State AA wrestling (copy)

Bozeman's Preston Innis grapples with Missoula Sentinel's Luke Joy in a Class AA 132-pound first-round match during the 2017 state tournament. Sentinel will host The Jug Beck Rocky Mountain Classic on Friday and Saturday.

MISSOULA — One of the premier wrestling tournaments in Montana begins on Friday when competitors from four states descend on Missoula for a two-day meet.

The Jug Beck Rocky Mountain Classic will feature 32 teams from Montana, Idaho, Washington and Wyoming on Friday and Saturday at Sentinel High School. The tournament comes one week after the 30-team Tom LeProwse Invitational in Bozeman.

“With the exception of the Tri-State Tournament in Coeur d’Alene, which only a couple Montana teams go, this is our toughest tournament for sure,” Sentinel head coach Jeremy LaPorte said. “You have guys from Idaho and Washington and guys you’ve never seen before, so it adds a whole new element.”

The tournament will feature 11 Class AA teams, 10 Class A squads and one Class B-C school. There will be five teams from Washington, four from Idaho and one from Wyoming.

Each weight class will have a 32-wrestler bracket featuring three rounds of two minutes each. The tournament starts 11 a.m. Friday and resumes 9 a.m. Saturday. The finals will be at approximately 4:30 p.m. Saturday following a college dual between the University of Providence and North Idaho at 3 p.m.

The 145-pound weight class will feature a stacked field that includes Great Falls CMR’s Kai Stewart, Missoula Big Sky’s Hunter Meinzen, Bozeman’s Brock Rodrigues, Havre’s Martin Wilkie and Sentinel’s Luke Joy. Stewart, Meinzen and Rodrigues finished 1-2-3 at last year’s Class AA state tournament, and Rodrigues won the 145-pound title at the Tom LeProwse Invitational.

Wilkie, a University of Minnesota wrestling commit, is a three-time Class A state champion and won the Tri-State title this year. Joy made the semifinals of the Tom LeProwse Invitational and the quarterfinals at Tri-State.

“I think the 145-pound bracket is the best one to watch,” LaPorte said. “You’ve got a bunch of tough guys and then you’ll have good kids from Idaho and Washington.”

The last time a Missoula wrestler won an individual title at the Jug Beck Rocky Mountain Classic was in 2015, when Big Sky’s Luke Entzel won his second consecutive 170-pound title. The last winner from Sentinel was heavyweight Jaydn Wilson in 2013.

The entire tournament will be broadcast on TrackWrestling.com and can be viewed for a fee.

Philipsburg eager for big test

The Philipsburg boys basketball team will put its unblemished district record on the line when it hosts undefeated Twin Bridges, a perennial contender in the Western 12-C, on Friday.

The Prospectors are 6-3 overall and 5-0 in district play, winning those league games by an average of 21 points. Twin Bridges is 9-0 overall and 4-0 in district play, with its league wins coming by 34.75 points on average.

“Twin Bridges is very experienced,” Philipsburg head coach Dustin Keltner said. “Daniel and Charlie Kruer can spread the floor and shoot, and Bryce Nye is as good a point guard as there is in western Montana. It’s going to take an effort from our team that’s Herculean. On paper, they’re better than us, and our kids know that. But it’s one of those games where they’re going to have to show up and beat us. We’ll be ready.”

The young Philipsburg team starts one junior and four sophomores who play the majority of the minutes each game while running a full-court press. Their three-guard lineup includes sophomores Kade Cutler, Brian Ward and Preston Metesh. Cutler, who quarterbacked the Flint Creek football team to the 2018 state title, has been on varsity since eighth grade.

“Kade has a unique ability to get to the basket as well as a tremendous shooting ability from the outside. He’s a tough matchup to guard,” Keltner said. “Brian really stretches the floor and plays fearless. He plays bigger than he is and regularly makes things happen when it looks like he’s in trouble.

“Preston is more of a defensive presence. I don’t know if I’ve coached a tenacious defender like him before. His motor is running all the time. The energy he brings is contagious. He’ll guard the other team’s best player a lot and is continually a thorn in their side.”

As for post players, Bryce Parret and Daniel Brabender, the lone upperclassman, round out the lineup Keltner expects to start the rest of the season. Keltner said Brabender has been averaging a double-double and added that he thinks Brabender is “the best rebounder in the conference despite not being the biggest guy.”

“These kids, they’re not the most talented team I’ve ever had, but they play as hard as anybody I’ve ever coached,” Keltner said. “They’re not afraid of failing, and that’s unusual. It’s hard for more talented teams to match our intensity. It’s a tip of the cap to the way they were raised.”

Cook gets contract extension

Missoula Jr. Bruins hockey head coach and general manager Cliff Cook will be returning for the 2019-20 season, the team recently announced.

In his first season, Cook has the Jr. Bruins at 16-15-0 and in fourth place in the Frontier Division of the NA3HL. Missoula has 32 points with 16 games remaining before the playoffs.

“I knew the decision to return to Missoula and work with Liz and Jason DiMatteo another season was the right one for myself and the Bruins,” Cook said. “This town is special, and this team is special; anyone who has spent time here can see that. I knew I wanted to stay and continue what we started this season in returning the organization to the success the Bruins and the town of Missoula deserve.”

Frank Gogola covers Griz football and prep sports for the Missoulian. Follow him on Twitter @FrankGogola or email him at Frank.Gogola@406mtsports.com.

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