MISSOULA — Top high school wrestlers from around the northwest will descend upon Missoula for the Jug Beck Rocky Mountain Classic this weekend.
This year’s tournament features 31 teams from Montana, Idaho, Washington and Wyoming on Friday and Saturday at Sentinel High School. There are 12 AA teams from Montana, nine A teams and one B/C team.
“You’re seeing some of the best kids not only in Montana but Idaho, Washington and Wyoming,” Sentinel coach Jeremy LaPorte said. “Besides the Tri-State tournament, I think this is the toughest tournament of the season so far. We’ll see good competition eight wrestlers deep in some of the weight classes. We have 31 teams and most of them that come to this have full squads.
“If you can compete at this thing, you’ll be in the hunt for a state title.”
There will be 13 defending state champions from Montana at the meet, including a trio of three-time defending champs. Those are Bozeman’s Leif Schroeder (now at 138), Belgrade’s John Mears (170) and Frenchtown’s Jake Bibler (132). Lewistown junior Cooper Birdwell (126) is a two-time champ.
The other returning state title winners are Butte senior Kameron Moreno (182), Columbia Falls senior Taylor Gladeau, Frenchtown senior Walker Dyer (120), Great Falls CMR sophomore Colton Martello (120), Great Falls High juniors Elijah Davis (205) and Ethan DeRoche (285), Havre junior Mick Chagnon (113), Helena Capital sophomore Carson DesRosier (132) and Missoula Big Sky junior Hunter Meinzen (152).
Eight of the 13 Jug Beck champions from last season are back this year. The in-state returners are Chagnon, Dyer, Bibler, Birdwell, Schroeder, Davis and DeRoche. Mead (Washington) senior Ben Voigtlaender (205) is the lone returning out-of-state winner.
Mead took second place as a team at the prestigious Tri-State tournament in December in Coeur d’Alene, widely considered the premier regular-season, out-of-state tournament for Montana teams.
“Mead in general is pretty tough,” LaPorte said. “They’re pretty salty.”
A Missoula wrestler hasn’t won an individual title at the Jug Beck Rocky Mountain Classic since 2015, when Big Sky’s Luke Entzel secured his second straight title at 170 pounds. The last champ from host team Sentinel was heavyweight Jaydn Wilson in 2013.
Among Missoula wrestlers, Sentinel’s Bryson Danzinger (120) is 20-8 this season, while Justin Kovalicky (145) is 14-5. The Spartans also have junior Blake Jolma (138), who placed fifth at state last year.
Big Sky has seven returning state placers, highlighted by Meinzen. The others are third-place finisher Dougie Swanson (160), fourth-place finishers Trevin Welzien (145), Bridger Hall (170) and Jett Rebish (182), and sixth-place finishers Isaac Ayers (126) and Carter Johnson (138).
Five club swim teams from Montana, including two from Missoula, will be competing in the Washington Open this week. The Missoula YMCA and the Missoula Aquatic Center are both sending 15 swimmers to the multi-state event that runs from Thursday through Sunday in Federal Way, Washington.
“It’s kind of the benchmark of our championship season,” YMCA coach Kirby Beierle said. “It’s the biggest competition our kids get to see throughout the year. That’s why we like it. It’s stiff competition.”
The Washington Open is open to swimmers of all ages granted they have the time in a specific event to make the cut. The YMCA is taking swimmers from ages 12 to 18, while MAC’s are from 12 to 16 years old. There are no age-group classifications, meaning swimmers of all ages will be competing against one another.
“My favorite things about this meet is it’ll start to build some confidence in our swimmers going into our championship season because they get a glimpse of what they’re going to be like at the end of the season when they get to go back for age-groups in a couple months," Beierle said. “This is kind of like a way more intense dry run for those meets because the numbers are so much bigger."
Beierle is expecting some season-best times for her swimmers who train at altitude and now get to swim at sea level.
“They’re able to breathe easier and end up feeling better in the water,” she said. “If everything goes as planned, they get best times. The recovery is quicker, too.”
Missoula's captains are Big Sky seniors Hannah Jourdonnais and Jorgen Midboe and Sentinel juniors Bremer Deaton, Ellie Gashwiler and Delaney Carlson.
Undefeated hoops showdown
No. 3 Missoula Sentinel and No. 1 Helena Capital will square off in a showdown of undefeated girls basketball teams Saturday in Helena.
Both teams are 7-0 overall and 3-0 in the Western AA. The Bruins upset then-No. 1 Missoula Hellgate, 51-45, this past Saturday in Helena.
Sentinel is led by Montana State signee Lexi Deden, while Capital features Montana Lady Griz commit Dani Bartsch.
On the Island
Hellgate senior Isabella Seagrave has committed to swim at Div. I Long Island University, according to CollegeSwimming.com.
Seagrave was on Hellgate's 200 medley relay that won the state championship last year. She placed second in the 100-yard breaststroke.
Down the slopes
The Missoula Freestyle Team will be hosting a regional moguls skiing competition Saturday and Sunday at Montana Snowbowl.
Skiers from ages 6 through 20 from around the Pacific Northwest will compete on Sunrise Bowl to earn points toward qualifying for junior nationals or nationals.