’s a great kid,” Miller said. “He’s very smart, a 4.0 student, and he’s just such a hard worker. It was easy for him to be overshadowed the last couple of years by guys like Ben and Jorrell, but we’ve always known what we’ve had in him. He’s been our leader all year, and I’m just really proud of him.”
Both Pattison and Klingaman are indeed great kids. They’ve represented their respective schools and the entire Hi-Line wrestling community well. They’ve both gotten glimpses of what state championships are all about. They both are going to Billings with plenty in common and the same goals in mind.
Now, it’s four matches for glory. For one Havre High and one Chinook wrestler, separated by a 21-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 2, it’s two days in Billings, 36 hours of intense and utter dedication, all in attempt to reach a personal milestone, while each making sure the 189-pound weight class still belongs to the Hi-Line.
“No one puts more pressure on himself than Robbie does,” Miller said. “The only instructions I’m going to give him on the bus ride to Billings is to just relax, have fun and enjoy this moment. I know he’s capable of doing it, and so does he. Now he just needs to go out and enjoy it.”
“If he wrestles as well as he has this year and as well as he is capable of, he will be right there,” Filius said of Pattison. “Sometimes kids make a bigger deal about it than it is, but he thumped on guys all year, so I would expect that to continue.”
Two local 189-pounders, two days away from glory. Two Hi-Line products wrestling under the same Metra roof in Billings each carrying the same goal on their shoulders. As far as wrestling dreams go, it doesn’t get much better than that.