BILLINGS — Flathead junior Payton Hume was back in his element on Friday at the All- Class State Wrestling Tournament at the MetraPark.
Hume earned two quick pins to take his place in today’s state semifinals, his second time he’s pulled off the feat.
The streak likely would have been three, if not for an incident last season that ended up in the courts after a clerical error left Hume ineligible for the state tournament. Despite winning the 145-pound class at the Western AA seeding tournament last season, Hume was left off the championship roster because he had spent more than half of his time at 138 pounds during the season. The mixup meant that he didn’t qualify in his proper weight class, and even if he was clearly able to compete at the heavier level, hadn’t earned a spot in the final 16 for state.
A battle ensued in the courts to attempt to get him back in time for the state tournament, but to no avail. His absence was felt, with the Braves sporting shirts with his last name during the tournament.
“It was upsetting,” Hume said. “I’d been training all year, I’d been ranked No. 1. I felt like I could have won it. It gave me the motivation this year to do my best and do the work I needed to do to win this thing.”
Hume left no doubt he’s ready, pinning his first opponent in 2:23 and his second in 1:15.
“It feels pretty good,” Hume said. “I wanted to go out there and work hard, get my first match in, get it done with, start it off with a pin and hopefully go all the way through to the championship.”
He has a tough match against Bozeman’s Keegan Mulhill this morning in the semifinals and a potential match against top-ranked Jordan Komac of Great Falls in the championship, a match he lost by close decision earlier this year.
Regardless of how tough the path is to the title, it can’t be tougher than the road he took to get there.
“It’s an amazing feeling to be back here,” Hume said. “I’ve been training all year for it.”