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Eagles' Entzel uses aggressive style to dominate on the mat

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Luke Entzel

Missoula Big Sky senior Luke Entzel is a three-time Class AA state wrestling champion. He will wrestle for Iowa State next season.

Knowing his background, it’s not surprising Luke Entzel is one tough hombre on the wrestling mat.

“My two older brothers used to wrestle me and I just kind of stayed with it,” said the two-time defending State AA champion for Missoula Big Sky. “I fought with them a lot, especially the one that’s right older than me.

“It was just kind of a fun thing to go in there wrestling with them. Whether it was on the mat or not, I was wrestling every day.”

To get an idea how far Entzel has evolved on the mat, just ask the guy who wrestles the 170-pound senior stalwart regularly in the practice room.

“He feels like he’s 200 pounds heavier than he really is and he’s an animal,” said Braxten Wilcox, who competes at 160 for the Eagles. “It really helps you wrestling with him. He helps coach you sometimes.

“But he’s unstoppable. He’s strong, fast, good technique and he’s smart. He’s got everything that makes a great wrestler and it all adds up to make him the animal he is.”

***

If Entzel was an animal, he’d probably be a wolf, or a leopard. Or maybe one of those vicious wolverines you read about.

The point being he’s always on the attack, always looking for ways to score points. He’s 22-0 this season largely because he doesn’t back down or back away from anyone.

Last weekend at the Jug Beck Rocky Mountain Classic he overwhelmed Walker Ferda of Great Falls High in the finals with a 15-0 technical fall.

“He’s only offense,” Big Sky coach Lanny Bryant said. “From the time you walk on that mat and shake his hand, he just goes after you. He doesn’t think defense about anything. It’s always offense.

“He’s something else. In practice he’s going full speed. He doesn’t cut back on anybody. The coaches, even if they wrestle him – and they were a couple of outstanding wrestlers when they were in high school and college – he doesn’t let up on them. They have to take turns because he’s so darn tough.”

While his toughness steals the show when the whistle blows, there’s also a cerebral element to Luke’s success. A strong student and quarterback of the Big Sky football team, Entzel loves the science of wrestling.

“I always really liked the fundamental part,” he said.

***

Luke will tell you the big difference in his wrestling from this year to last year is his high level of confidence. He trusts in his ability and judgment and it makes him a tough nut to crack.

Still, there are times when he has to take a step back and stay in the now. Whether in wrestling or life, looking too far ahead has a way of messing with your mind.

Luke tries not to think about the prospects of three-peating as state champion three weeks from now in Billings. But it’s tough sometimes.

“I try to keep the pressure off myself and my dad is really good about that, trying to keep the pressure off,” said Entzel, who will be a favorite at the state meet Feb. 13-14. “All my coaches are great about that and everything.

“But it’s kind of hard not to put a little pressure on yourself. People have expectations for me and what I’ll do at state this year. I try to blow that off and focus on practicing every day and working hard.”

Entzel’s only loss over the past two seasons came last January at an Arlee mixer where he dropped a 2-0 overtime decision to Jacen Peterson, a former Mission-Charlo standout who now wrestles for Arizona State. His string of wins has been impressive but he’s not taking anything for granted as his final prep campaign comes to a conclusion.

“There’s a couple of guys that are going to be tough,” he said of the state meet. “But it’s definitely mine for the taking if I just stick with it and don’t lose my head.”

***

Entzel has goals that go well beyond high school athletics. He wants to wrestle on the NCAA Division I level and has already heard from several D-I programs.

He isn’t making any moves just yet. His coach, however, is forthcoming with his intentions. He plans to get in touch with perennial powerhouse programs Iowa and Penn State.

“I ask him, ‘Are you really sincere about wrestling at that level?’ ” Bryant said. “He’s very sincere about doing it.”

Luke says he’s dreamed about wrestling for a D-I program since the time he was little.

“Now that some of those options are kind of playing out,” he said, “it’s really cool to see the hard work paying off. I know next year it’s going to be a huge step if I go to that college level and I’m ready to kind of start it all over again with that big jump in competition.”

It’s especially tough to reach the big-time college level from Montana. Standouts like Entzel aren’t pushed as much in high school as, for example, prep wrestlers from Iowa.

“In Montana we have a lot of good wrestlers,” he said. “The big difference is the depth of how many there are. The numbers aren’t as big.

“It’s definitely an advantage being from a bigger wrestling state for college wrestling, because you’re getting harder competition week-in and week-out.”

Regardless of what happens from this day forward, Entzel’s legacy is already set in stone in his coach’s eyes.

“I had one four-time state champion and three three-time state champions,” said Bryant, who has coached high school wrestling on and off for 53 years. “Luke is by far the best quality high school wrestler I’ve ever coached.”

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