BILLINGS — Beginning in the 2020-21 school year, girls wrestling will be a sanctioned Montana High School Association sport and there will be a girls-only state tournament at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark.
On Saturday, another first will occur as the first stand-alone Montana state AAU girls wrestling tourney will be held at main and auxiliary gyms at Billings Senior.
Organizers believe the Montana Girls Wrestling State Championships, sanctioned by the AAU, are the first stand-alone girls Montana state tournament regardless of affiliation.
“Last year at our state convention, some of our state officers came to me and said, 'Now is the time, we need to jump on this and get a plan and get rolling with a girls state tournament,'” tourney co-director Cody Turnquist of the Darkhorse Wrestling Club said. “They thought Billings was the best place to do it to start. Our club, they knew we had lots of people, and a history of manpower to successfully run a tournament.”
Turnquist said as of Wednesday night 300 girls were entered in the tourney, a modified folkstyle event, with age divisions from tot (ages 6 and under) to elite (high school). Wrestlers will be matched by age and weight.
Wrestling begins at 9:30 a.m. Saturday and the tourney should conclude between 3 and 4 p.m. Plans call for using either five or six full mats.
Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for students and free for those 5 and under.
At last year’s state AAU folkstyle tournament in Great Falls, there were 150-plus girls who competed, Turnquist said. At that tournament, girls could wrestle in the traditional bracket against boys and girls, a girls division bracket or a double bracket. On Saturday at Senior, it’s a girls-only state tourney.
“We are honored and blessed to be able to host it here in Billings,” said tourney co-director Josh Beeman of the Darkhorse Wrestling Club. “Hopefully it will entice a few girls in high school, or on the verge of high school, to maybe come out and wrestle for the high school team next year. Every stage is important right now in girls wrestling.”
There will be a two presentations by Katie Kriebel of the Wrestle Like a Girl organization. Kriebel, a two-time senior world bronze medalist, will conduct a coaches clinic on Friday from 7-8 p.m. and a presentation/mini-clinic for girls wrestlers on Saturday from 9-9:30 a.m.
Onsite registration is available for $35 per wrestler. A copy of birth certificate and current AAU card are required for all wrestlers for age and division verification. All coaches and athletes must visit aausports.org and purchase their AAU cards before the tournament. Wrestler check-in/weigh-ins/registration is Friday from 4:30-7 p.m.
Fans unable to make the tourney can stream video or follow results at trackwrestling.com.
“It’s a pretty awesome deal,” Beeman said of the tournament. “The rest of the nation is doing it. I’m glad Montana is ready for it.”