Chiefs stomp competition at home-hosted wrestling Invite
RONAN – With 24 teams and approximately 1,041 matches, Ronan’s Event Center was abuzz with eager Western Montana grapplers rumbling the house with excitement in the two-day event on Friday and Saturday.
With both duals and mixer events, wrestlers from around the west side took to the mats to prove strength, endurance and mental prowess is the rightstuff. Even the ancient cultures of the world strived to accomplish athletic domination with “number one” thoughts filling their brains.
Taking it all in stride, as humble hosts will do, were the Chiefs, bringing down their own roof by taking a second-place finish with a big slap of high fives and a thundering sound of cheering fans. For the Chiefs, second place is a big move up from last year’s tournament, where the Chiefs failed to make it into the championship rounds.
Ronan Head Coach Corey Johnston is nothing but proud of his Chiefs in their accomplishments on the mats.
“It was a huge step forward,” he said. “It was pretty exciting and it worked out well. We got to wrestle some pretty good schools and we ended up wrestling pretty well overall.”
Day one in the duals event, the Chiefs swept the board taking down Glacier JV 58-9, Whitefish 55-24 and Townsend 50-21.
Day two was a gamble as all eight teams that qualified for the championship rounds posted good numbers, posing a threat to the Chiefs. But the grappling team pushed all that aside to go full speed ahead and win their first two duals; first, against Hamilton-Victor 48-24 and then they toppled an old foe, Polson, 37-27.
Crushing the Pirates was a bright spot for the Chiefs’ club.
“Whenever you get a chance to wrestle Polson and pull out a win, it’s nice,” Johnston said.
Polson ended up taking third in the event.
In the championship bout the Chiefs unfortunately fell to Columbia Falls 48-14, but not without logging bright spots in the tournament, including Jared Neiss (145) who won six dual matches; Cole Snyder (126) who won five matches, including a 0:32 pin; and Hunter Peterson (113) with a 0:20 pin and four match wins.
Making an impression on Coach Johnston was sophomore Tyler Houle, wrestling at 138 and who previously wrestled JV, but due to injury was pulled up to wrestle in the varsity lineup. Houle won four matches for the Chiefs.
“That was huge for him,” Johnston said. “It gives him confidence and it gives us confidence moving forward that he will be able to fill in with no problem. It was kind of a total team effort. When one person didn’t perform well, somebody unexpected did something good and that’s how it went all weekend. But Tyler’s kind of the main one that stuck out and did that for us.”
Other dual match winners include Spencer Stagg (103), D’Andre Moses (120), Trevar McAllister (132), Steven Michal (152), Graydon Irish (170), Kail Cheff (182), Michael Irvine (HWT), Seth Cheff (113), Jesse Herrera (160) and Malik Strange Owl (160).
All in all Johnston said the tournament went well and he is looking forward to the future of Chief wrestling this season.
“It’s going to be a battle,” he said. “It’s kind of a grind until the finish line. We still have our sights set on the divisional title and then from there we’ll see how we’ll set up for State. I don’t know where we’ll fit in with the mix, it all just kind of depends on where we’ll shake out in the mix after divisionals.”
Johnston would also like to thank the fans and the volunteers that turned out for the tournament, with specials thanks to Mark Johnston, Jamie Buhr and Rocky Cote.
The Chiefs are gearing up to host Florence, Noxon and Deer Lodge Jan. 8 and then will head to Cut Bank Jan. 9-10 for the Cut Bank Invite. Johnston said Cut Bank will give them a good look at other Class B teams for a postseason run.
Ronan 58, Glacier JV 9
Ronan 55, Whitefish 24
Ronan 50, Townsend 21
Ronan 48, Hamilton-Victor 24
Ronan 37, Polson 27
Ronan 14, Columbia Falls 48