BILLINGS -- The favorites are doing their thing through Day 1 of the all-class state wrestling tournament. But not all the leading margins are wide enough for comfort.
Two-time defending State AA champion Great Falls holds a 30.5-point advantage on second-place Missoula Sentinel, by far the largest among the three classifications competing at Billings' Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark.
State A's two-time winner Havre leads Sidney by 22 points and Choteau has an 18-point advantage on Eureka in the State B-C ranks.
The 12-mat gauntlet of state wrestling progressed through the quarterfinals Friday and will conclude Saturday evening. Finals matches are tentatively scheduled for 3 p.m.
The Spartans hold second place by a hair, topping Billings Senior by a half point, 94 to 93.5. The margin should stay close through Saturday's second day with Sentinel having seven semifinalists and Senior taking eight through.
Great Falls, which tallied 124.5 first-day points, also has eight in the semis.
Sentinel's 120-pounder Jake Hegel picked up a pair of pins to march to the semfinals, earning 11 team points along the way. Both came via third-round falls.
Six other Spartans advanced unbeaten to Saturday: Jace Kovalicky (132 pounds), Dylan Duffalo (138), Chandler Paulson (145), Bryar Newbary (160), Cy Steele (182) and Jake Rebish (285).
Hegel and Duffalo are returning third placers while Kovalicky took sixth a year ago.
Sentinel has 11 total wrestlers remaining in the double-elimination event.
Missing among Great Falls' list of unbeatens is Jarren Komac, a 126-pounder and two-time state champ. He went down in the quarters to Kalispell Flathead's Dyan Guzman, 7-4.
Missoula Big Sky is lurking back in fifth place with 71 points (behind Billings Skyview's 75.5) and advanced four wrestlers without a loss.
Chief among them is 170-pound senior Luke Entzel, who scored a pair of first-round pins Friday. Entzel is 33-0 on the year and chasing a third consecutive state title.
"Just keeping the pressure on them and only thinking about one match at a time and blocking all the pressure and stress building up," Entzel told the Billings Gazette of his strategy for his final meet.
Joining Entzel are Demo Koures (113), Logan McGreevey (145) and Conner Gordon (205) as semifinalists. All three also earned back-to-back pins. Their Eagles still have nine wrestlers in play.
Missoula Hellgate is down to two boys, though Asa Hoerner is onto the semis at 126 pounds. The Knights are in 14th place with 15 points.
Havre is well positioned for its third consecutive state title with 13 wrestlers making it to the semifinals. The Blue Ponies hold a 146-124 edge over Sidney, which advanced nine into the penultimate round.
Columbia Falls is third with 96 points with Corvallis next at 54.5.
In individual results, Frenchtown’s Cody Warner, seeded fourth at 120, won by 13-2 major decision in his opening match and a 7-5 decision over Havre’s Dylan Stewart. His semifinal match comes against No. 1 Kohltin Starkel of Dillon.
In pursuit of his fourth consecutive title, Sidney's Gresh Jones positioned himself one match shy with two relatively easy wins at 126. He pinned his first opponent in 26 seconds and then won by 9-1 major decision over Chase Conner, Columbia Falls’ hope in the class. Gresh faces No. 3 Logan Pleninger of Havre next.
Columbia Falls’ Haze Bell wrestles in the other semi. Fellow Wildcat Kaleb Gravelin is one match away from a spot in the 138-pound championship.
Like Gresh, MatCat Shonn Roberts (138) is two matches away from claiming his fourth consecutive state crown. Roberts, 38-2 on the year, pinned Laurel’s Mason Fend in 48 seconds and then used 3:03 before Dillon’s Bridger Nelson succumbed.
On the other side of the bracket is Belgrade’s Jarrett Degen, the reigning 132 champ.
Zach Crace awaits Sidney’s Ryan Chatterton in the second-to-last round at 152. If Crace wins two matches Saturday, it’ll be the Libby senior’s first title.
Top-seeded Riley Jessop (160) of Corvallis, pinned Lewiston’s Bradley Denton and then topped Glendive’s Tyler Kutzler in a 14-5 major decision.
Corvallis’ Sam Burdette (182) pinned Laurel’s Kyle Howe in 45 seconds and Lewistown’s Devin Blythe in 1:25 to set up a match with Cody Christian of Sidney.
Columbia Falls’ Spencer Ross at 285 meets Travis Adams of Havre in the semifinals.
Hamilton also has a pair of semifinalists in Robert Few (145) and Michael Bumgarner (205). Polson's Mike Corrigan is on the other side of the 205 bracket in the semis.
Behind its lightweights, Eureka took hold of second in B-C with a slim lead on third-place Colstrip, 70 to 69, though both teams are chasing Choteau.
Eureka sent five of its 10 entrants onto the semifinals, including its four lightest wrestlers, and seven total are still alive.
Kahden Bakkila (113), Zach Durden (120), Jonathan Schmidt (120) and Garrett White (126) advanced unblemished, all four doing so with a pair of pinfalls. Joe Fehr (182) joined them with another two pins.
Durden and Schmidt are on opposite sides of the bracket and could only face each other in the finals.
But Choteau was deadly efficient. Seven of the Bulldogs' 10 wrestlers advanced to the semifinals. None have been eliminated.
Eureka will hope to hold of Colstrip, which has five semifinalists as well.
Mission Valley teams Ronan (45.5 points) and St. Ignatius-Charlo (38) are in sixth and eighth place, respectively. Hunter Peterson (113) and Cole Snyder (126) are Ronan's two semifinalists, while the Mission boys have three representatives: Jaimie Mullins (132), Trent Dennison (152) and Steven Bravo (182).
Other area semifinalists include: Deer Lodge's Connor Rogers (132), Florence's Torren Lawson (138), Plains-Hot Springs' Russell Kujala (145) and Superior's Bridger Lapierre (152).
Kujala is a defending state champion.
Matt Weber of Forsyth, which is fourth as a team with 63 points, is on track in his hunt for a fourth individual state title after a pair of wins by pin Friday.
Ninth-place Chinook leads all Class C teams with 37.5 points.