BILLINGS — It didn’t take first-year wrestler Rylee Kogolshak long to figure out how to execute a move on the wrestling mat.
Maybe that’s because of her dedication and willingness to learn, or maybe it’s because of her athletic talent, or just maybe it’s because wrestling runs in the family.
Regardless of the reason, the Billings Senior Broncs are happy to have the junior as a member of their girls wrestling team this season.
Kogolshak, a state champion swimmer for Hardin last year, transferred to Senior last spring and is now a wrestling standout for the Broncs. She’ll bring a 16-3 record into the girls wrestling state tournament that begins Thursday at 4 p.m. at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark. Kogolshak will be competing at 170 pounds.
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Naturally, Kogolshak is shooting to wrestle her way to the state bracket.
“I want to be the state champ,” she said.
“I gotta take it one match at a time and not get too far ahead of myself. I have to focus on who I’m wrestling now and worry about the next one when it comes up.”
The 5-foot-9 Kogolshak knows a thing or two about competition and about winning a state championship in a grueling sport.
Last year competing as a member of the Hardin Bulldogs, she was the state champion in the girls 100 breaststroke, and she was also second in the 50 freestyle. In addition, she was second in the 50 freestyle and third in the 100 breaststroke as a freshman.
This year, she said she decided to try girls wrestling. Now in the second year as a sanctioned sport by the Montana High School Association, girls wrestling is very popular at Senior. Overall, 20 wrestlers will represent the Senior girls team at the state meet.
Kogolshak said the benefit of competing on a large team at Senior was one of the reasons why she decided to switch from swimming to wrestling this year.
“I always wanted to wrestle since I was really young,” Kogolshak said at the Broncs’ practice on Wednesday. “I didn’t want to be the only girl, and when I came to Senior I said this is my chance to do it. I only get my high school career to do it.
“It was kind of hard. I didn’t want to give up swimming, but I think it was a good decision to make.”
Broncs coach Mickey Mahlmeister said Kogolshak is attentive in practice and willing to learn. He also said she is a gifted athlete.
“She is an extremely athletic young lady and has had success in any sport she chooses,” said Mahlmeister. “She’s a very hard worker and extremely athletic. She picked up wrestling really quickly and has an understanding of the moves and when to transition to the next hold.”
Mahlmeister said it’s no surprise Kogolshak — who set the power clean weight lifting record at Senior for girls who weigh 150-plus pounds in January — has the state championship in her sights.
“That’s the great thing about her, that should be the ultimate goal for all the girls is to be a champion,” he said. “But, she works for it and when she shows up at tournaments she wrestles to be the champion.”
Kogolshak, a setter, was a second-team all-state selection in volleyball for the Broncs this past season.
The Broncs finished third this fall at the state volleyball tourney in Bozeman, which like the state wrestling tourney has an all-class setting. Courtney Bad Bear, a former Broncs standout who was the JV coach last season, was named the Broncs volleyball coach on Tuesday. Kogolshak is already looking forward to next volleyball season.
“I’m really excited to play for Courtney and think it will be a great season,” Kogolshak said. “We ended up third and have a lot of potential and she can help us keep the momentum going. I think it will be a great season.”
There is a history of success in the sport of wrestling in the Kogolshak family. Her father, Billy Kogolshak, was a two-time state champion heavyweight for Hardin in 1996 and 1997.
“I’ve always talked to him about it and when the opportunity came up we were both serious about it,” Kogolshak said. “We went and bought some wrestling shoes one day and went from there.”
When wrestling season is over, Kogolshak said she may participate in track and field for the Broncs. The last time she was a member of a track team was middle school.
Kogolshak said she’d probably compete in the throwing events, “but maybe a little bit of everything to see what I’m good at.”
Judging by her track record in swimming, volleyball and wrestling, Kogolshak would quickly adapt to track and field.
Email Gazette Sports Editor John Letasky at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJohnL