BILLINGS — Huntley Project and Glasgow appear to be the favorites for the Class B team championship at the state wrestling tournament, which will occur Friday and Saturday at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark.
The Red Devils tallied 207.5 points to win the Eastern divisional at their home gym last Saturday. The Scotties, the state runner-up last year, finished second with 183 points.
While Glasgow coach Jory Casterline acknowledged his Scotties and Project appear to be the front-runners, he said Glasgow isn’t taking anything for granted and knows several teams could be in the running for hardware.
“We just talk about controlling what we can control,” Casterline said. “That is going out and wrestling our matches and getting wins and getting bonus points. Everybody on the team has to contribute.”
Project coach Tim Kaczmarek agreed several teams are in the running for a state trophy, saying, “You never know until you wrestle it.”
Among the teams both Casterline and Kaczmarek said were in the hunt are Whitehall, Townsend and Cut Bank.
Whitehall was the Southern divisional champion and Cut Bank won the Northern B-C. Townsend placed second at the Southern B-C.
St. Ignatius-Charlo slipped past Superior-Alberton for the Western divisional crown, 187-183.5.
Eureka, the 2017 State B champion, finished third at the Western divisional.
Columbus-Absarokee-Park City, which placed third at the state tourney last season, placed third in the Southern divisional last Saturday. Two-time defending State B champion Colstrip was third at the Eastern divisional.
Circle repeated as State C champion last year and was fourth at the Eastern B-C divisional in Worden.
Last year, the Wildcats outdistanced Superior-Alberton 102-32 for the State C team trophy.
• The Red Devils qualified 11 wrestlers for state and Kaczmarek said Project wrestled well at the divisional.
“Our guys had big wins and pins and definitely came to wrestle last Saturday,” he said.
The Red Devils’ motto has been “one match at a time,” said Kaczmarek, who has been stressing to his team to not “get caught looking ahead and take care of the guy in front of you.”
Project has three state placers on the state team in senior Clayton Donally (145), senior Journey Grimsrud (285) and sophomore Stran Selman (182). Donally is a three-time state runner-up, Grimsrud was second at heavyweight last season and Selman was sixth at 170 last year.
“Our guys are excited,” Kaczmarek said. “We have some good draws in our bracket and like where we are sitting. We have to wrestle one match at a time and take care of business.”
• The Scotties will be represented by 10 wrestlers.
Glasgow was third at the state meet in 2018 and second last year.
The Scotties have been focused on this weekend all season long. The rest of the season is in the past.
“We are ready to get in there and just come in and perform at a high level,” Casterline said. “We have talked about that a lot, about performing at a high level and that’s what we have to do this weekend.”
Colten Fast and Dylan Nieskens both won state championships for Glasgow last year. Fast won the Eastern Divisional 132-pound crown and Nieskens was victorious at 182 pounds.
Casterline said Fast, Nieskens and Cooper Larson (205) are all undefeated in Class B-C. Larson was the divisional champion as well. All three are juniors and each won all three of their matches at the divisional by pin.
Kaden Zimmerman (152) and Mayson Phipps (285) were state placers for Glasgow last year. Zimmerman, a senior, has consecutive third-place state finishes and Phipps was third at 285 a year ago.
“Everyone who qualified is wrestling well,” Casterline said. “We have had a good season and are peaking at the right time.”
• Whitehall has 10 wrestlers at the tourney. Michael Reiff (113), Mike Wilkinson (132), Riley Forcella (152) and Miles Hoerauf (160) won divisional crowns for the Trojans.
Dane Hoover (113), Dawson Powers (120) and Dallen Hoover (145) finished second at divisionals for Whitehall.
Wilkinson was fifth at state last year at 132.
“We set ourselves up pretty well for the first couple rounds,” Whitehall coach Mark Nelson said. “We’ll see how it goes. At tourneys, you have to keep the intensity level up.”
Nelson said the team competition “is a real horse race. There are no guaranteed trophies there — it’s a horse race.”
• Townsend qualified nine for state, including five returning state placers in Jadon Lamb (205, 5th at state at 205 last year), Ty Steele (160, 4th at 152 last year), Sam Lane (145, 4th at 103 in 2018), Easton Held (138, 5th at 126 in 2018) and Riley Richtmeyer (132, 4th at 120 last year).
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“If we wrestle to our ability, we can be in the Saturday conversation,” coach John O’Dell said. “I feel like all nine of our kids can score points and run well in the tournament. We have to win those big matches.”
O’Dell said he was happy with his team’s divisional performance and felt it set the Bulldogs up well for state.
