Local wrestlers are heading into the final corner of the season’s long, winding road that leads to the State AA Wrestling Tournament, as Capital High hosts the Western Division Tournament on Saturday. Action kicks off in the Bears' Den at 11 a.m., and concludes with the championship bouts in the evening.
The top eight placers in each weight class of the non-scored event qualify for the State tourney, Feb. 10-11 in Billings.
Host Capital High, under coach Jeff Mahana, will take six into divisionals with 20 or more wins, led by senior 120-pounder Nick Kunz.
Kunz, who captured a division crown as freshman 98-pounder in 2014, has tasted defeat just once this year, and owns an outstanding record of 28-1 with 13 pins. He is the third-winningest grappler in CHS history, compiling a career mark of 114-33, with 59 pins.
Sophomore Seth Jensen is 24-7 (14 pins) at 205, junior Travis Schulte is 21-4 (11 pins) at 145, senior Jack Murphy is 20-8 (10 pins) at 152, freshman Tyler Coddington is 20-7 at 113, and senior Kory Broussard is 20-12 (team-high 17 pins) at 182.
The rest of the Bruins with winning records are Shamus Bartmess (17-12) at 160, CJ Snyder (15-11, 12 pins) at 160, Lee Lambrecht (15-11) at 138, Justin Jenks (4-2) at 205, and Nolan Dulaney (5-4) at 113.
Among the remainder of the squad are heavyweight Carson Shuman (15-15, 11 pins), and Nick McVey-Touchette (7-9) at 152.
“We’re going to try and qualify as many guys as possible, as high as possible,” Mahana said. “We are going to do this through physical, attack-style wrestling.
“We’ve worked all year on dictating our style of wrestling, and we want to continue to do that this weekend.”
Helena High coach John Burke has six with more than 20 wins as well, paced by two seniors at the 30 mark: Defending State champion Hayden Schrull, at 182 pounds, and 2016 State runner-up Noah Manibusan at 160.
Schrull owns a sparkling 31-1 record, with 20 staples. His lifetime record is 110-30, with 80 pins, which moves him into a tie for No. 5 on the school’s all-time win list, alongside Toby Erickson.
Manibusan is 30-2 (17 pins), has amassed a career mark of 126-25, and is just one away from Landon Bailey’s HHS record of 127 victories. Schrull and Manibusan were both Western AA titlists last year.
Sophomore Isaac Romero is 27-3 (12 pins), junior Kyle Tabbert is 26-7 at 138, sophomore Devin Crawford is 23-9 at 132, and senior Joel Clark is 23-12 (19 pins) at 170.
Other Bengals above .500 are JT Nygaard (19-4, 15 pins) at 182, Austin Murphy (19-10) at 120 and London Norris (15-13) at 113.
Among the rest of the team are Jacob Manibusan (9-12) at 205, and freshman Ridge Troupe (8-19) at 145.
“Our goals for this weekend are to continue working on being fundamentally sound with our technique and to wrestle our physical and aggressive style,” Burke said. “We view this as the start of the State tournament, and realize that our performances will impact placement into the state brackets.
“In order to put our team in a good place for State, we want to leave this weekend with the highest seeds we can get. As long as the Bengals continue wrestling hard like they have all year, the seeding should take care of itself.”