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Picard leads Polson to fifth at state

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Brock Picard finished up his senior wrestling season exactly the way he wanted to, earning his third state championship and leading the Polson Pirates to a fifth-place finish at last weekend's Montana State Wrestling Championships in Billings.

Picard won the state title with a 9-4 decision over Libby's Kyle Sweedman that was the anticipated culmination of both the season and Picard's high school career. The two had been ranked one (Picard) and three (Sweedman) in the state most of the season and battled each other three times during the regular wrestling season. Picard had won all three, including the 171-pound championship at the Rocky Mountain Classic.

Saturday night's finale was tied at 2-2 heading into the third and final period, which is where Picard has always had the edge. His conditioning came through as a clear advantage as he turned on the after-burners and got three takedowns to pull away for the victory.

"That's a hard thing to do, to beat a guy that's that tough four times," Polson head coach Bob Owen emphasized. "I thought Brock really dominated his weight class. He didn't leave any questions in that final match."

Picard set up the final match with a dominating 11-3 semifinal win over the number two ranked wrestler in Class A, Levi Cade of Belgrade.

The third state championship is only the second such feat achieved by a Polson Pirate, matching the three-peat of Pat Owen notched in 1999.

After the championship, Picard spent a lot of time shaking hands and hugging coaches and wrestlers along the rail. 

"He is really well-respected by the other coaches. I think coaches recognize when a kid puts in the work he does ... and carries himself the way he does. He's really a humble kid and doesn't try to show up other kids. I think coaches really appreciate that," Owen said. 

Freshman Craig Feistner capped off his first year of high school wrestling with a 4-1 record at state and third-place finish at 98 pounds. 

Feistner pinned Corvallis' Chace Malone in the consolation championship to claim third place. All four of his victories were by pin, losing just once to Laurel's Karson Kukes in a 4-0 decision in the semifinals.

"Craig had just a fantastic year for a freshman. I think he got a little nervous in that semifinal match, where he got reversed twice," coach Owen said. "Other than that, he'd won all his matches by pin. I think it would have been a real donnybrook if we'd have gotten him into the finals." 

Feistner has a bright future ahead of him, Owen noted.

"He's got a few little things he's got to clean up, but his calling card is how much stronger he is than the other kids he wrestles. He's gonna move up in weight and it's going to get way more difficult and you have to improve your technique, but I know he's going to do that," his coach said.

Senior heavyweight Kaden Thomas finished off his high school wrestling career with a third-place finish, also going 4-1 at state with all four victories by fall.

Thomas pinned Custer County's Chris Kurkowski in 2:17 to earn the consolation championship. He'd previously lost by the thinnest of margins in a 1-0 decision to eventual state champion Mitch Schnittgen of Havre in the semifinals.

"He really did have a good tournament, his best of the year," Owen stressed. "Going 1-0 with Schnittgen, who had manhandled everybody all year long, is pretty impressive. I was real pleased with how Kaden went at it."

Thomas placed fourth at state last year and was a third-place finisher in Alaska as a sophomore.

Jacob Young, a junior, finished in fifth place at 135 pounds, going 3-2 in a tough weight class at state. Young pinned Bryce Akers of Belgrade to close out state.

In the semifinals, Young lost a tough battle to eventual state champ Garrett Tennant of Belgrade in a 9-0 major decision. In the wrestle-backs, he was winning 2-1 against Corvallis' Steven Jessop when Jessop got a takedown with two seconds remaining in the match to pull out a 3-2 win.

"That could have put him in the third/fourth match (if he'd held on). It was just a mistake," coach Owen explained. Young had a tough bracket draw even though he'd won the weight at divisionals. "Actually he would have been better off if he'd been second at divisionals," Owen explained. "That (win) put him in the half of the bracket with the defending state champ from Glendive. But, he still had a really good tournament. I think he'll be a contender at his weight next year."

Josiah Clairmont also finished in fifth place with an 8-1 decision over Havre's Jared Ruttkofsky. Clairmont, a sophomore, finished 4-2 at state.

"Josiah was another one that had a very close match against the Hamilton kid in the consolation semifinals. He was right in that match and I was pretty happy with how he competed," Owen noted. "For a sophomore to finish so high in those heavier weights is pretty good." 

Ty Fouty finished in sixth place at 152 pounds to close out his wrestling career.

"That was the toughest weight class in the tournament. We knew that he would have tough sleddin' after the quarterfinal," Owen said. "He competed well, but unfortunately he had really, really tough opponents."

Mike Devlin was one match away from placing as a freshman at 140 pounds and Jesse Alfiero, a junior, was one match away from placing at 119. 

"Mike had a very good showing and Jesse had a pretty decent tournament, too," Owen said. "We had five freshmen and six sophomores. Absolutely, yes, it was a great learning experience. I think they really progressed well this year ... I'm real encouraged about our future."


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