The goal for every high school wrestler in Montana is to win the state tournament. But first, they have to get to the Metra and in the Western AA, that’s where the seeding tournament comes in.
This year, it was hosted at Helena High and when it was all said and done Saturday in the Jungle, Butte High and Kalispell Flathead advanced the most wrestlers to the All-Class State Tournament in Billings next week, with each team sending 19 total.
Helena Capital was right behind with 16, followed by Glacier with 14, Missoula Big Sky with 12, Missoula Sentinel with 11, Helena high with nine and Missoula Hellgate with five.
"Having 15 guys going to the state tournament is great," Helena Capital head coach Jeff Mahana said. "We only have three seniors, so we have 12 guys coming back for the future. I really liked how our new guys are battling and that's really exciting for us."
While Capital put 15 individuals in the Class AA brackets next week in Billings, the Bruins also placed three into the winner's circle as Carson DesRosier (132), Noah Kovick (182) and Zane McCormick (205) each won divisional championships.
DesRosier, a state champion from a year ago at 120 pounds, won his first divisional title after taking a 6-2 decision over Asher Kemppainen of Kalispell Flathead. The sophomore won his other two matches by fall.
"It means nothing," DesRosier said of winning the seeding tournament, although it at least means the state champion, who won at 120 pounds last season, will enter the Class AA tournament as a top seed.
Top-ranked Kovick will also be a top seed at state after winning a 6-0 decision over Paxton Boyce, also of Flathead. Joining them will be the senior, McCormick, who defeated Butte High's Kameron Moreno by way of a 5-2 decision.
"It feels good to be the No. 1 seed but I still have a lot to improve on," Kovick said. "It's just divisionals. State is the only thing that matters."
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Yet, Kovick also felt optimistic about his team's chances in Billings.
"We have 15 studs going to state," Kovick said. "And everyone deserves it. They all worked hard and all have a chance to place."
In addition to three champions, Capital also had three runner-up finishers at the seeding tournament. Two of them were freshmen, Hunter Rahn at 103 pounds and Dylan Graham at 152. Senior Josh Lee also made the finals, but was defeated by Kobe Moreno of Butte in the heavyweight division.
"For the most part, our guys were pretty consistent," Mahana said. "We had a couple of disappointments, some kids let down this weekend, but it's practice until next week (state)."
Other Capital wrestlers that qualified for state are Cole Wines (8th, 126), Conner Kovick (4th, 138) Traeton Duty (7th, 138), Wyatt Schneider (6th, 145), Joey Lauerman (8th, 145), Ian Isaacson (8th, 160), Tucker Zanto (7th, 170) Chayton Winkle (6th, 182), Titan Purdom (7th, 205) and Tyler Little (7th, 285).
As far as Helena High was concerned, the Bengals didn't advance any wrestlers to the finals, but they still placed nine and that's how many they will send to the Metra next week.
Nathon Elmose was the top finisher for the Bengals as he was fourth at 113 pounds. Jason Mandy notched a seventh-place finish for Helena at 103 pounds. Seven others reached state and they included Ian Mehrens (7th, 120), Nathaniel Yargo (8th, 113), JT Gehring (8th, 120), Cameron Wyant (7th, 132), Andrew Cotton (8th, 132), David Kemp (8th, 138) and Justice Seamons, who placed sixth at 160.
"I actually thought we would get more," Helena head coach Sam Bogard said. "We had some injuries to kids we thought would go and that's keeping some of the kids out, but overall, we wrestled pretty well."
Seamons is the only wrestler with any prior state experience for the Bengals.
Capital, on the other hand, returns DesRosier, a state champion, as well as state placers in Kovick, McCormick and Lee. Kovick and McCormick each were third a year ago, while Lee was fifth.