WRESTLING: C-Falls searching for its 6th straight divisional crown

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An added bonus for Columbia Falls this weekend, as it seeks its sixth straight Western A divisional wrestling title, is that the MatCats are the event hosts.

Whether that will be enough to help it retain the title remains to be seen.

But it sure won’t stand in the way of the MatCats’ domination of this winter wrestling classic once again.

Action gets underway today at 4 p.m. Wrestling resumes Saturday at 9 a.m.

The top eight wrestlers in all weight classes advance to state, which begins next Friday in Billings.

Columbia Falls finished 24 points ahead of runner-up Polson at last year’s divisional event at Dillon.

The MatCats had one individual divisional champion in 2017 — Ben Windauer at 145. He’s back and wrestling at 170 this season and is the top-ranked wrestler in the coaches’ poll at that weight class.

Columbia Falls’ Taylor Gladeau is the top-ranked wrestler at 285.

Columbia Falls was ranked ninth in the Class A coaches’ poll last month.

Polson, ranked No. 3, has two individuals listed No. 1 at their weight classes — Cameron Brown at 145 and Parker Adler at 152.

Adler (wrestled at 138 last year) is a returning divisional champion along with Hunter Fritsch at 160. Fritsch is at 170 this year for the Pirates.

Polson’s Bridger Wenzel, who was a divisional runner-up in 2017 at 126, has moved up one weight class to 132. Kedrick Baker, second last year at divisionals at 103, is at 120 pounds this season.

The Western Division will be loaded as Corvallis, Frenchtown and Ronan are also ranked.

Libby was in the poll earlier this season.

Top-ranked Frenchtown has two individuals at No. 1 in Eli Warner at 103 and Jake Bibler at 120.

“This is the most deep Class A has ever been in my experience competing and coaching,” Polson coach Kevin Owen said.

“There are six teams from the west that could potentially bring home hardware at state, and that makes for an extremely exciting divisional tournament. The divisional tournament will determine bracket seeding at state, so the higher these kids place will make for an easier road next weekend. The goal for everyone will be to score the next point and wrestle through every whistle. If we do that, it will be an exciting weekend of wrestling.”

Columbia Falls

Balance and depth carried the MatCats to the divisional title a year ago.

That seems to be the team’s MO (modus operandi) every year for the postseason.

They had individuals place in 12 of the 13 weight classes last year. Nine of those wrestlers return — Garhet Salminen was eighth at 103, Austin Nelson third at 113, Ayden Role fourth at 126, Easton Sempf seventh at 132, Nathan Hader fifth at 138, Braydon Stone sixth at 145, Colton McPhee third at 160, Jakob Freeman third at 182 and Kyler Koski third at 285.

Columbia Falls did not have a placer last year at 205.

MatCats Divisional Lineup

Not available

Libby

Libby is back in Class A after spending a couple of seasons at the Class B-C level.

Buddy Doolin, a junior at 113, is a returning divisional champ. He is currently 30-4 on the season.

Trey Thompson, a sophomore at 132, has the best record for the Loggers at 34-9.

Also with 30 or more wins are Dawson Young, a freshman at 152, who is 33-16, and Jeff Offenbecher, a sophomore at 138, who is 31-19.

Cyrus Sweedman, a sophomore at 285, will join that group this weekend as he is currently 29-15.

Tim Carvey, a senior at 160, is close with his 27-14 mark.

“We feel good about where we are going into the postseason,” veteran Libby coach Kelly Morford said.

“We have had some ups and downs with injuries and health throughout the season, but so has everyone else. We have been on a steady climb since Christmas break and I think we are ready to do some good things at the divisional tournament.

“We have some talented wrestlers, but beyond Buddy and Dillon (Yeadon), we don’t have a lot of experience of success in the postseason. As a team, we know that if we have consistency in our preparation and effort that we will be fine. Now is not the time to step on the mat without being totally prepared to perform at our best.”

Yeadon, a sophomore at 120, is currently 12-6. He finished fourth at the B-C divisional last year along with Carvey.

“This being our first year back in Class A, the super (Western) divisional (six teams from Northwest Conference, six from the Southwest) will be a new experience for us,” Morford said.

“I think it is a great concept and it will be a fun weekend. Some really good wrestlers are going to be scrapping just to get into the top eight and make it to state. That is the way it should be, though. With everyone in the west here this weekend, nobody is going to be sneaking into the state tournament.

