BILLINGS — Wrestlers come from near and far to participate in the Montana Open wrestling tournament.
The 14th annual event is Saturday and Sunday at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark.
Participation records have been set in 2017 and 2018. Last year, 1,945 youth wrestlers competed, eclipsing the previous all-time high of 1,640 set the year prior.
Longtime tournament director Jason Wiers of Bozeman said as of Monday night 930 wrestlers were registered. Wiers said traditionally the number of participants rises “dramatically over the course of the week” leading to the Montana Open.
If a wrestler misses the pre-registration deadline or prefers to register on site, they can sign up during weigh-ins from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Friday at Rimrock Auto Arena.
Wiers said the past 10 days he has been busy returning phone messages, text messages and email inquiries about the tourney.
“The activity level sure seems like what last year was like,” he said. “We are thinking we are on par with last year. Who knows? Maybe we’ll break the record again.”
A message was posted on the tourney Facebook page on Monday saying that whoever travels the farthest to compete will receive “some free tournament gear.”
Wiers said wrestlers from nine states have entered including Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, Arizona, Washington and Colorado.
The past couple of tournaments have also featured wrestlers from Utah, California and Nebraska, although none were registered from those states as of Monday.
Divisions, which are broken into several weight classes, are: 6 and under, 8 and under, 10 and under, 12 and under, 15 and under and 18 and under.
Last year a girls division was added to the tourney. Once again, girls can enter an all-girls division, a traditional division where they’ll compete against boys, or both divisions. Last year, 171 girls entered the tourney. Fifty of those girls wrestled in both the all-girls division and traditional bracket.
Wiers said organizers expect another strong turnout of girls.
“We are hoping so. There is such a positive momentum in that category of wrestling in that division,” Wiers said. “There are a lot of girls right now. At the weekend tournaments, there are more and more girls all the time.”
Action begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday for divisions 6U, 8U and 10U and should conclude at approximately 3 p.m. The 12U, 15U and 18U wrestlers should begin at 3:30 p.m. and the day should end at approximately 8:30 p.m.
On Sunday, all remaining brackets begin at 9 a.m. and the tourney will conclude around 3 p.m.
Host clubs are the Bozeman Wrestling Club, Belgrade Wrestling Club and Butte Wrestling Club.
Results will be posted on trackwrestling.com, and all 14 mats will have a camera positioned to record the action. Wiers said every match will be available to stream online on trackwrestling.com. A subscription is required to stream the matches.
“It’s a lot of action,” said Wiers. “It’s a lot of young scrappers and a lot of movement. That’s definitely a part of the fun for me. Those little kids have no stop in them. They just go. There is 14 mats of them doing that — it’s pretty fun to watch.”