BILLINGS — To say Sidney wrestling coach Guy Melby is looking forward to the season-opening 33rd annual Sidney Eagle Invitational might be an understatement.
“I think it will be the toughest one yet,” the Eagles' 34th-year coach said. “It started out and I believe our first year we were a one-day tournament. The first five years we had seven or eight teams here and now it is pushing 30 and there are six different states represented. That is kind of cool.”
Wrestling begins on Friday and Saturday at 9 a.m. both days at Sidney High School. Four mats will line the gym floors and two mats will be unrolled in the wrestling room.
Teams from every classification in Montana are entered. Squads from North Dakota, Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska and Washington will also compete.
On Friday, a dual tourney will be held with three different divisions. The dual championships are slated for a 3:30 p.m. start. At approximately 6 p.m. on Friday, the first round of the 32-wrestler bracket begins.
On Saturday, the day will begin with the quarterfinals with placing matches set to start at 4:30 p.m. Wrestling should conclude by 7 p.m. Matches for places 1-8 will be contested at the same time on four mats.
Last year, Post Falls (Idaho), Dickinson (North Dakota) and Miles City were the team champions for their respective pools in the duals tourney. In the dual competition, Post Falls defeated host Sidney, 39-28, in the finals for Pool A. Dickinson downed Bowman (North Dakota) 46-21, in Pool B. Miles City prevailed over the Sidney JV, 45-24, in Pool C.
In the bracket tourney last season, Post Falls scored 238.5 points to win the title and Sidney was second with 194.5. Columbia (Idaho) was third with 184, Bozeman fourth with 171 and Billings West fifth with 150.5.
Melby expects another tough tourney. During the past two seasons, the two-time defending State A champion Eagles have amassed a 60-1 duals record with their only loss to Post Falls.
“It is very competitive. It is different states and you find different styles of wrestling all over the place, which is fun,” he said. “It’s a great measuring stick for everybody. It is fun to get teams to come in here. We travel all over the place and now we are starting to pull teams from everywhere, so it’s kind of cool.”
Sidney is a wrestling community and many youths participate in club wrestling. Melby annually will travel with a squad to the AAU Scholastic Duals in Orlando, Florida. Thirty-four years of head coaching experience and networking has helped Melby put together this year’s Sidney Eagle field.
“Most of these teams I’ve done wrestling clinics for them, or with them, or seen them in Florida and talked them into coming,” he said.
Melby said the duals bracket in Pool A is loaded. First-round matches include: No. 1 seed Post Falls, Idaho, vs. Dickinson; Billings Senior vs. No. 4 seed Rapid City Central (South Dakota), No. 3 seed Bozeman vs. Columbia and David City, Nebraska, vs. No. 2 seed Sidney.
First-round matches in the B pool include No. 1 Lake Stevens (Washington) vs. Williston (North Dakota), Billings Skyview vs. Glasgow, Minot (North Dakota) vs. Colstrip and Billings West vs. Bowman.
Melby said the Eagles should be a strong team this season.
“We lost four guys from last year. We feel like we are going to be pretty good,” he said. “We only have three seniors this year. The meat of our order is juniors. We have 11 state placers back. We should be pretty solid.”
The Eagles return four state champions this season; three from last year and one from 2108.
Jett Jones was last year’s State A titlist at 182 pounds, Riley Waters won first at 160 and Aden Graves was the champ at 132. Kaiden Cline was state champ at 103 in 2018. Cline was the state runner-up last year at 113 pounds and Jones was third at 160 in 2018.
Jones will wrestle at 205 pounds this year as a senior. Waters, a junior, will compete at 182. Graves, a sophomore, will be at 145 and Cline, a senior, is slated to compete at 120.
Action from all six mats will be streamed on trackwrestling.com. The NFHS Network will carry action from the mats in the main gym. Results from the bracket tourney will be updated live on trackwrestling.com.