BILLINGS — Starting below a heart-shaped calf, he’s got a matching set, a symbolic tattoo wraps around Martin Wilkie’s lower right leg.
It’s a lyric from a song in Japanese script, buffered with decorative designs.
The senior from Havre won’t share the lyric or its origin. “It’s personal,” Wilkie said, explaining it has something to do with keeping negativity down and below his heart.
The ink must be powerful.
There hasn’t been too much negative during his high school wrestling career.
In the team race, reigning Class A state champion Sidney advanced 10 wrestlers to the semifinals to open a 54-point lead over Havre. The Blue Ponies have eight in the semifinals.
Solidly built and technically sound, Wilkie is trying to become the 33rd wrestler in Montana high school history to become a four-time state champion. He could be one of three on Saturday during the All-Class State Wrestling Tournament at Rimrock Auto Arena as "best friends,” Jackson Currier of Colstrip and Forsyth’s Michael Weber are trying to do the same.
There has already been some good-natured kidding among the trio.
“With it starting at 160 this year, Michael would be the last,” said Wilkie breaking into a smile.
Wilkie is wrestling at 145 pounds, while Jackson is at 138 and Weber at 152. Currier and Weber are in the B/C classification.
Wilkie previously won state titles at 120, 126 and 145.
“It’s in the back of your mind,” said Wilkie of reaching four state titles. “But we like to, of course, take it one year, one match at a time. We’ll worry about that, four, on Saturday night. You have to get there first.”
He’s already off to a good start with pins of :23 and :46 seconds in the first two rounds to run his season record to 44-0.
In 14 state tournament matches, Wilkie has won 11 by pin and eight in the first period.
Havre head coach Beau LaSalle said Wilkie will finish among the top three for career wins and winning percentage in the storied Havre wrestling program. “And it’s pretty safe to say he’ll be in the top five for most other categories,” said the coach.
“His work ethic,” continued LaSalle about Wilkie’s strengths on the mat. “He just loves this sport. He’s always trying to learn something new … trying to perfect his craft.”
Should Wilkie reach four state titles, he will become the third Blue Pony in three years to join the exclusive list. He was a sophomore when Parker Filius and Jase Stokes achieved the goal in 2017.
“Those guys (Filius and Stokes) had tons of influence,” Wilkie said. “Parker was my No. 1 workout partner. They showed me what kind of workout ethic is needed to get through those tough times. You just have to keep pushing through.
“And I learned to appreciate when I got a takedown against Parker because I didn’t get many,” he finished with a chuckle.
Along with wrestling in national tournaments across the United States, Wilkie kept a regular workout regimen that includes drills, weight lifting and road work during the summer.
“When you go to a national tournament and lose,” he said of the fuel for his competitive fire. “There is always somebody out there working out just as hard as you.”
Already committed to the University of Minnesota, Wilkie spent this past season working on skills to prepare him for the next level. “Just the little things,” he said.
“He’s been very self-motivated this year,” LaSalle added.
Wilkie has two more matches to add his name to the four-time record book.
“It’s just a matter of confidence,” he said. “I have to reach the finals. I have to wrestle smart.”
Sidney starts fast
The Eagles just didn’t start fast. They made a decisive opening statement with 15 pins – out of 17 wrestlers -- in the first round.
“That’s a really good start for us,” said Sidney head coach Guy Melby whose program his chasing its 10th team title. “We talk about it (pinning) opponents constantly. You get extra points.
“We were able to get a little lead and that takes the pressure off. Now guys can just go out and wrestle.”
Sidney had 23 pins on Friday, with at least one in 12 of the 13 weight classes.
The Eagles have wrestlers in the semifinals at 113, 120, 132, 138, 145, 160, 170, 182 and 285. Kaiden Cline, wrestling at 113, won the 103 title a year ago.
It’s an all-Sidney side with Kolten Reid and Aden Graves wrestling in one semifinal at 132 pounds.
“It’s tough,” Melby acknowledged. “You wrestle to win. We’ll help them both.”
Earlier in the day, Christian Dean defeated Sidney teammate Kade Graves in a 138-pound quarterfinal match.
The Blue Ponies have semifinalists at 103, 120, 138, 145, 152 and 205, with two wrestlers at both 103 and 145.
At 103, Riley Pleninger and Mick Chagnon are on opposite sides of the bracket. Chagnon has recorded pins of 13 and 12 seconds in his first two matches.
It’s the same at 145, where Wilkie and teammate Orion Thivierge could meet in the finals. Thivierge, a freshman, had the upset of the day, pinning No. 1 seed Trey Thompson of Libby at 5:47 in the quarterfinals.
Team scores: Sidney 140.5, Havre 86.5, Polson 73.5, Frenchtown 65.5, Miles City 63, Columbia Falls 57, Laurel 49.5, Corvallis 49, Browning 45, Belgrade 43.5, Libby 43, Lewistown 39.5, Dillon 35.5, Hamilton 33.5, Hardin 28, Glendive 25, Ronan 25, Ronan 25, Livingston 20, Billings Central 16, Stevensville 14.
103: Noah Huffaker, Dillon vs. Riley Pleninger, Havre; Landen Stewart, Frenchtown vs. Mick Chagnon, Havre.
113: Walker Dyer, Frenchtown vs. Braxton Scheeler, Miles City; Eli Warner, Frenchtown vs. Kaiden Cline, Sidney.
120: Jake Bibler, Frenchtown vs. Jordan Darby, Sidney; Buddy Doolin, Libby vs. Cameron Pleninger, Havre.
126: Dante Venema, Corvallis vs. Oden Currier, Belgrade; Luke Huffaker, Dillon vs. Cooper Birdwell, Lewistown.
132: Michael Golden, Hamilton vs. Damian Leidholt, Miles City; Kolton Reid, Sidney vs. Aden Graves, Sidney.
138: Dakota Flannery, Whitefish vs. Lane Paulson, Havre; Triston Davis, Corvallis vs. Christian Dean, Sidney.
145: Orion Thivierge, Havre vs. Zander Burnison, Sidney; Bridger Williams, Hamilton vs. Martin Wilkie, Havre.
152: Bridger Wenzel, Polson vs. Connor Harris, Havre; Hunter Hoover, Libby vs. John Mears, Belgrade.
160: Cooper Hoffman, Dillon vs. Duane Otto II, Lewistown; Kyler Pancake, Stevensville vs. Riley Waters, Sidney.
170: Hunter Fritsch, Polson vs. Trevor Dean, Sidney vs. Allec Knapton, Columbia Falls vs. Nelson Crisafulli, Glendive.
182: Colton McPhee, Columbia Falls vs. Cameron Younger, Laurel; Landon Farrar, Lewistown vs. Jett Jones, Sidney.
205: Justin Mays, Ronan vs. Austin Ratliff, Havre; Jakob Freeman, Columbia Falls vs. Shane Gibson, Livingston.
285: Wacey Zuback, Browning vs. Brodey Skogen, Sidney; Taylor Gladeau, Columbia Falls vs. Keegan Mires, Glendive.