BILLINGS — The Billings West boys and Billings Senior girls sure must like wrestling in Great Falls.
On year ago the two programs each won their respective divisions at the Great Falls CMR Holiday Wrestling Classic.
On Saturday, the Golden Bears boys and Broncs girls defended their crowns for a repeat performance.
Bonus points help Bears earn trophy
A complete team effort led to the second-ranked Golden Bears’ victory this weekend. West finished with 211.5 points, third-ranked Great Falls was second with 196.5 and Great Falls CMR third with 182.5.
West had led the tourney, 144.5-140 over Great Falls through the first day of competition.
“It was a good tournament for us,” West coach Jeremy Hernandez said. “Every kid on that team wrestled really well. On Friday, every win we had was by pin but one or two matches. That was impressive and huge. Those bonus points are big and how you get a lead in those tournaments."
While the Bears were wrestling without a couple of their regular starters due to injuries, those inserted into the lineup filled in admirably said Hernandez.
“We put in Seth Erickson at 205 and he got a win and scored points,” said Hernandez. “Everyone on the team got a win and scored points for us. That was awesome. It is nice when a varsity guy is out and we can plug a guy in and he can score points for us. That is huge.”
Overall, the Bears had six placers and one champion in Keyan Hernandez at 120 pounds.
Those wrestlers who placed for West were: 103, Makael Aguayo, 3rd; 113, Zach Morse, 2nd; 120, Keyan Hernandez, 1st; 145, Jesse Aarness, 2nd; 182, Chris Garcia, 7th; 285, Brandon Cole, 8th.
The Bears, with over 70 boys on the team, feature an extremely deep roster. West also sent two junior varsity teams to the annual Huntley Project Duals, and the West JV Black squad placed third.
“As a program, we are really excited about how our team did at the Huntley Project Duals,” said Hernandez.
The Bears, who finished in third place at the State AA meet last season, have a goal to capture the school's first wrestling state title since 1994. But, they also have season goals to be met before the state tourney.
"We have to get everyone healthy and once everyone is healthy and back on the mat, we'll keep aiming for what's in front of us," Hernandez said. "We're not looking at state right now. We go to Helena Tuesday and host the Great Falls schools and Belgrade on Thursday."
Senior girls 'fired up' after win
The Broncs tallied 214 points en route to the win, while Butte was second with 197 and two-time defending state champion Kalispell Flathead third with 193.
What had the Broncs girls excited was that one of the teams they beat for the championship was Flathead. Last year when Senior won the CMR tourney, Flathead didn’t wrestle at it. Flathead has finished first and Senior second at the first two girls state wrestling tourneys.
“We were fired up about it for sure,” said Broncs first-year coach Charlie Klepps. “The girls won it last year, too, but when they won it Flathead wasn’t there.”
Another thing that is impressive about winning the CMR tourney is the amount of teams a squad has to surpass to capture the title. There were 43 girls teams that scored team points in Great Falls.
“The CMR Holiday is always a big one,” said Klepps. “There are always so many teams there.”
The Broncs placers were: 114, Gracelyn Hanson, 3rd; 114, Isabelle Dillon, 6th; 145, Paisley Jaeger, 6th; 145, Paige Gershmel, 2nd; 152, Kendal Tucker, 1st; 165, Celia Jaeger, 2nd; 185, Torie Jamieson, 6th; 235, Kelbey Brewer, 1st.
Klepps said the wrestlers’ dedication was key to victory.
“They have been really coachable and listening and wanting to work hard,” he said. “At some of these bigger tournaments, when you wrestle six or seven or eight matches in two days, it just shows the girls are working hard at practice and the work is paying off.”
Like West, the Senior girls have title ambitions this season but know they'll have to continue to work hard to reach those goals.
"We are just trying to take it one week or practice at a time," said Klepps. "It's a really fun group and they work really hard and it's a lot of the same girls who have been here the whole time and I'm fortunate to take on such a good team."
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