BILLINGS — The Kalispell Flathead wrestling program is on a roll.
And that could spell trouble for the rest of the field trying to catch, and surpass, the defending State AA boys champions and defending state girls titlists.
The Brave Brawlers traveled to the Rollie Lane Invitational in Nampa, Idaho, at the Ford Center to brawl on Friday and Saturday.
Flathead coach Jeff Thompson said the competition included teams from seven states — Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Nevada, California, and Montana. The Brave Brawlers were the only team from the Treasure State in action.
When the last match was contested, the Flathead boys were victorious with 231 points, better than second-place Meridian (Idaho) with 206 points. Overall, 72 boys teams competed.
The Flathead girls edged the Eagle (Idaho) girls by three points, 101-98, for first. Overall, 50 girls teams were entered.
“Just unbelievable!” Flathead coach Jeff Thompson wrote in an email to The Billings Gazette and 406mtsports.com. “We are just so proud of this team! They just keep stepping up and improving each and every weekend! This is arguably one of the toughest tournaments in the Western United States and they just found ways to win tough matches! The quarterfinals were just loaded with undefeated records and state champions and the Brave Brawlers went toe to toe with the best! Super fun watching the Brawlers compete at this level.”
In a follow-up call with The Gazette, Thompson said the team made the “12- to 15-hour trip each way” because Flathead is seeking top-notch competition to help it prepare for state. On the way to Nampa, the Brave Brawlers “drove straight through” and on the way home they stayed in Twin Falls, Idaho.
“We want to push our kids,” Thompson explained. “We have a pretty talented crew right now. We really want to see where they are at with some of the best kids in the Western United States. We did some research in the fall and found it was arguably one of the toughest tournaments we could hit in a one-day drive and we made it happen.
“Our kids got some fantastic competition from the quarterfinals on. … It was really exciting for us and hopefully it helps us get ready for those tough matches at state.”
For the Flathead boys, Fin Nadeau was the champion at 145 pounds, Noah Poe-Hatten was first at 170, Chase Youso was the champ at 182, Gabe Lake was second at 152, Anders Thompson was third at 160, Asher Kemppainen was fifth at 132, Sawyer Troupe was fifth at 195, and Aiden Downing was sixth at 106.
For the Flathead girls, Hania Halverson claimed second place at 120, Lucille Libby was third at 182, Lily McMahon was fourth at 126, and McKenna McCarthy was sixth at 160.
It has been a strong start for the Flathead wrestling teams.
On the opening weekend, the boys won the Mining City Duals and the girls won the Flathead Invitational.
At the Tri-State wrestling tournament at North Idaho College Dec. 17-18, the Flathead boys were second. That same weekend, Flathead sent a different group of boys to the Best of the West in Pasco, Washington, and that squad finished third. The Flathead girls won the Best of the West competition.
“Some teams go and run towards the competition and some teams run away from the competition,” said Thompson. “And our goal was to run and find the competition this year.”
Eagles, Scotties compete at Bismarck Rotary
While the Brave Brawlers were dominating in Idaho, four-time defending State A boys champion Sidney and two-time reigning State B boys champion Glasgow were competing at the Bismarck (North Dakota) Rotary.
The Eagles boys finished third with 187 points. Watertown (South Dakota) was first with 205.5 and Rapid City Stevens (South Dakota) was second at 203.5. Glasgow finished 10th with 107 points on the boys’ side.
In the girls’ division, Sidney was ninth and Glasgow 19th.
Overall, 29 boys teams and 21 girls teams were in action at the Bismarck Civic Center.
For the Sidney boys: Zander Burnison won the 152-pound bracket, Aden Graves conquered the field at 160, Grady Nelson was the champion at 170, Zander Dean was second at 145, Reece Graves was third at 113, Gordon Knapp was fourth at 106, and Owen Lonski was seventh at 126.
For the Scotties boys: Kyler Hallock triumphed at 195, Damien Nesbitt was third at 170, Devon Nesbitt was fifth at 160, and Jake Kuka was sixth at 113.
According to the Glasgow Scotties Twitter account, Hallock became the first individual Scotties titlist at the Rotary in the four years Glasgow has been competing at the event.
Kyler Hallock PINS Ben Nagel (Bismarck High ND) in 4:37! Hallock is the Bismarck Rotary Champion @ 195 lbs— Glasgow Scotties (@GHSscotties) January 8, 2022
Hallock is the 1st individual champ at this event for the Scotties in the 4 years we’ve been attending. Congrats Kyler! #mtscores #Wrestling #BismarckRotary #ScottieFacts
For the Sidney girls: Amaiya Kirn was the champion at 125, Keela Kary was second at 120, Liz Langwald was fifth at 115, and Karen Rosales was sixth at 125. Kirn was a state champion at 126 pounds last year.
For the Glasgow girls, Shalynn Pedersen placed fifth at 125 pounds.