Championship round of state wrestling

Huntley Project's Journey Grimsrud wrestles Colstrip's Trey Yates in the Class B-C 285-pound championship match at Metra last season. Yates won the match and the two have continued the competition this year. Grimsrud is currently ranked first and Yates second in the Class B-C Coaches Poll. 

BILLINGS — Wrestling fans should get ready for the feel of a professional boxing or mixed martial arts match at the Eastern B-C divisional.

Prime-time excitement is coming to the Huntley Project gymnasium Saturday evening.

Wrestling begins at 10 a.m. and matches will be contested in all 13 weight classes over two mats. It is a 16-wrestler, or 8-wrestler where appropriate, double-elimination bracket. The top four in each weight class advance to the state tourney at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark Feb. 14-15.

After a day of wrestling, those who punch their ticket into the championships will have the spotlight on them when the final round starts at 4:30 p.m. One mat will be used for the finals, the gym lights will be dimmed and a spotlight will shine on the championship mat.

“We are trying to make it a big event,” Project coach Tim Kaczmarek said. “We are trying to make it more fan friendly and something the wrestler remembers when they leave, that it was awesome.”

Then, get ready for introductions, pro boxing, MMA or professional wrestling style. In each match, finalists will be on opposite sides of the gym. Then, their names, school, and record will be announced and “then they’ll run out to music,” Kaczmarek said.

“Kind of similar to the UFC. They are back in the locker room and they come running out. We’ll do a similar thing,” Kaczmarek explained. “It will make it more energetic and fan friendly.”

Kaczmarek said he had been thinking it would be fun to do something like this since the divisional tourney last season when he knew it was Project’s turn to host.

When the Red Devils traveled to Columbus this year, Kaczmarek said he made up his mind. Several teams have had girls basketball, wrestling and boys basketball tripleheaders, and Project experienced the atmosphere this season in matches against Columbus.

“They introduced the kids the same way and it was awesome,” Kaczmarek said. “That definitely solidified it after they did it in Columbus, it was an awesome atmosphere.”

Glasgow coach Jory Casterline said he is looking forward to the theatrics.

“Any time you can promote the sport. Kids love spotlights and loud music,” Casterline said. “Anything you can do to promote the sport I think that is great.”

Rugged tourney expected

Teams invited to the tourney are: Baker, Circle, Colstrip, Forsyth, Glasgow, Huntley Project, Lame Deer, Poplar, Broadus, Red Lodge, Shepherd and Wolf Point.

In the latest Class B-C Coaches Poll, Glasgow was ranked first and Huntley Project was ranked second. Two-time defending State B champion Colstrip was ranked fifth. Circle, the two-time defending Class C state champion, was top ranked in the last Class C rankings.

In the State B team race last year, Colstrip outdistanced Glasgow 233-130 for the title and Huntley Project finished fourth. Circle easily won the State C team title.

Several top-ranked wrestlers should also be competing in Worden.

The top-rated wrestlers in the last Coaches Poll from the Eastern B-C were: Project’s Gavin Nedens (103), Circle’s Krayle Stormer (113), Glasgow’s Colten Fast (132), Circle’s Cole Becker (145), Colstrip’s Rylin Burns (160), Glasgow’s Dylan Nieskens (182), Glasgow’s Cooper Larson (205) and Project’s Journey Grimsrud (285).

Glasgow’s Kaden Zimmerman (152), Shepherd’s Nate Gorham (170), Shepherd’s Gage Schmitt (205) and Colstrip’s Trey Yates (285) were ranked second.

Third-ranked wrestlers in the poll from the Eastern B-C were: Glasgow’s Jake Kuka (103), Project’s Cooper Lane (113), Circle’s Tugg Taylor (160), Project’s William Loveridge (170), Project’s Stran Selman (182) and Glasgow’s Mayson Phipps (285).

There figures to be plenty of competition at heavyweight, where Grimsrud, Yates and Phipps are ranked first through third.

At state last season, Yates pinned Grimsrud for the title in three minutes, while Phipps placed third.

This season, Yates is 2-1 vs. Grimsrud, Kaczmarek said. However, Grimsrud won by fall in 2:36 against Yates at the Cowboy Invitational in Miles City in their last meeting.

“It definitely was a huge win for Journey,” Kaczmarek said. “Obviously he got beat by him in the finals at state last year. It was a huge win for a lot of reasons.”

Grimsrud has signed to play football for the Montana Grizzlies and Yates has signed to play for Montana State. Both are listed as defensive linemen.

“They are both good kids and both big kids,” Kaczmarek said. “People definitely know when those two will wrestle, it’s always an exciting match.

“Both have notoriety for playing football. Their names are out there. If you don’t follow wrestling, you might follow football and know these two are two of the best linemen in the state.”

However, Kaczmarek knows Grimsrud is not taking anything for granted and realizes there are other capable heavyweights in the division.

“Heavyweight is tough, the Glasgow kid is tough,” Kaczmarek said. “I told Journey we have to get there first, as does (Yates).”

Casterline said Phipps is 1-2 vs. Yates this season “with close matches all year,” and 0-2 vs. Grimsrud, losing both times by fall.

“These guys, you put these guys in any other division and they win the divisional tournament,” Casterline said. “It will probably go those guys at state, too, 1-2-3.”

Team expectations

Glasgow has won its last three tournaments, with victories in Choteau, Harlem and Malta.

“We have had a great week of practice,” Casterline said of his top-ranked team. “We have had a great last half of the season. Our kids are ready to roll. We have a full lineup and are finally healthy. That is exciting in itself, having a full lineup.”

Second-ranked Project repeated as the Class B-C Duals champion.

“Every week we set team goals and that is our No. 1 goal this week is to win divisionals,” Kaczmarek said.

Both Casterline and Kaczmarek said the most important thing is qualifying and positioning for the state tourney.

“We have to try and get as many qualified as we can,” Kaczmarek said. “In the last couple of weeks, we are wrestling well and guys are peaking at the right time.

“Every match is important. I tell my guys they can’t get caught looking ahead; you have to take care of the guy in front of you.”

In 2018, Glasgow beat Colstrip 180-154 for the divisional title, but Colstrip won the State B title and Glasgow was third.

“Obviously we are going in trying to win the tournament,” Casterline said. “If everybody goes in and does their job, that should happen. But ultimately we are going in to try and place as high as we can for those high seeds for the state tournament.

“We are not looking ahead by no means, but we have to have a good weekend this weekend to have a good weekend at state.”

Email Gazette Deputy Sports Editor John Letasky at john.letasky@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJohnL

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