BILLINGS — For each of the past two seasons, the Bozeman wrestling team has placed second behind Kalispell Flathead in the state championship team standings.
That likely won’t be the case this year. On Friday at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark, the Hawks pushed through eight wrestlers to the state semifinals and lead the team race with 132 team points. Great Falls High is second with 102.5, while Billings Senior (97) is a close third. Missoula Big Sky (94) and Butte (83) round out the top five.
But for Bozeman coach Nate Laslovich, the team race is not the first thing on his mind. Or even the second, really.
“Honestly, in this tournament, I’m more concerned with just our individual guys,” Laslovich said. “You know, it would be cool, but on the other hand I’m more proud of our AA state dual title than I would be of this from a team perspective … but just like any tournament, you’re competitive and you want to win these.
“You want every kid to do well.”
Fourteen Bozeman wrestlers are still alive in the bracket and all three Hawk returning state champions — Tayt Rogers (120), Sterling Quinn (126), Leif Schroeder (132) — reached the semifinals. Schroeder was especially dominant, pinning his first two opponents in a combined 3:34.
He’ll face Missoula Big Sky’s Trevin Wetzien for a spot in the state finals on Saturday morning.
“I feel pretty good,” Schroeder said. “I got good warmups, got off the mat quick, so I think the first day is good.”
While Bozeman isn’t assured the team trophy quite yet, they’re well on their way to claiming it. Meanwhile, however, the fight for second and third place has been (and likely will continue to be) interesting. With Great Falls, Senior and Big Sky all within 8.5 points of each other and Butte in striking distance, there’s a lot to be fought over on the final day of wrestling at Metra on Saturday.
The Broncs and Eagles each have six wrestlers left on the championship side of the bracket, Butte has five and Great Falls has four.
One of those wrestlers for Big Sky is Isaac Ayers, who pinned his way through each of his first two matches. The freshman’s final match of the day was a 5:02 fall over Missoula Sentinel’s Bryson Danzinger, who was a state qualifier last season.
“My dream was always to win a state championship and I’m that much closer,” Ayers said after his quarterfinal match. “Even placing as a freshman is a really awesome feat in my mind.”
On the back side of the bracket, Great Falls has eight wrestlers left, while Senior and Big Sky each have five. Butte has just four.
So, in essence, there’s still a lot to be determined.
“We had 15 kids go up and 15 kids win a match,” Billings Senior coach Josh Beeman said. “That’s a big deal. Now we need to get 15 kids to win two matches, on to the next step.”
Getting to that next spot can be a little difficult, though, as several No. 1 seeds from the Western AA found out. Five went down, including Kalispell Glacier’s Colby Martin, a state qualifier each of the past two seasons.
Butte was responsible for two of the upsets — Wil Queer topped Cody Frost via a 4:37 fall and Kole McGrath via a 9-5 decision over Wyatt Shinn.
“I just game planned all week. Just one match at a time,” Queer said. “We want to push for pins to get that team score, get that team trophy and it’s not just for me, it’s for my team, my coaches. It’s been many hours of work and it’s finally showing.”
Most of the favorites made it through, however, including Capital’s Lee Lambrecht, Bozeman’s Chance McLane, Helena’a Devin Crawford, West’s Jace Rhodes and Great Fall’s Elijiah Davis.
With a number of talented wrestlers left in the field, it’s shaping up to be an interesting finale.
“We’ve been telling them all year, hey, you guys have worked, you’ve put in the work, now it’s time to go show it and do your job at the state tournament,” Beeman said. “Just have fun and leave it all out there and have nothing left prove.”
Class AA team scores
Bozeman 132, Great Falls High 102.5, Billings Senior 97, Missoula Big Sky 94, Butte 83, Billings West 69, Kalispell Flathead 63, Helena Capital 55, Kalispell Glacier 52.5, Billings Skyview 59, Great Falls CMR 49, Missoula Sentinel 49, Helena High 38, Missoula Hellgate 13.
103: Jalen Vladic, Billings Senior vs. Wyatt Van Pelt, Billings West; Colton Martello, Great Falls CMR vs. Keagan Gransbery, Butte.
113: Wil Queer, Butte vs. Alejandro Madrid, Billings Senior; Isaac Ayers, Missoula Big Sky vs. Drake Rhodes, Billings West.
120: Isaac Romero, Helena vs. RJ Lowdog, Billings West; Carson DesRosier, Helena Capital vs. Tayt Rogers, Bozeman.
126: Andrew Paradose, Great Falls CMR vs. Sterling Quinn, Bozeman; Dayne Martin, Missoula Big Sky vs. Matthew Dewitt, Billings Senior.
132: Fin Nadeau, Kalispell Flathead vs. Idren Peak, Billings Senior; Trevin Wetzien, Missoula Big Sky vs. Leif Schroeder, Bozeman.
138: Lee Lambrecht, Helena Capital vs. Carter Carroll, Great Falls CMR; Reece Eckley, Missoula Sentinel vs. Jahzriel Peak, Billings Senior.
145: Hunter Meinzen, Missoula Big Sky vs. Brock Rodrigues, Bozeman; Blake Jolma, Missoula Sentinel vs. Kai Stewart, Great Falls CMR.
152: Dougie Swanson, Missoula Big Sky vs. Caden Hilliard, Great Falls High; Bridger Hall, Missoula Hellgate vs. Chance McLane, Bozeman.
160: Devin Crawford, Helena High vs. Coy Cohenour, Bozeman; Jett Rebish, Missoula Big Sky vs. Carl Anderson, Butte.
170: Tanner Russell, Kalispell Flathead vs. Peyton Morton, Billings Senior; Noah Kovick, Helena Capital vs. Jace Rhodes, Billings West.
182: Kole McGrath, Butte vs. Brenner Bushfield, Billings Skyview; Jaydn Hoff, Billings West vs. Elijiah Davis, Great Falls High.
205: McCade O’Reilly, Bozeman vs. Noah Cannon, Great Falls High; Zane McCormick, Helena Capital vs. Kameron Moreno, Butte.
285: Tre Krause, Kalispell Glacier vs. Tom Walkup, Bozeman; Ethan DeRoche, Great Falls High vs. Levi Malcolm, Billings West.