“Everyone with trophy aspirations has nine or 10 wrestlers,” he said. “It is just keeping those guys alive and having them wind up on the trophy stand.”
• Cut Bank qualified 11 wrestlers for state en route to winning the Northern divisional, 157-102 over Simms.
The Wolves have two returning state placers in sophomore Austin Vanek (160, 3rd last year at 152) and senior Andrew Anderson (152, 4th at 145 last year).
“We have had between five and six place at every tournament besides CMR,” Cut Bank 15th-year coach Cody Fetters said. “If we do our job, like every other team, we’ll be there.”
The Wolves have two seniors. Colten Barsness has qualified at 145 pounds.
A key for Cut Bank will be staying aggressive the whole tournament.
“We had our struggles at divisionals,” Fetters said. “Once we knew we were placing, we took a break and got beat by kids we shouldn’t have. Hopefully, we have that addressed this week. We spent a lot of time at practice discussing it.”
• The Eureka Lions qualified seven wrestlers and are led by Gunnar Smith, who is aiming for his third state title.
The 126-pound junior claimed the 113- and 120-pound titles the previous two seasons.
Eureka coach Danny Lemer said Smith had knee surgery over the Christmas break and returned the lineup the week before divisionals.
Senior Nathan Schmidt (138) is a two-time state runner-up and senior Hank Dunn (152, 26-1) was third at state last year and runner-up in 2018.
Junior Kyle Durden (132) is a three-time state placer.
“We’ll need a little luck. Numbers is our biggest competition,” noted Lemer, saying other teams have qualified more wrestlers. “We will score points. The consolation rounds is where we’ll lose ground.
“I’m pretty happy. We are confident. In the semifinal round you can score a lot of points. The potential is there to bring home a trophy.”
• Colstrip has two returning state champions in senior Trey Yates (285) and junior Rylin Burns (160). The Colts have another state placer from last year in sophomore Zach Valdez (138), who was fifth at 120 last season.
“We are just trying to get better every meet,” said Colts coach Dan Valdez. “We are a young, young team this year. We lost a lot of horsepower from last year. We lost three state champions (Ty Bradley, Jackson Currier and Nakoda Siegel), two second-place placers and a fourth-place placer, to graduation. That is a lot of points to try and replace. We are pretty young this year.”
The Colts have eight state qualifiers.
“Everybody is improving. That is what we are looking for — to keep improving and to peak this time of year. Our young guys have improved quite a bit. Our main goal is to keep getting better and peak at state.”
• Circle qualified five wrestlers with four divisional champions and one runner-up. For the Wildcats, junior Krayle Stormer (113), sophomore Tugg Taylor (120), sophomore Canyon Casterline (138) and junior Cole Becker (145) were divisional titlists.
Bryson Bartelson finished second at 120 to his teammate Tugg Taylor at divisionals.
Stormer was the 103-pound state champion last season, and Taylor, Casterline and Becker placed fourth in their weight classes.
“It’s a very good team. They are hard-working,” Circle coach Ty Taylor, who is Tugg’s father, said. “You just have to show up and most of the time they know what they are doing. They have the routine down. Every once in a while they get a little bored or sidetracked, but that is about it.”
Coach Taylor said the Wildcats are used to performing on the big stage. Aside from their success at Metra, he’s been proud of his team’s efforts at the large all-class tourneys the Wildcats have entered.
“Just keep focused. It’s just another tournament,” he said. “It is a big tournament, but it is no different than any other tournament. You just have to keep your own perspective.
“We went to CMR. We went to Bozeman. I like sending them to Sidney. We get them in the meat grinder. It doesn’t matter, Class AA, A, B or C. They just get on the mat to win.”
• According to the the Montana High School Association, a total of seven girls wrestlers qualified for the state tournament this season and six are from Class B-C. Girls entered in the B-C state tourney are: Leeann Hoch, Shepherd, 103; Harley Wade, Simms, 103; Rebecca Stroh, Chinook, 113; Morgan Ayers, Highwood, 113; O’Maste Foster, Florence-Carlton, 285; and Kali Hood, Columbus-Absarokee-Park City, 285.
Kiera Davis of Corvallis qualified at 103 pounds in Class A.
• Last year, Tanner Cook became the first state champion in the history of the Columbus-Absarokee-Park City program when he won the 113-pound title as a junior.
Cook won the 120-pound title at the Southern divisional last week.
Columbus-Absarokee-Park City also claimed the first team trophy in its history at last year's meet when it finished third.
Email Gazette Deputy Sports Editor John Letasky at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJohnL