Valley grapplers open season with optimism
POLSON — Class AA-B/C wrestlers from all over western Montana met in a battle on the mats, opening the season with a bang as Polson hosted its annual invite Saturday, bringing wrestlers and fans to Polson Middle School in droves with an agenda of picking up wins. Along with the Pirates, valley teams Mission-Charlo and Ronan also competed.
Event excitement included a new online system introduced that has brought the high school world of wrestling digital. “Track Wrestling” allows volunteers to input match information digitally and keeps track of each athlete’s stats. Information was available for viewing at the tournament, and each mat’s table had a monitor for fans to view wrestlers’ names and match points.
Fairing the best out of the valley teams at the tourney was Mission-Charlo’s Bulldogs, placing fourth overall as a team with a score of 85.
After graduating big shots like two-time State champ Jacen Peterson and Morgan Shultz, also a dual State finalist, Bulldogs Coach Lyle Cronk is optimistic and said this year’s team is still “pretty well seasoned” with five seniors looking to make their mark with titles of their own.
“We lost some pretty big shoes,” Cronk said. “But we have some good wrestlers that bring some experience to the team. We have a pretty good team all the way through.”
Bulldog placers at the Polson Invite include Jamie Mullins, who took second in the 132-pound weight class; Gregory Weatherwax and Trent Dennison placed third while Ethan Goss-Dickie took home fourth in the 285 class.
“All those guys have been working really hard and doing a great job,” Cronk said. “I think it was important that a couple of our seniors and a couple of our underclassman came through there for us. It was nice to see Mullins leading the team out there and getting the job done.”
The Bulldogs are looking to secure another divisional championship title this season and hope for state hardware following last season’s seventh place finish at the big show.
“We look to keep improving and I’m looking forward to a good season,” Cronk said. “We’ve got a great group of kids this year.”
Ronan’s Chiefs made a splash at the tourney, placing fifth with an overall score of 78.5.
With 15 freshmen making their high school debuts out of the 33 grapplers filling the Chiefs roster, Ronan is “young” — but the Chiefs aren’t suffering from the baby blues as the frosh-faced wrestlers picked up first place victories opening weekend.
“In wrestling I don’t know if you would call them new by wrestling standards, these kids have been around the block,” head coach Cory Johnston said about his young team. “We have four seniors and 15 freshmen so we’re trending young.”
At the Polson Invite freshman Hunter Peterson grabbed a first place title in the 113lb-pound division and Jared Neiss placed third.
The Chiefs split their crew and sent wrestlers to the Glacier meet Saturday where freshman Happy Cheff took first and Norwegian foreign exchange student Sindere Maraak placed second.
After a third place finish at Divisionals last season, the Chiefs are preparing to up the ante with a goal to place at State.
“I think that we’re definitely on the hunt for any trophy we want,” Johnston said. “Divisionals is obviously our first goal. Since we came away third last year we would like to come away first this year. Our second goal is to get a state trophy and I guess what we do throughout the year will determine the color on that one.”
Polson placed ninth overall with a team score of 61 but that won’t deter Coach Bob Owen with optimism about the progressing season on the horizon. Also rostering a young team, Owen believes the Pirates have a shot at picking up titles.
“We have six freshmen in the lineup and I knew that it was going to take us a little while to get going,” Owen said. “We had a fairly rough day but we have plenty of time to fix things. I think we are going to progress when we get into the season, but it’s going to take a little while.”
Despite the newness to the Pirate roster, Polson found more than one grappler with a top four finish.
Pirates Cameron Brown, Tele Seemann and Mike Corrigan all came away with a third place finish. Parker Adler topped out the Pirate placers in fourth.
Pirate Coach Owen is making plans to see some positive action on the mats and though the Pirates are slim on the pickings as far as team experience goes, Owen believes hard work will pay off in the end.
“We’re excited you know, especially about the freshmen crew that we got in this year,” Owen said. “We’ve got some really promising kids. Our numbers aren’t great, we don’t have a very big turnout, but we certainly have some good quality kids and newcomers.”
Up next for the valley wrestlers will be a home meet for the Bulldogs Dec. 11 and then on to Superior Dec. 13. Ronan and Polson will head to Butte for the Mining City Duals Dec. 12-13.
Team scores – Missoula Sentinel 238; Columbia Falls 162; Kalispell Glacier 111; Mission-Charlo 85; Ronan 78.5; Thompson Falls 74; Corvallis 71; Hamilton 65; Polson 61; Florence 50; Eureka 45; Whitefish 36; Frenchtown 35; Bigfork 15; Superior 3.5