BILLINGS — The Class A portion of the state wrestling tournament was a showcase of dominance.
Sidney left no doubt. Neither did Lewistown’s gritty 126-pounder, Cooper Birdwell.
The Eagles, a perennial title contender, had 15 wrestlers win medals, including seven that captured individual championships Saturday at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark.
Add it all up and Sidney, who sent eight to the finals, finished with 340 points to shatter the Class A scoring record it set last season (310.5). It was the Eagles’ third consecutive state crown and the 11th in the 34-year tenure of coach Guy Melby, who was nothing short of amazed by his team’s effort.
“We had 15 guys in the top four, which is just unbelievable. And then to go 7 for 8 in the finals? That kind of stuff just doesn’t happen,” Melby said. “That was something I’ll never forget, I’ll tell you that.”
Owen Lonski (103 pounds), Kaiden Cline (120), Jordan Darby (132), Aden Graves (145), Riley Waters (182), Jett Jones (205) and Brodey Skogen (285) all won championships for the Eagles.
Cline, Graves, Waters and Jones all added to titles they won in previous years.
“’Melbs’ was saying one word throughout the weekend, and that word was domination,” said Jones, who finished his career as a two-time titlist. “That’s what he wanted from all of us. Maximum effort.
“It’s great. Couldn’t be happier. This team has been great this year. Very proud to be a part of it.”
Frenchtown placed second in the team race with 156.5 points. The Broncs sent four to the finals, with Walker Dyer winning at 113 over Sidney’s Zander Dean. It was Dyer’s second consecutive championship.
Miles City claimed the third-place trophy with 145.5 points. Damian Leidholt won the 138-pound title with a 3-2 decision over Laurel’s Keagan Campbell.
Leidholt, a junior, had lost in his previous two trips to the finals.
“Having been in the finals three years now and losing the first two, I was really itching to get that first win,” Leidholt said.
“It feels great. It finally paid off. It’s kind of like working for two years and never getting a paycheck.”
All eyes were on the 126-pound division throughout the weekend, as Lewistown’s Birdwell and Frenchtown’s Jake Bibler remained on a championship collision course.
Bibler, a senior, was chasing a fourth state title, looking to join the exclusive club that now totals 36. Birdwell, a junior, was after his third consecutive crown.
Each held up his end of the bargain to reach the final round, and Birdwell prevailed with a less-than-dramatic 15-2 major decision.
He led 2-1 after the first period, then held an 8-1 advantage after a second period in which Bibler seemed to aggravate a collarbone injury that forced him to miss 20-some-odd matches earlier in the season.
Birdwell outmuscled and outmaneuvered Bibler throughout.
“Stay solid and get positioning and try to push the pace, just stay in good position and wrestle through it,” Birdwell said of his strategy.
“Jake’s a tough wrestler, so I was prepared for a one-point match. It just happened that things fell my way and it looked more lopsided than it really was.
“It feels good. You can’t really explain how it feels after winning a state title.”
Havre’s Connor Harris beat Laurel’s Cameron Younger with a pin in 5:42 to capture the 152-pound title. Teammate Orion Thivierge prevailed at 160 with a pin over Hamilton’s Bridger Williams in 4:28.
Cooper Hoffman of Dillon outlasted Glendive’s Nelson Crisafulli by an 8-5 decision to win the 170-pound crown.
Aside from Leidholt’s win, Miles City was able to claim the third-place trophy thanks in part to a third-place finish by Currey Brown at 126.
The Quick Pin Award in Class A went to Sidney’s Graves. Graves won all four of his matches by pin in a total time of 9:29. He pinned Corvallis’ Triston Davis in 1:38 in the 145-pound title bout.
Sidney’s Lonski won the 103-pound championship 5-4 over Frenchtown’s Landen Stewart thanks to a late two-point reversal. Lonski’s teammate, Kaiden Cline returned to the first-place podium after losing to Frenchtown’s Dyer at 113 the year prior.
Cline was the 103-pound winner in 2018.
“It made him hungry. Once you taste that it’s hard to get that taste out of your mouth,” Melby said. “Once you win it you’re never really satisfied with anything else after that. He’s paid his dues.”
Those two matches in particular seemed to encapsulate the Eagles’ dominant weekend.
“One thing about this squad, if you wrestle somebody from Sidney you’re going to be in a battle. You just are,” Melby said. “Whether we win or whether we lose, we’re going to battle you. That’s kind of our M.O. We like to get after it.
“That’s what we do, win or lose. We’re going to give it all we got.”