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Four Chiefs crowned divisional wrestling champions

POLSON — The Ronan Chiefs tuned up for the Montana State Wrestling Championships with a strong showing at divisionals. The Chiefs placed second as a team with 180 points, behind first-place Polson at 232 and edging third-place Libby at 176.5.

The Chiefs crowned four divisional champions and placed 13 wrestlers out of 15 weight classes.

Toby Cheff earned the 189-pound championship by pinning Libby's Kody Berget in 3 minutes, 3 seconds. He heads to state this weekend with the number one ranking in Class A at that weight.

"Toby has been very consistent. We need him to carry that over this weekend," Ronan head coach Dustyn Azure said. "He has a chance to pin his way through his weight class at state. That will help the team out a lot, going for a team trophy."

His brother, Micky Cheff, won the 152-pound divisional title with a 13-4 decision in the finals over Polson's Ty Fouty. Micky is ranked third in the state at 152.

"Micky had a great tournament, going out on attack for six minutes," Azure noted. "He went out there to dominate, whether it was building up points or going for the pin."

Cole McArthur, who is ranked first in Class A, also won a divisional championship at 160 pounds, earning a 5-1 decision in the finals over Whitefish's Tanner Benedict. 

"Cole had a good weekend, also. His finals match was a little bit of a letdown and he didn't work on his angles. But going over to state he and we have high expectations for him to make the 160 championship finals," coach Azure emphasized.

Also earning another divisional title was Cameron Neiss, who stuck Libby's Mitch Haugen in 1:48 in the 130-pound finals. He also won the tournament's Jug Beck Quick Pin award, earning three matches by pin in a cumulative time of 4 minutes, 38 seconds.

Neiss is heading to state on a mission to repeat as a state champion.

"Cameron did another great job. He's on the right track and on his way to another state title. We need him to keep pinning his way to the finals," Azure said.

Finishing second for Ronan were Lukas Conklin at 98 pounds and Andrew Teigen at 112. 

"Lukas wrestled well this weekend. That was his best tournament this year," Azure said. "He'd lost to that Polson kid (Pat Sumner) three times but beat him in the semifinals. His goal coming into (the tournament) was to make the finals and he did that. If he can carry that over at state, he has a good chance of placing."

Teigen didn't have to wrestle anyone before the finals because there were only three wrestlers in the 112-pound bracket. Unfortunately, he ran up against the second-ranked wrestler in the state, Sal Baccaro, and fell by pin.

"He didn't have his best match against Baccaro. He's been making progress on him ... but he didn't have a good match in the finals," coach Azure said. "But it's easy stuff to fix and I think he'll come around."

Ronan had four wrestlers place third, winning their consolation championship matches.

Shelby Grant took third at 130. 

"Shelby started off slow. He kind of had weight issues Saturday morning. He had to run and kinda tired himself out," Azure explained. "He knows he made a mistake (not watching his weight) and I'm hoping he'll have that corrected for state."

Tyler Wheeler also took third at 171.
"Tyler wrestled well but he's got a tough weight class with the top two kids in the class in our conference. But it's his senior year and I know he wants to come back from state with some hardware," his coach said.
Colby Roberts lost to the top-ranked 215-pounder in the state, Kelly Houle of Columbia Falls, in the first round but bounced back with two pins to earn third place.
"Those pin points are important to the team. He's looking forward to a good weekend at state," Azure said.
Heavyweight Aaron Yazzie-Whitworth also finished strong with a pin over Whitefish's Wolf Zinke for third place in the consolation finals. 
"Aaron did good. He's been off the mat with some skin infections, so it was good to get him back and see him compete the way he did," coach Azure explained. "It was good revenge for him to pin the Zinke kid, who pinned him the last time they met up."
Finishing fourth were Kyle Lawson (125), Dustin Goldsby (145) and Quenton Denton (152). 
"Kyle went out and was scrapping this weekend. That's what we'll need him to do at state.
We need him to go out and attack ... if he does, he'll be fine. We're hoping to get some wins out of him at state," Azure said.
Azure explained that Goldsby had an off week, but he's got high hopes to contribute to the team effort at state. 
Denton earned his first trip to state without a lot of wrestling experience.
"Quenton started (wrestling) about Christmas time and he's come a long way. For not knowing much, he makes up for it in try. He drives all the time, always driving forward. So, we're glad to see him make it to state," coach Azure said. "And Alex Greenfield didn't make state, but he did a good job of fighting all year and scrapping. He had a bad tournament, but hopefully we'll light a fire under him and get him ready for next year. We're proud of him ... he's come a long way in his second year."
Belgrade and Havre are the teams to beat at state, but Azure believes the gap isn't so wide between the better Class A teams.
"I don't think there are any clear winners in Class A. I think it's pretty wide open. Our kids have high goals to win state championships and that is still our focus," the coach said. "This week we're going to work on fine-tuning some things and make sure we're well-rested and healthy going in."
The Montana State All Class Wrestling Championships will once again be held at the Billings MetraPark Arena Feb. 12-13. Fans can order tickets by calling 1-800-366-8538.
Ronan's team bus takes off from the school at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday morning for the six-hour trip to Billings.

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