HELENA — The All-Class State Wrestling Tournament in Billings will cap off the latest mat season with the local Class AA teams taking five Western Division champions into Rimrock MetraPark Arena on Friday.
The AA’s team championship is expected to be a battle between last year’s titlists and runners-up, Flathead High and Bozeman. Among the individual highlights is Billings Senior’s Charlie Klepps' quest for his fourth state crown.
Capital qualified 17 grapplers to State with two divisional champs, while Helena crowned three Western titlists and is sending nine matmen to the tournament.
Friday’s matches – on 12 mats, four per class, wrestling simultaneously – start at 10:20 a.m. in MetraPark. Action resumes on Saturday at 9:30 a.m., with finals scheduled for 3:15 p.m.
Capital’s Western champions are senior Travis Schulte at 145 pounds, and freshman Hayden Azure at 120.
Schulte enters state with a 36-8 record and 17 pins. His main competition figures to be Kyle Gordon (Missoula Big Sky), who he defeated in the division finals, and Eastern champion Chance McLane (Bozeman). McLane placed third last year and was the 2016 state titlist.
Schulte placed sixth at State the past two years, and carries a career mark of 103-52 (49 pins) into Billings.
Azure is 8-1, and will face stiff competition from his own teammate, Tyler Coddington, and Eastern champ Sterling Quinn (Bozeman) and Bridger Lamb (Skyview).
The Western 120 finals was an all-Capital affair with Coddington (14-3) forfeiting due to an illness.
Capital's other runner-up was junior Seth Jensen at 205, who stands at 32-8 (22 pins). Jensen finished fifth at last year’s state tourney. Placing third at the Western meet were Chance Lee (18-17) at 170 and Zane McCormick at 182.
The rest of the Capital’s state qualifiers are Lee Lambrecht (23-5) at 138, heavyweight Justin Jenks (19-14), Cole Bradford (21-12) at 145, Noah Kovick (29-8) at 138, Ian Isaackson at 160, Josh Lee at 182, Wyatt Schneider at 126, Alec McVey-Touchette at 205, Keaton Pouliot at 170, Traeton Duty at 113 and heavyweight Jake Slagel.
“To achieve team goals this weekend we need to take each match at a time,” Bruins coach Jeff Mahana said. “Everyone has a responsibility to go out and compete. Our goal is for everyone to contribute to the team score.”
The Bengals are led by Western titlists Isaac Romero at 113 pounds, Austin Murphy at 126 and 138-pounder Devin Crawford.
Romero was last year’s state champion at 103 as a sophomore, and stands at 34-3 with 19 pins. He has not lost to a Montana AA opponent this year. Romero's chief competition could come from Eastern champ Jaiden James (Bozeman).
Murphy owns a mark of 32-11, and should expect stiff competition from returning AA champ Leif Schroeder (Bozeman) or Carter Carroll (CMR). The Bengals senior possess a lifetime record of 101-54. He has finished sixth and fifth the past two State tourneys.
Crawford, a junior, enters MetraPark with a record of 38-6, with 20 pins. The 138-pound division is loaded with standouts such as Kai Stewart (CMR), Brock Rodrigues (Bozeman) and Capital’s Lee Lambrecht and Noah Kovick. Crawford owns 103 career victories and is a two-time all-stater, taking fifth as a frosh and claiming a third-place medal in 2017.
Rounding out Helena's state participants are Nathaniel Yargo (103), Jacob Manibusan (182), Zach LaPierre (152), Jason Mandy (103), Peter McIntosh (160) and Ching Man Chan (132).
“The team seems to be in a good frame of mind,” said Helena coach John Burke, when asked about his squad’s mindset. “The wrestlers need to take one match at a time and have confidence in their training.”
Jefferson is ranked No. 7 in the B/C coaches poll after winning its first Southern Division championship in 20 years.
Coach Troy Humphrey’s Panthers qualified 14 matmen for state – the most in school history – led by three divisional champions.
Capturing Southern crowns were Cody St. Clair (32-10, 25 pins) at 120 pounds, Jacob Travis (38-9, 29 pins) at 138, and three-time divisional champion Nate Brunett (33-6, 27 pins) at 160. Brunett, a 2016 all-stater, also garnered the tourney’s Quick Pin Award and the Sportsmanship Award.
Also placing in the top-four for JHS were Brett Hale (21-9) at 170, Derek Nygaard (30-13, 27 pins) at 182, heavyweight Nick Workman (23-8), heavyweight Nathan Rasch (27-11), Drake Schake (22-6) at 182, Christian Davis at 103, Dakota Dorn (26-15) at 205, Emma Brown at 103, Michael Mitchell at 113, Eric Lufkin at 120 and Asher Oliver at 170.
Townsend placed third at Divisionals, behind five titlists; Sam Lane (31-10) at 103 pounds, Easton Held (40-5, 30 pins) at 126, Kameron Rauser (35-5, 29 pins) at 132, Kyle Spritzer (31-8) at 170 and Justin Denton (34-11) at 182. Rauser is a returning all-stater.
Also qualifying for state for coach John O’Dell’s Bulldogs is 205-pounder Jaden Lamb.