HELENA - Helena High wrestler Devin Crawford described being at the top of the podium after capturing the Class AA Montana High School Association state championship title as if he were in a dream-like sequence.
"Winning the state tournament was one of the best experiences of my life," Crawford said. "I've worked so hard to make this come true, and achieving something like this is something that you don't see a lot of in life. It was just amazing."
Crawford, who defeated Butte High's Carl Anderson by fall in a match that lasted 59 seconds, said capturing the state title was one of his most memorable moments.
Crawford, who had the top seed in the 2018 Class AA state tournament, was pleased with the experience.
“It was the best experience of my life," The Helena High senior said. "It was amazing, and by working so hard, it finally came true.”
Bengals coach Sam Bogard said he felt Crawford had a significant chance to win the state championship by the way he wrestled in the meet.
"He was feeling pretty good (throughout the whole tournament) and when Devin is feeling good, he is pretty hard to beat," Bogard said.
Bogard -- who has led Bengals wrestling for a total of 11 seasons, has coached Crawford as a Bengals assistant, and is in his first year as a head coach -- said seeing Crawford at the top of the podium was one of the top moments of his coaching career.
"I would say in my coaching career, Crawford winning the championship is right up there with the top wins I have had the pleasure of coaching," Bogard said.
Crawford said this year's tournament experience went smoothly.
"There was a lot of motivation after what happened last year," Crawford said. "Everything just came together perfectly. What happened last year, none of that matters to me anymore now that I got to the top this year."
Crawford, who will visit Dickinson State next week in North Dakota, expressed his interest in wrestling at the collegiate level but wanted to focus on having a strong performance at state before he thought too much about where he will attend college. He said he'll continue to mull over his options for the 2019-2020 school season.
"I think he will succeed at any level wherever he goes," Bogard said. "This performance will open a lot of doors for him. He will be wrestling in Virginia Beach, and other national high school tournaments, and there will be a lot of colleges there."
An elated Crawford credited his coaches with his achievement.
"I thought about all of my coaches and how much they helped me, and all of the people that supported me and gave me a lot of motivation (throughout this state tournament)," Crawford said.
DesRosier tops Romero to win gold
Helena Capital wrestler Carson DesRosier and his coaching staff both anticipated another rematch with Helena High's Isaac Romero in the Montana High School Class AA 120-pound weight class Saturday in Billings.
DesRosier, who had a total of five matches with Romero during the year, was 2-3 against Romero, and with them being on opposite ends of the bracket, prepared for the rematch all week, according to Bruins' coach Jeff Mahana.
"We worked on some different technical things, and we prepared for that specific match," Mahana said. "He followed the game plan, and the plan worked really well. Carson controlled the pace of that match and wrestled on his terms."
DesRosier didn’t buckle under the pressure of what many in wrestling call Montana’s biggest stage.
“It was exciting,” DesRosier said. “It was very enjoyable. It was fun to spend time with teammates, friends and coaches and wrestle in a huge place like that. It was pretty cool.”
DesRosier entered his first big wrestling tournament at the age of 9 and placed fourth at USA Nationals. According to Howard DesRosier, Carson’s father, he continued to strive for excellence as he improved on his wrestling ability.
“It is something that Carson and I privately talked about, and you would hear a lot at the state tournament that he is ‘only a freshman,’" Howard DesRosier said. "I was thinking ‘no, he’s a ninth-grader, and he has probably wrestled more matches than 97 percent of all of the wrestlers in high school. He’s been to matches in Virginia, Iowa, Denver, Salt Lake, Reno, Washington and Spokane. He’s just wrestled in a lot of places.”
The elder DesRosier credited several wrestlers and wrestling parents from both Capital and Helena High towards helping aid Carson to achieve state gold.
“Our ties are close with the Romero family,” Howard DesRosier said. “That was a hard one this weekend, and I am very proud. I am more happy for him because he put in a lot of work, and he gets a lot of credit. At the same time, I feel for the Romeros because it is hard to be so close to each other and wrestle each other on the mat. It’s hard, but (wrestling) is what it is.”
Capital wrestler Carson DesRosier and Helena High wrestler Isaac Romero are close on and off the mat.
“I am not positive, and other than the pin, there was only about 8 to 10 points that separated them in six matches,” Howard DesRosier said. “I feel for Romero’s family. It was Carson’s day and even when Carson got the pin, it was only a 2-point match when it happened.”
Howard credited Devin Crawford, the Romeros, Lee Lambrecht, his trainer Onder Adsay from Fuel Fitness and several others -- but DesRosier’s time on the podium might not have been possible without Lambrecht’s father, Mark Lambrecht.
Still DesRosier didn’t struggle in the championship match against an opponent he was very familiar with both on and off the mat.
“It depends on how close you are to someone,” DesRosier said. “We aren’t best friends, but we have wrestled against each other in practice before in the past. Our dads are pretty good friends, and his dad (Ricardo) helped me a lot when I was younger. He helped me learn about the sport, and I am very appreciative of that.”
Mark Lambrecht convinced him to continue wrestling as an 8-year-old after a long conversation with him at a “crosstown” football game. Lee Lambrecht, a 138-pound wrestler as a senior, made DesRosier one of his mat partners and mentored him to cultivate his wrestling skills.
“Carson traveled the road with a lot of people, and (Lee) was his wrestling partner, but without Lee, who accepted him as a freshman at a much lower weight class, a state championship wouldn’t have happened,” Howard DesRosier said. “He accepted him, and for him to help him and allow that to happen is pretty remarkable.”
Mahana said he was pleased with DesRosier's performance after he finished his overall record with his crosstown rival and two-time defending MHSA state champ Romero with poise rare for a freshman athlete.
"He was just super calm, and had ice in his veins," Mahana said. "No moment was too big for him, and he did a great job of channeling his focus, which was unique and very special."
After DesRosier became an All-American at 11-years-old, his father Howard found a note under his pillow after cleaning off his bed sheets with a goal written on it.
“The note (under his pillow) said he would like to become a second-time All-American,” Howard recalled. “For a parent to find that says something about what was inside of Carson. He has such a good balance. There are goals he didn’t achieve this year, if that shows you how big his goals are, and he also understands that you need to envision things in order to achieve big things.”
Howard said he felt Carson was an inspiration to several young, up-and-coming wrestlers aspiring for gold.
“I think for him to win at such a young age, I was sitting there watching (other wrestlers) after the semifinal match and they know a championship title is now possible,” Howard DesRosier said.
During the championship match, DesRosier’s confidence never wavered.
“In the match I felt like ‘I got this,’ and I just kept wrestling till the clock went out,” DesRosier said. “Once the clock expired, (winning the state title) was a pretty good feeling.”
DesRosier said he will keep working as he starts his quest for a second consecutive MHSA Class AA state title.
“My goals will remain the same,” DesRosier said. “I am just going to keep working hard, and keep focusing on getting better at being the best wrestler I can be.”