Twenty-two state qualifiers gave Flathead enough firepower to bring home a state wrestling championship last season. This year, they’ll enter the season’s final tournament even more loaded.
Twenty-four Braves emerged from Saturday’s Western AA divisional seeding tournament action in front of the home crowd at Flathead High School to qualify for the state tournament.
“Overall, (the divisional performance) set us up really well for state, and that’s what this is,” Flathead head coach Jeff Thompson said.
“You’ve got to get all your guys in there. We really like where we’re at placement-wise. If you get a lot of seven and eight (seeds), that’s kind of tough to get some wins out of. But we put
ourselves where we can compete with Bozeman.”
The Hawks figure to be the biggest obstacle on Flathead’s road to a second straight championship.
The Braves will have a numbers advantage, though, as they qualified 24 wrestlers to Bozeman’s 16 at the Eastern AA divisional. At least one Flathead wrestler qualified in each of the 13 weight classes.
“Putting in eight more guys that are scoring points, that’s going to really help us,” Thompson said.
Six divisional champions anchored Flathead’s effort.
TiLynne Vasquez (103 pounds), Jaden MacNeil (132), Garrett Rieke (160), Payton Hume (170), Tucker Nadeau (182) and Michael Lee (285) all topped their respective weight classes.
In four of those six classes (103, 132, 170 and 285), both finalists represented the Braves.
“When you put four guys against their teammate in the finals, that’s exciting,” Thompson said. “It’s tough to coach, but it’s exciting to see that. It’s kind of that Flathead tradition. We have a lot of depth on this team. That’s what’s going to win us a state title. If we happen to do that, it’s going to be because of our depth.”
Twelve Glacier grapplers qualified for the state tournament, down from 14 a year ago.
Despite the slightly lower number, however, Glacier head coach Ross Dankers said he thought better of his team’s performance than a year ago because of higher inidividual finishes, which will lead to better seeds at state.
Tristan Little (120) and Tre Krause (285) led the Wolfpack with third-place finishes, while Cody Frost (103) and Kael Willis (113) finsihed fourth.
Krause won his third-place match by pin in just 45 seconds.
“Last year, we only had two guys that didn’t get seventh and eighth (place at divisionals),” Dankers said.
“(The performance at divisionals) gives some of our kids confidence that they can compete with some of the best guys and that we can go with whoever steps on the mat.”
Both teams now prepare for the state tournament this weekend in Billings.
For Flathead, which has its eyes set on a repeat, it will be an opportunity to check the final goal off its list.
“For some of them, that’s a dream come true to be able to make it to state,” Thompson said.
“But we’ve got one more dream, and that’s to bring home a state championship.”
Western AA Divisional Seeding
Flathead High School
Top eight finishers qualify for the state tournament
Championship — TiLynne Vasquez, FLKA, dec. Brendan Barnes, FLKA, 4-1.
Third place — Bryson Danzinger, MISE, p. Cody Frost, GLKA, 2:23.
Fifth place — Dylan Miller, GLKA, p. Nathaniel Yargo, HELE, 0:24.
Seventh place — Jason Mandy, HELE, dec. Corbin Likeric, MISE, 8-3.
Championship — Isaac Romero, HELE, dec. Trevin Welzien, MBSL, 10-3.
Third place — Bryce Shaffer, FLKA, p. Kael Willis, GLKA, 2:32.
Fifth place — Damian Naldret, FLKA, p. Jackson Bakken, MISE, 2:21.
Seventh place — Traeton Duty, HECA, tech fall, Bridger Beach, GLKA, 18-3 (4;48).
Championship — Hayden Azure, HECA, wins by inj. forf. (Tyler Codington, HECA).
Third place — Tristan Little, GLKA, dec. Cody Moats, FLKA, 5-2.
Fifth place — Dominic Battello, FLKA, p. Kyle Krstulich, MISE, 4:14.
Seventh place — Dakota Thomas, MISE, dec. Lance Fretwell, GLKA, 6-1.
