BILLINGS — Moms are usually right.

And in this case, Billings Senior freshman Kendal Tucker wishes she’d listened to her mother’s advice a little earlier.

The Billings Senior 152-pound freshman is the second-ranked wrestler in her weight division in the latest Montana AA girls wrestling rankings.

On Thursday at the Senior auxiliary gym in the first all-girls wrestling mixer in the Magic City since the sport was implemented this year as a two-year pilot program, Tucker demonstrated why she’s ranked second with a 6-1 record.

Tucker netted a fall in 27 seconds over Kayden York of Miles City, saying the key to the win was when she “sprawled and cross-faced” her opponent.

In her first year of wrestling, Tucker credited learning the winning moves from Billings Senior girls wrestling coach Mickey Mahlmeister and his staff.

One of the reasons Tucker became interested in wrestling was because she wanted to remain active when the soccer season ended. She had thought about playing basketball, but didn’t know if the sport was the right fit.

“I thought I was too short. I was good at defense,” said the 5-foot-5 Tucker. “I just wanted to try something new and I like wrestling more than basketball.”

It turns out, Tucker’s mom had previously suggested she should give the ancient sport a try.

“She’s been telling me for a long time,” Tucker said. “She always thought I’d be good at it and I never listened to her. I wish I had listened to her.”

Wrestlers from Senior, Billings Skyview, Billings West, and Miles City competed.

Pin chain

Miles City freshman Trisity Deason was sporting a utility chain with the school logo on it. The freshman 170-pounder scored two pins on the day.

“We just wear it until your next teammate gets a pin and then you just pass it along,” she said of the "pin chain," which is worn like a necklace. 

It is Deason’s first year wrestling. Deason said teammates Mayse Fox and Jayda Fox, daughters of Miles City coach Dan Fox, were instrumental in her deciding to compete.

“They called me and asked me if I wanted to try it and I was like, ‘Um, that’s not for me,’ ” Deason said. “They kept calling and here I am.”

Now, with a 3-0 record with three wins by pin, Deason is happy her teammates kept at her.

“I like it actually a lot,” she said. “I’m really happy they called me.”

Broncs strong at 152

The Broncs are strong at 152 pounds as junior Gracy Jones picked up another win by pin for Senior with a fall in 5:04 over Abi Dyba of Miles City.

Jones, a junior, is also a first-year wrestler. It was announced by the Montana High School Association on Thursday that this year the organization certified 169 girls wrestlers from 48 member schools. Last year, 75 girls participated in the sport.

While girls wrestled in past seasons, they competed mainly against boys, and the occasional girl, in the regular and postseason. This year, girls can wrestle boys in the regular season but not in the postseason.

“It just sounded like a new experience to try and it sounded fun to me,” Jones said. “I like how high-energy the sport is and the people I’ve gotten to meet.”

State girls meet at Lockwood

It was also announced Thursday by the MHSA that the girls state tournament would be at Lockwood High School Feb. 19-20.

Originally, the girls state tournament was to be held in conjunction with the three boys state tournaments (Classes AA, A and B-C) at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark. However this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the boys meets have been split into three sites March 5-6.

The boys AA state meet is at a site to be determined, Class A is set for Miles City and B-C in Shelby.

While most girls wrestlers are appreciative of the chance to compete during the crisis, there was some disappointment in the decision.

“I am very excited for state,” said Jones. “But, I am kind of sad, two weeks was cut off from where it’s supposed to be. It’s shorter time.”

“It makes me sad because the season will be over sooner,” added Tucker. “I just wanted to keep going.”

While she wishes the season would last a little while longer, Jones is ready to take advantage of the opportunity she has and soak in more from her coaches.

“I should be ready to go for state,” she said.

Deason also said practice will be key to how the season turns out.

“At practice I’ll just push myself hard and don’t want to have a lazy day,” she said. “It pays off on the mat. I’ll try to think positive things. I know I can do it if I put my mind to it.”

The MHSA also announced on Thursday it was adding three new weight classes for girls competition (120, 132 and 145 pounds) and will now offer 10 divisions. The weight classifications are: 103, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 170 and 205.

“It helps,” Mahlmeister said of the new weight classes. “Teams had multiple wrestlers in the middle and adding those classes gives the girls multiple options.”

Savaria shines for Skyview

While many girls are in their first year of wrestling competitively, that’s not the case for Billings Skyview sophomore Kassidee Savaria.

The top-ranked wrestler at 205 pounds in the AA girls poll has been wrestling for eight years. On Thursday, Savaria didn’t have a match as there wasn’t someone available to pair her with but she was there cheering her teammates on.

This year, Savaria has also wrestled in a handful of varsity duals for the Falcons. Savaria said she is 5-0 with all pins against girls wrestlers and 1-2 with a pin against the boys.

“I enjoy wrestling guys because I’ve wrestled guys for so long,” she said. “I feel like it gives me a better match.”

Savaria appreciates that girls wrestling was added as a sport this year and believes it will help open more avenues for her to pursue the sport in college.

In her two losses to boys wrestlers, Savaria said she was pinned. She said one of her goals is “to make it three periods with the guys and not to be pinned.”

While she wrestled last year for the Falcons, Savaria said it is her first year where she has appeared in the varsity lineup. She is hoping to continue to improve as state approaches.

“Obviously, I want to take state,” she said. “But overall I want to become a better wrestler and cleaner wrestler.

“I just want to work harder and get better on my shots and get stronger overall.”

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

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