MISSOULA — Missoula Big Sky wrestler Dougie Swanson is short and to the point when talking, just like his matches on the opening day of the Jug Beck Rocky Mountain Classic at Sentinel.
The 160-pound wrestler pinned all three of his opponents Friday, including two in less than one minute, to reach the semifinals of the 30-team tournament that’s a tell-tale primer for success at state. He improved to 28-1 in the process, a record that’s not too much of a shock to him as he’s having the type of season he envisioned.
“Yeah, it’s not surprising,” Swanson said without hesitation before being asked why. “I know how much work I put in. The extra shots. The extra sprints. All the practice.”
Swanson’s drive this season stems from the fact that it’s his last opportunity to win a state title. He’s undefeated against Class AA competition, suffering his lone loss against Class A Colstrip wrestler Rylin Burns at the Tom LeProwse Invitational before bouncing back to take third.
Swanson has been close to winning a state title twice. He finished third as a freshman at 126 pounds and third as a junior at 152 pounds.
“It’s heartbreaking to lose those matches,” Swanson said after making the Jug Beck semis for the first time since his freshman year. “It’s tough, but it teaches you what you need to do better. One little thing can change a match.”
Big Sky coach Rick Moreno isn’t overly shocked by Swanson’s success. He’s seen the potential for years from his wrestler who combines an attacking style without taking unnecessary risks.
This year, Swanson did a simple thing Moreno thinks could take him over the top.
“He came into the year ramped up and was undefeated, but then he seemed nervous, and his movement slowed down,” Moreno said. “He’s readjusted himself, something he didn’t do enough in years past. He learned to relax and have fun while still being competitive.”
Swanson was one of four Big Sky wrestlers who advanced to the semifinals. The others were Trevin Welzien (145), Hunter Meinzen (152) and Bridger Hall (170). They were the lone Class AA wrestlers from the area to advance that far.
Meinzen improved his record to 28-0 with a pair of pins and an 8-1 win by decision. Hall, a Hellgate transfer, won all three of his matches by pin to up his record to 27-5. Welzien had one pin and two decisions to move to 24-6.
Three Class A wrestlers from the Missoula area made the semis. Frenchtown junior Landen Stewart escaped from a close pin attempt in the third period of his quarterfinal match against Great Falls High freshman Aaron Liscum as he improved to 30-0. He had been dealing with strep throat since Jan. 10 and returned to the mat Thursday, according to his coach, Jesse Long.
“He’s finally grown into his weight class and matured after having to wrestle up several pounds,” Long said.
Hamilton’s Bridger Williams (152) had a pair of pins and a major decision victory to move to 26-3. Teammate Andrew Carmody (103), a sophomore, had two pins after a first-round bye to make the semis for the first time after going 0-2 last year at the Jug Beck. He improved to 13-3 as he continues to bounce back from a dislocated left shoulder in his first match of the year.
“I try to be calm but aggressive,” Carmody said. “I know what I need to do to win.”
Clark Fork junior Trey Green (182) and senior Jacob Lipinski (285) were the lone Class B/C wrestlers from the area to advance to the semis.
Lipinski got two pins after an opening-round bye, improving to 29-3. Green won by major decision and followed up with a pin after a first-round bye as he moved to 23-2.
“I’m not a technical wrestler, but I can use strength to my advantage,” Green offered. “I think I improved my mindset a lot, too, and don’t walk in scared.”
There were 39 wrestlers from Montana who earned a berth into the semifinals, while the other 13 spots were won by out-of-state wrestlers. Thirty of the 39 came from outside the Missoula area.
Great Falls High and Kalispell Flathead led the way with five semifinal qualifiers apiece. The five from Flathead were Cade Troupe (126), Fin Nadeau (145), Noah Poe-Hatten (152), Tanner Russell (170) and Paxton Boyce (182). Great Falls’ five were Easton Shupe (120), Mason Huber (138), Cache Hilliard (145), Elijah Davis (205) and Ethan DeRoche (285).
Kalispell Glacier’s Josh Melton (103), Teegan Vasquez (113) and Camryn Vergeront (285) all made the semis, as did Helena Capital’s Carson DesRosier (132), Noah Kovick (182) and Zane McCormick (205).
Lewistown’s Cooper Birdwell (126), Duane Otto II (160) and Keaton Potter (170) won their quarterfinal matches, as did Havre’s Mick Chagnon (113), Cameron Pleninger (126) and Orion Thivierge (160).
Belgrade’s Colton Gutenberger (103) and Carter Schmidt (113), Butte’s Keagan Gransbery (120) and Kameron Moreno (205), and Bozeman’s Avery Allen (132) and Brock Rodrigues (145) made the semis.
Great Falls CMR’s lone qualifier for the semis was Colten Martello (120).
Whitefish’s Dakota Flannery (138) moved into the semis by injury default. Bozeman’s Leif Schroeder, a three-time defending state champ, had to medically forfeit after he appeared to injure an arm.