Championship — Austin Murphy, HELE, dec. Justin Kovalicky, MISE, 10-3.
Third place — Isaac Skillicorn, MBSL, p. Hunter Reichert, FLKA, 2:41.
Fifth place — Braden Comer, FLKA, dec. Brayden Terzo, MIHE, 6-2.
Seventh place — Wyatt Schneider, HECA, dec. Jerritt Messer, MISE, 7-2.
Championship — Jaden MacNeil, FLKA, tech fall AJ Ekanger, FLKA, 18-2 (5:13).
Third place — Reece Eckley, MISE, p. Tristan Traver, MISE, 0:25.
Fifth place — Dayton Evans, MBSL, p. Conner May, MIHE, 1:22.
Seventh place — Caden Willis, GLKA, p. Ching Man Chan, HELE, 2:39.
Championship — Devin Crawford, HELE, maj. dec. Cam Hegel, MISE, 8-0.
Third place — Dougie Swanson, MBSL, dec. Lee Lambrecht, HECA, 6-2.
Fifth place — Hunter Meinzen, MBSL, dec. Noah Kovick, HECA, 3-0.
Seventh place — Beau King, MISE, p. Bo Meyer, FLKA, 1:57.
Championship — Travis Schulte, HECA, dec. Kyle Gordon, MBSL, 5-2.
Third place — Tanner Russell, FLKA, p. Bridger Hall, MIHE, 3:19.
Fifth place — Cole Bradford, HECA, dec. Conall Powers, MISE, 2-1.
Seventh place — Tristan Haueswas, MBSL, dec. Blake Jolma, MISE, 1-0.
Championship — Stormee Kipp, MBSL, dec. Kyle May, MBSL, 5-4.
Third place — Kenyon Fretwell, FLKA, maj. dec. Dre Davis, MISE, 11-3.
Fifth place — Luke Joy, MISE, maj. dec. Joseph Battello, FLKA, 8-0.
Seventh place — Andrew Glynn, GLKA, p. Zachary LaPierre, HELE, 2:18.
Championship — Garrett Rieke, FLKA, dec. Mason Corcoran, MBSL, 8-5.
Third place — Paxton Boyce, FLKA, dec. Wyatt Shinn, MBSL, 4-3.
Fifth place — Jase Lewis, MIHE, wins by inj. forf. (Caden Gilmond, GLKA)
Seventh place — Ian Isaacson, HECA, p. Peter McIntosh, HELE, 0:33.
Championship — Payton Hume, FLKA, wins by forf. (Colby Martin, FLKA)
Third place — Chance Lee, HECA, p. Jacob Williams, MBSL, 2:34.
Fifth place — Mason Torrez, GLKA, wins by inj. forf. (Abraxas Brydon, MIHE)
Seventh place — Keaton Pouliot, HECA, p. Albin Haglund, MISE, 4:53.
Championship — Tucker Nadeau, FLKA, p. Dylan Goforth, MISE, 5:33.
Third place — Zane McCormick, HECA, maj. dec. Taylor Morton, FLKA, 13-5.
Fifth place — Camrin Doty, MISE, wins by forf. (Jacob Manibusan, MISE)
Seventh place — Josh Lee, HECA, dec. Luke Wilson, MIHE, 9-2.
Championship — Bryar Newbary, MISE, dec. Seth Jensen, HECA, 4-3.
Third place — Hunter Wellcome, FLKA, p. Tanner Stack, MISE, 4:26.
Fifth place — Ross Calhoon, FLKA, p. Alec McVay-Touchette, HECA, 1:18.
Seventh place — Connor DeReu, GLKA, p. Kendahl Odell, MBSL, 2:40.
Championship — Michael Lee, FLKA, dec. Alex Paul, FLKA, 6-5.
Third place — Tre Krause, GLKA, p. Justin Jenks, HECA, 0:45.
Fifth place — Dakota Friesen, MIHE, p. Larrison Stevens, 4:01.
Seventh place — Drekin Kelly, MIHE, p. Jake Slagel, 0:31.