It was going to take an impressive resume to capture the 2020-21 Independent Record's High School Boys Athlete of the year award and ultimately, Helena High's Robert Wagner stood above the rest.
Multiple state titles, a state record and a team state championship will do that. The three-time All-Area Swimmer of the Year, Wagner set a state record in the 50-meter freestyle on his way to the Class AA state title in the event. He also won the 100-meter butterfly and part of the 200-meter medley relay team that won the state title for Helena High.
Those efforts capped an incredible career that featured eight state championships in the pool (six individual, two relays) for Wagner and also helped the Bengals win the Class AA boys team championship in 2021.
Wagner also earned All-State honors in cross country for the Bengals in the fall of 2020, and finished all-state in swimming in 14 different events during his career, which he will continue collegiately at Division-I St. Francis.
Even though Wagner earned the honor of top athlete in our coverage area, he was far from the only standout performer worthy of consideration.
Two Helena Capital wrestlers, Carson DesRosier and Noah Kovick, who know a thing or two about state titles, were among those receiving honorable mention.
DesRosier made his third straight finals appearance and won his second Class AA state title, while Kovick became the first wrestler in CHS history to win back-to-back individual crowns. He also defeated a two-time state champ from Great Falls High in order to do it after moving up weight classes.
Kaden Huot (Helena High), Brayden Koch (CHS), Zac Evans (Helena), Braden Morris (Jefferson), Josh Goleman (Helena), Gavin Vandenacre (Townsend) and Ethan Keintz (Helena Senators) were the others in the running for the award and all of their accomplishments, as well as those listed above are below:
2021 IR Boys Athlete of the Year
Robert Wagner, Helena, senior
Three-time IR Swimmer of the Year (2018-19, 2021); Eight career State swim championships (six individual, two relays); 2021 State champion 100 butterfly, state and school record 51.35; State champion 50 freestyle, 21.75; Part of 200 freestyle relay State champions, school record 1:30.34; Part of 400 relay free State runners-up, 3:17.77; Led Bengals to 2021 State team title; 14 career all-state (top 6) medals; Holds five team records (two individual, three relays); Five all-state citations, four swimming, one cross country; Entered the 2020 State Cross Country Meet ranked 51st, and placed 15th; 2021 HHS Pat Donovan Award recipient. 2020 IR Boys Cross Country Male Runner of the Year.
Noah Kovick, Capital, senior
Two-time State wrestling champion, 2020-21; Two-time IR Wrestler of the Year, 2020-21; Capital’s first back-to-back State champion; 2021 season record, 13-0 (9 pins); Career record 103-23 (61 pins); 3-time All-Stater.
Kaden Huot, Helena, junior
Football All-State second team quarterback; 2020 IR Football Offensive Player of the Year; 1,571 passing yards, 108 completions/185 attempts (58.4%), 21 TDs, 5 int, 112 QB rating; 168 yds rushing, 1739 total yards, 22 combined TDs; Holds four school passing records, including career yards (3370) and completions (260); Basketball honorable mention All-Conference; Led Bengals with 8.7 points scoring average, 23 free throws made, .676 free throw accuracy; No. 2 on; HHS with 4.4 rebound average.
Carson DesRosier, Capital, junior
Two-time State wrestling champion, 2019, 2021; 2019 IR Wrestler of the Year; State runner-up (2020), Capital’s second three-time finalist; 2021 season record 14-0 (10 pins); Career record 91-7 (49 pins); Seven varsity letters; three in wrestling, two each in football and track.
Brayden Koch, Capital, junior
Basketball first team All-State guard; 2021 IR Basketball Player of the Year; No. 3 scorer in the State at 18.8 points per game, No. 3 with 47 steals; School record 54 three-pointers; Team-highs 43% 3-point accuracy, 57 free throws made; Scored 79 points at State, All-Tournament team selection.
Zach Evans, Helena, senior
Football first team All-State linebacker; IR Defensive Player of the Year; Team-highs of 107 total tackles (54 solo, 37 assists), 14 TFL and 241 defensive points; No. 2 with 2 caused fumbles; Listed in six of HHS’ Top-10 all-time defensive categories; Honorable mention All-Conference tight end; 9 catches, 58 yards; Top-3 HHS Pancake Blocker.
Braden Morris, Jefferson, junior
Led JHS to the State B Track & Field championship, with 4 medals and scoring 30 points; Won the 110 hurdles State title, placed runner-up in 300 hurdles and triple jump, fourth-place in the; javelin; 2021 IR Track & Field Athlete of the Year; Eight varsity letters; three each in football and basketball, two in track.
Gavin Vandenacre, Townsend, junior
Rare All-Stater in three sports (football, basketball, track) in the same school-year; Class B All-State football wide receiver; School records of 49 catches, 1,140 yards (23.3 avg.), 16 touchdowns; Class B All-State basketball; Led Bulldogs in scoring, 14.6 points per game; At the State B Track & Field meet, tied school-record of six medals (26 points); 100 (2nd), 200 (5th), 400 (2nd), 110 hurdles (4th), 400 relay (2nd), 1600 relay (2nd); Six varsity letters to date; three football, two basketball, one track.
Josh Goleman, Helena, junior
Track & field State shot put champion; Football second team All-State guard; Ranked top-3 in team for Pancake Blocks.
Ethan Keintz, Helena Senators Legion baseball
Garnered the 2020 Earl Tucker Trophy as team batting champ; 2020 Class AA All-State selection outfielder/pitcher; Led the Senators in six offensive categories; .418 average, 59 hits, 10 triples, 56 runs, .525 OBP, .645 slugging; No. 2 with 12 doubles, 37 RBIs; Led pitching staff with 6-2 record, No. 2 with 2.98 ERA.