BILLINGS — Huntley Project is scheduled to wrestle in its 10th wrestling dual of the season on Saturday at the Project gym and that has longtime coach Tim Kaczmarek happy.
The start of the season was delayed until Dec. 7 because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and as the crisis continued over the summer, it pretty much shut down offseason activities for many wrestlers – including those at Project.
“I’m just excited for this crew. It is nice to get going,” Kaczmarek said. “We had a great summer the year before and this summer we couldn’t do anything. We didn’t wrestle all summer. … It’s nice to be back around the guys and watching them work and progress.”
On Saturday, Project (6-2) will host a triangular with Baker and Shepherd.
The Red Devils will tangle with Baker at 1 p.m. and Shepherd and Baker will meet at approximately 2:30 p.m. The third and final match of the day, Project vs. Shepherd, will begin at approximately 4 p.m.
Project, the State B runner-up to Glasgow last season, has only lost to Glasgow and three-time reigning State A champion Sidney this year.
“We’ve been getting better every week,” Kaczmarek said. “I’m glad we wrestled Glasgow and Sidney early because we’ll wrestle Sidney again next week and go up to Glasgow Feb. 12-13. That is a way to gauge for getting better.”
On Thursday, Jan. 21, Project is also hosting a triangular with Sidney and Miles City. Sidney is rated No. 1 in the Class A coaches poll and Miles City is fourth. Kaczmarek said Project is scheduled to wrestle Miles City at 3 p.m., Sidney and Miles City will meet at 5 p.m. and Project and Sidney will close the evening at 7 p.m.
For the competition on Saturday, two spectators will be allowed per student-athlete.
Kaczmarek said it will be a good chance for the Red Devils to meet Eastern B-C division foes Baker and Shepherd on Saturday. He is also looking forward to coaching against Shepherd’s Brian Reichenbach.
“Just wrestling Class B kids in your own division always makes it exciting,” he said. “It is always good to wrestle Shepherd, which is somewhat of a rival across the river and going to high school with Brian and knowing him really well and seeing how he is getting them to progress is good to see. It makes for good competition for both of us.”
Baker is coached by Eric Kary.
“Baker has a pretty good history of having tough kids,” Kaczmarek said. “We don’t get to see them a lot, but they always put scrappy kids out on the mat.”
Project has 23 wrestlers out for the program, including 22 males and one female in the first year of sanctioned girls wrestling, which is under the implementation of a minimum two-year Montana High School Association pilot program.
Freshman Gretchen Donally (126 pounds) is the lone Project girls grappler and is 2-2 in her matches, having only wrestled other girls.
The Red Devils have six state-placers on the team, including five from last year and one from 2019.
The state placers are: 113 pounds, Gavin Nedens, soph., 2nd at 103 in 2020; 120, Cooper Lane, soph., 5th at state at 113 in 2020; 160, Wylee Lindeen, soph., 4th at state at 152 in 2020; 170, William Loveridge, Jr., 3rd at state at 170 in 2020; 182, Stran Selman, Jr., 3rd at state at 182 in 2020; and 126, Parker Craig, Jr., 6th at state at 103 in 2019.
Other top wrestlers for the Red Devils include: 152, Garrett Sholley, So.; 132, Ashton Christman, Sr.; and 205, Cade Buchanan, Sr. Sholley qualified for state last year and Christman has the past three years.
Kaczmarek noted that Buchanan broke his collarbone leading up to divisionals last year and didn’t get to compete in the postseason. He is the younger brother of Blaine Buchanan, who won the 205-pound State B-C title in 2018.
With the depth of this year’s team, and the history of wrestling at Project, the Red Devils hope to be in the state title mix.
“Our goal is always to be a state championship team,” Kaczmarek said. “That is one thing our program does is set up individual and team goals. We put them in groups and they talk as a group and come together as a whole and see what everyone thought.
“That’s what they set the goal at. They want to be state champs. Last year we were 20 points short of doing it and that’s what we are working towards now.”
The road to contending for a state title will continue on Saturday in Worden for the Red Devils.