BOULDER — Jefferson High wrestler Drake Schake had trained himself to develop a competitive edge because he didn't have it naturally.
Drake Schake's father, Tate Schake, who was a top-tier discus thrower at Nebraska Wesleyan University, former all-American and still graces the school's wall of fame with his accomplishments as a discus thrower in college, helped Drake cultivate the edge that at first didn't come naturally.
"I can't remember how old he was, but he was always having fun no matter what and didn't have the competitive killer instinct like I had," Tate Schake said. "I remember asking him, 'isn't it more fun to win?' He would say, 'it doesn't matter if you win or lose,' and I would say 'it doesn't matter, are you kidding me? you go in for the win.'"
In spite of the difference in their philosophical approach to competition, Drake Schake eventually carved his own competitive identity that worked as he prepares for his third consecutive Class B-C state wrestling tournament Friday and Saturday at MetraPark Arena in Billings.
"He's a good-hearted kid, and I can't say enough good things about him," Tate Schake said. "He's my hunting buddy, and it'll be sad that his high school career is over. It'll probably hit me a little hard during graduation."
The younger Schake will try to win a 182-pound weight class championship that was dominated by Eureka's Garrett Graves the last two seasons. His quest for state gold won't be easy, in spite of Graves' departure.
In Schake's first-ever appearance at state in his sophomore season, he was seeded in the first round to wrestle Graves, who went undefeated in Class B-C for two consecutive seasons.
"Graves was an animal because he had a whatever-it-takes mentality and attitude you have to have before and during a match to be a good wrestler," Schake said.
After wrestling Graves, Schake got a whole new perspective and experience on what it took to be a championship-caliber wrestler.
"Wrestling Graves was cool, and I was determined to make it back to state," Schake said. "Graves was a really good wrestler, and battling him was fun."
With the athletic aptitude of his father, Schake is a three-sport athlete for the Panthers as he also participates in football and track. He continues to work at his craft, trying to get to the top of the podium in Billings.
He just isn't thinking about individual accolades at state. He's also thinking about the team accomplishments and is described by coach Troy Humphrey as a quiet leader.
"I don't like to be a bossy type, and most of the time I keep my mouth shut and lead by example," Schake said. "I want my teammates looking over at me and see me sweating like crazy. Our team's attitude has improved a bunch since the beginning because we have a bunch of first-time wrestlers on our team."
Schake, who was described as selfless and hardworking by his mentors, was named homecoming king but elected to give another student the title.
"They nominated him for homecoming king, and he turned it down," Tate Schake said. "I asked him 'why did you turn that down?' and he responded, 'he wanted to give someone else a chance to win.' I didn't know how to take that. He is very well-respected by his school and his peers, but it was his choice. That just kind of shows how good of a kid he is about thinking of others."
Humphrey said he felt the sky is the limit for Schake as he guns for a state title.
"He's got all of the tools in the tool chest he needs at this point," Humphrey said. "Wrestling is about believing in yourself and your team, and being confident. You step out on the mat and take care of business."
Schake will be gunning for another local weight wrestler in his 182-pound class in Townsend senior Justin Denton.
Denton, who is also Schake's friend, is a wrestler he struggles to get past.
"I've been to state the last two years, and I want to make it back," Schake said. "Justin Denton is an outstanding wrestler, and he and I are going to have a good ol' showdown. Win or lose, I'll wrestle as hard as I can, and then leave it all on the mat. I want to place high at state, wrestle hard and after the match, be happy with the outcome."
Wave of the future
Schake isn't the only Panthers wrestler who will be on display in Billings. Jefferson has a few other wrestlers set to make an impact in Billings and continue the success the team has enjoyed under Humphrey.
Freshman Leo Anderson, who is at the 103-pound weight class, will make his state debut at the Metra.
Anderson, who took two years off during middle school and was encouraged by his mother to return to wrestling, hasn't regretted that decision.
Anderson, who has enjoyed a 20-plus win season, still had to get acclimated going from middle school wrestling to high school wrestling.
"It's a huge jump," Anderson said. "The conditioning on the kids in high school is a lot harder, and they are a lot harder to take down. I have to focus a lot more on my stamina, and do a lot more conditioning."
The Panthers also have Cody St. Clair, who at 120 pounds is another person running for a state title in a competitive and diverse bracket.
"There are a lot of quality wrestlers in the room at that weight class," St. Clair said. "It keeps me pushing."
Several Bulldogs qualified for state this year, including some noteworthy performers. All season, the Bulldogs have featured ranked wrestlers.
Riley Richtmyer, who was ranked third at 120, Ty Steele ranked sixth at 170, Kameron Rauser ranked second at 160, Will Lane ranked fifth at 170, Denton ranked fifth at 158, and Jaden Lamb fourth at 205 all qualified for state.
Coach John O'Dell said he'd been impressed with the progress of all of his state and nonstate qualifiers in what has been a productive season for the Townsend wrestling program, one of the up-and-coming programs in Class B-C. As O'Dell has stated in previous interviews, "anything can happen at state."