Taking care of business
Warrior 140-pounder Cole Rice systematically took care of his opponents in a precise march to his first state championship
When Cole Rice sunk in the cross-body scissor hold on Townsend’s Shay Christiansen, he knew the 140-pound Class B-C Montana Championship was his long before the referee slammed his hand on the mat.
The state championship was something the Arlee junior had been working toward for 10 years and something that had consumed him the past year after losing in last year’s finals to someone he had beaten earlier in the year. A small smile spread across his face once he was declared Montana’s first champion of 2010 and the only champion from the Western B-C Division this year. But that was about the only emotion Rice showed after his 128th career victory. His reaction was very business-like, much like his march to the championship, where he wasn’t scored upon once in his two tech-fall victories and two first-period pins at the Rimrock Auto Arena in the Billings MetraPark.
“That’s something he’s been working on for a long time, It’s something he’s wanted for 10 years, and he went out and did exactly what he needed to do,” Arlee coach Ken Hill said. “He was on a roll, that’s for sure. He was on cruise control. He knew what he wanted and he went out there and got it.”
“I was pretty relieved. It felt good. I don’t know, it was probably the best feeling I’ve had in wrestling,” said Rice, who also wasn’t scored on at the divisional tournament.
Using a dumbed down attack, so he can have some secrets next year as he defends his championship, Rice wasted no time getting Christiansen to the mat and in the scissor hold, knowing the match was over before the referee called it at 1:21. That put an exclamation mark on a dominant season for Rice, where he went 45-3, with only one loss. That loss came against a Class A opponent in the 140-pound weight class – to Ryan Martin, a three-time state champion from Lewistown.
“I was going for the pin. It felt like it was there. I was pretty happy. It felt like it was tight,” Rice said. “I wanted to get it over with,” he added.
Rice wanted to get all his matches over with in a hurry. He pinned Harlem’s Sheldon Hofer in 51 seconds and followed that up with two 17-0 technical falls before making the championship. Rice was one of three Western B-C wrestlers in the final round, but the only one to walk away with gold – Noxon’s Adam Moore and Eureka’s Taylor Vaughn were both pinned in the third period of their championship match.
After losing 6-2 to Conrad’s Jared Giard in the championship last year, Rice’s reaction was much like his after winning this year, but underneath the calmness a fire was burning.
“That was my main drive this year. It was pretty depressing to go to the finals and lose, especially to someone I had beat,” Rice said, adding that whenever he didn’t want to workout or go to an offseason tournament, he would just think of the loss. “I just thought about that and it would give me the drive to keep working.”
Logan Lefler, the Warriors’ 125-pound sophomore, continued his late-season surge by capturing third place at the tournament. Lefler, who came into the two-day tournament with the goal of reaching the podium, after falling one match short of it last year, pinned his way into the semifinals. He pinned Shepard’s Ty Seader at 3:08 and Cascade’s Drake Lorrance in the first period.
In the semifinals, Lefler ran into Garrett Rath, a tall and lanky wrestler from Forsyth. Lefler challenged Rath, but lost an exhausting 20-10 major decision.
“We knew he (Rath) was going to be tough, but the kid moved better than we thought he would,” Hill said. “Logan wrestled a great match, he left it all out on the mat, that’s for sure.”
Lefler rebounded from the loss, by pinning divisional rival Mason Chatterley from Superior in the second round. Chatterley had beaten Lefler at the Mission Mountain Classic in January, but Lefler had beaten Chatterley the last two times they faced each other, most recently in the divisional championship match.
Lefler met up with another divisional rival in the third/fourth-place consolation match, defeating Mission-Charlo’s Scotty Gilleard 11-4 to take bronze.
Lefler started the season with a pinched nerve sustained during the football season and then had to take some time off in December because of a virus. Lefler came back in January and just got stronger and stronger, winning the Ted Kato Tournament in Thompson Falls and the Western B-C Divisional Tournament in Deer Lodge.
“He really gained confidence the last part of the season. A lot of that was mental,” Hill said, adding that Lefler was a quiet kid, but led by example. “You would never know he was there, but he was always up there with Cole (Rice) and Damon (Cordier) working hard.”
Lefler finished the season with a 27-5 record.
The Warriors brought six wrestlers to the tournament, all underclassmen. Cameron Dominick, a 119-pound freshman, was the only one besides Rice and Lefler to pick up a win – pinning Wolf Point’s Mark Stark at 5:19 in the first wrestleback. Austin Rubel (105), Bryce Norling (215) and Cody North (285) lost both their matches.
The Warriors only had one senior on the team – Shane Gillete. Hill said that this season was something to build on for his very young team.
“We just need to get everybody up to speed,” Hill said.
In a time when champions from the Western B-C our rare, the Warriors continue to leave the tournament with at least one champion.
“It takes a lot of hard work and really good kids,” Hill said, explaining it takes to make a champion. “We couldn’t do it without the community support and parents.”