“There are some really tough teams like Havre, Sidney and Lewistown in the east that I am glad we don’t have to deal with this weekend, but when you look at the list of teams in the west, we have some great depth over here. Teams like Frenchtown and Polson have some really top-end wrestlers that probably won’t be beat. Columbia Falls always has depth and I think Ronan is going to put up more points than people across the state may give them credit for. Throw in tough individuals, like (Brent) Tezak from Dillon, for instance, and all of the sudden there are some major dogfights in every weight class.”

Tezak is the top-ranked wrestler in Class A at 160 in the coaches’ poll.

Loggers Divisional Lineup

113 — Buddy Doolin, Junior, (30-4), 1st at divisional

120 — Dillon Yeadon, Sophomore, (12-6), 4th at divisional

120 — Zack Morrison, Freshmen, (22-11)

126 — Mason Sams, Senior, (13-13)

126 — Xander Spady, Freshmen, (17-8)

132 — Cody Crace, Freshmen, (25-18)

132 — Trey Thompson, Sophomore, (34-9)

138 — Jeff Offenbecher, Sophomore, (31-19)

145 — Tucker Masters, Freshmen, (8-4)

152 — Dawson Young, Freshmen, (33-16)

160 — Tim Carvey, Senior, {27-14) 4th at divisional

170 — Tanner Wood, Senior, (21-26)

182 — Ethan Borden, Junior, (12-22)

285 — Cyrus Sweedman, Sophomore, (29-15)

Polson

Adler holds the best record for the Pirates at 39-4.

Wenzel, 37-9 so far, should crack the 40-win mark at divisionals.

Brown is the other member of the 30-win club with his 34-7 mark.

Eight of Polson’s 13 wrestlers placed at divisionals a year ago. Nine have winning records.

Brown, Adler and Noah Humphrey at 182 are the three seniors competing.

Pirates Divisional Lineup

113 — RJ Pierre, Junior, (27-9)

120 — Kedrick Baker, Sophomore, (20-15), 2nd at divisional

132 — Bridger Wenzel, Junior, (37-9), 2nd at divisional

138 — Jarod Farrier, Junior, (14-15)

138 — Cailin Burke, Freshman, (7-6)

145 — Cameron Brown, Senior, (34-7), 3rd at divisional

145 — Kaleb Unger, Sophomore, (11-7), 8th at divisional

152 — Parker Adler, Senior, (39-4), 1st at divisional

152 — Caleb Pierre, Freshman, (11-22)

160 — Abel Kimmel, Freshman, (5-7)

170 — Hunter Fritsch, Junior, (23-9), 1st at divisional

182 — Noah Humphrey, Senior, (19-17), 4th at divisional

205 — Jasper Drake, Junior, (5-11), 6th at divisional

Whitefish

Seven of the Bulldogs’ 13 divisional entrants are underclassmen, which will make for a learning environment this weekend.

Toss in a talent-rich field, Whitefish will be in for a battle as it looks to build its program.

“With 12 teams in the division it will be the most competitive divisional tournament that I have seen since coaching here in Whitefish,” Whitefish coach Ryan Boyle said.

“A lot of great teams are here on the western side of the state. If we wrestle at our best, we’ll have a chance to advance one wrestler for every weight class we enter.”

The Bulldogs have four individuals back from last year’s divisional who placed. Robert Bertelsen, a junior at 152, was seventh. Nathan Buckley, a sophomore at 120, Sidney Cooke, a junior at 132, and Jack Eisenbarth, a junior at 145, were all eighth.

Bulldogs Divisional Lineup

(Records not available for wrestlers)

103 — Jackson Carson, Sophomore

103 — Nathan Sproul, Freshman

113 — Dean Kellogg, Junior

120 — Nathan Buckley, Sophomore, 8th at divisional

120 — Leroy Orel, Sophomore

132 — Sidney Cooke, Junior, 8th at divisional

138 — Dakota Flannery, Sophomore

138 — Max Grimes, Sophomore

145 — Jack Eisenbarth, Junior, 8th at divisional

152 — Robert Bertelsen, Junior, 7th at divisional

160 — Camren Ross, Freshman

160 — Aalec Pace, Senior

285 — Keegan Wold, Junior

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