The Helena and Capital High wrestling teams are headed to the Magic City, where they will take part in one of the state’s biggest high school extravaganzas: The All-Class Wrestling Tournament at Billings' Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark
The tournament, which features Classes AA, A and B/C competing on 12 mats simultaneously, begins Friday morning, and concludes with the championship bouts on Saturday evening.
Both local clubs qualified 15 grapplers each at last weekend’s Western Division tourney, led by divisional champions Hayden Schrull and Noah Manibusan of Helena, and Capital High’s Nick Kunz. The three seniors are each two-time division titlists.
The pre-tourney AA favorites, judging by divisional results, include Flathead High (22 qualifiers, seven division champs), Bozeman (20 qualifiers, four titlists), Missoula Big Sky (20 qualifiers, four finalists), Great Falls High (19 qualifiers, three champs), Billings Skyview (18 qualifiers, four finalists), Helena and Capital.
Bozeman won their own LeProwse Invitational crown, while Flathead captured Missoula’s Jug Beck Rocky Mountain Classic.
Individually, a quartet of matmen is seeking to become four-time State champions. In Class A, looking to achieve the feat are Belgrade's Sawyer Degen and Havre’s Jase Stokes and Parker Filius. In the combined B/C meet, it will be Colstrip’s Clayton Currier gunning for a fourth title.
Goals for State
“Our goal is for each wrestler to have their best weekend of wrestling at the State Tournament,” HHS coach John Burke said. “This is what the team has been training for the entire year, and if each wrestler does their part, then hopefully we’ll find ourselves in the team race.”
Burke said his squad is excited and ready to go, and “as the intensity of these (State) matches rises,” the Bengal grapplers will need to match that intensity.
Bruin coach Jeff Mahana said his team goal “is for everyone to win a match and for everyone to try collecting bonus points.
“We need to go out and wrestle physical and enjoy the moment. The State tournament is a great venue and can be overwhelming for kids their first time going. We want our seniors to go in and enjoy the ride.”
The Three Amigos
The three local division champions own a combined season record of 98-4. And for their careers, Schrull, Kunz and Manibusan have amassed a more than 350 victories.
Schrull, the defending State AA champion, enters this weekend as the prohibitive favorite for the 182-pound title, with a 34-1 record, including 23 pins. He won the LeProwse title and placed third in the Jug Beck tournament. Shrull has dominated every wrestler in the state at 182 -- and beaten several of the top guys at 205, as well -- although he has not met Eastern champ Brandon Cooper from Bozeman.
Over the past two seasons, he owns a combined 73-3 record (50 pins), sustaining only one loss to a Montana wrestler. Two of those defeats came at the hands of out-of-state grapplers, at the last two Beck Rocky Mountain tourneys. In between those losses, Schrull strung together 36 consecutive victories, the Bengals’ fifth-longest win streak.
A two-time All-Stater, placing sixth at 145 as a sophomore before capturing last year’s 170 crown, he possesses a career mark of 113-30, with 83 pins. Schrull is two wins away from becoming HHS’ third-winningest matman, behind Jade Fetters and Ryan Fetherston, who each had 114 wins. His 83 pins rank No. 2 all-time, behind Toby Erickson’s 90 career staples.
Kunz comes into MetraPark at 32-1 with 14 pins, at 120. He placed runner-up at the LeProwse tourney to Billings Senior's Charlie Klepps, before taking the Jug Beck championship over Bozeman's Chance McLane.
McLane and Klepps were both State AA champs last year, at 103 and 113 respectively, and figure to be Kunz’s main adversaries in Billings.
The Bruin has garnered a pair of All-State medals, placing fifth at 113 in 2015, and third at 120 last year.
Kunz has compiled a career mark of 119-33, with 61 staples. He stands No. 3 at Capital in all-time wins, just one victory away from record-holders Kallen Kleinschmidt and Alex Markle, tied at 120. He also has moved to No. 5 on the school’s lifetime pins list, ahead of current assistant coach Kyle Nay’s 59 staples. Casey Kelly is fourth with 63.
Manibusan, at 33-2 with 18 pins at 160 pounds, is the 2016 State AA runner-up. Sitting No. 1 on the Eastern side of the bracket is returning champion Brock Bushfield from Skyview, who pinned the HHS standout in last year’s State title match at 152 pounds.
The Bengal standout placed third at Bozeman's tourney, before capturing the Beck tourney in Missoula. His only two losses came at the hands of GFH's Jordan Komac, who dropped to 152 for State.
Manibusan, already the school’s career record-holder with 129 victories (129-25, 65 pins) is on pace to become just the seventh four-time All-State wrestler in Bengal history. He placed sixth at 126 as a freshman, fifth his sophomore year at 138, and second last year.
The last to turn the trick was Landon Bailey (2012-15), who also happens to be Helena’s former wins’ record-holder. Manibusan’s 65 lifetime pins rank No. 5, ahead of Brad Bruno’s 61, and behind Tucker Erickson’s 69.
The rest of the best
Capital placed eight others in the top three at Divisionals, led by runners-up Tyler Coddington (22-8), a freshman at 113, and junior Travis Schulte (23-5, 12 pins) at 145. Schulte placed sixth at State last year, and owns a record of 50-20 over the past two seasons.
Bruins finishing third were sophomore Nolan Dulaney (8-5) at 113, senior Jack Murphy (23-9, 11 pins) at 152, senior Shamus Bartmess (20-13, 10 pins) at 160, senior Kory Broussard (23-13, team-high 20 pins) at 182, sophomore Seth Jensen (27-8, 16 pins) at 205, and junior heavyweight Carson Shuman (18-16, 14 pins).
Broussard placed fourth at 170 last year at State, and has fashioned a two-year mark of 49-27, with 37 staples. Bartmess finished sixth in 2016, and possesses a 39-33 record over the last two seasons. Jensen was this year’s LeProwse champion.
Five other Bengals were top three Divisional finishers, with 103-pound sophomore Isaac Romero (29-4) and senior Ryder Norris (3-2) at 160, both taking second. Romero, who earlier this season captured the LeProwse title, is 54-18 for his first two seasons.
Placing third at Divisionals for HHS were junior Austin Murphy (22-11) at 120, sophomore Devin Crawford (26-10, 10 pins) at 132 and senior Joel Clark (26-13, 21 pins) at 170.
In 2016 at State, Clark placed fourth at 160, and for his final seasons has gone 46-24. Crawford was fifth at State as a freshman, and is now 62-22 for his first two seasons, while Murphy placed sixth at 120, and has a two-year mark of 39-26.
Rounding out the Bengal qualifiers are Kyle Tabbert (28-9) at 138, Jacob Manibusan (11-14) at 205, Ridge Troupe (10-21) at 145, London Norris (17-15) at 113, Daniel Smith at 170, Dhawson McKinnis at 138, Gino Dalbec at 113, and Nathaniel Yargo at 103.
Tabbert placed sixth at State at 132 in 2016, and has gone 46-24 over the past two seasons.
The rest of CHS’ qualifiers are heavyweight Connor Quick, Justin Jenks (7-4) at 205, CJ Snyder (17-13, 14 pins) at 160, Alex McVey-Touchette at 170, Logan Lundin at 126, and Tyler Tobal at 126.