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Rice, Lefler leave Thompson Falls with championships

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THOMPSON FALLS — Two Warrior grapplers captured gold at the Ted Kato Memorial Tournament to help Arlee place fourth in the 13-team field.

Warrior 140-pounder Cole Rice won his fifth championship in six tries this season in dominant fashion, pinning all his opponents, and Logan Lefler made his presence known in the 125-pound class by defeating the number one and two seeds at the tournament to capture his first championship this season at Thompson Falls Saturday.

After making it to the final day at the state tournament last year as a freshman, Lefler has been battling nagging injuries this season and hasn’t been able to reach his full potential. But on Saturday, he showed that he will be a force at the upcoming Western B-C Divisional Tournament in Deer Lodge Feb. 5, by pinning divisional opponents Mason Chatterley and Scotty Gilleard.

After starting the tournament with a 35-second pin of Hellgate’s Nick Holzworth, Lefler pinned Superior’s Chatterley, the tournament’s number two seed, in the third period to avenge a narrow loss at the Mission Mountain Classic at the start of the month. Lefler won the tournament with a third-period pin of Mission-Charlo’s Gilleard, the tournament’s number one seed.

Arlee coach Ken Hill said  after Lefler’s performance Saturday, he will fight for him to be the number one seed at the divisional tournament. Lefler should face either Gilleard or Chatterley at the Darby tournament this weekend, and a victory should help shore up Hill’s case.

With his three pins at the tournament, Rice has now pinned the last seven opponents he has faced at a tournament. Rice only had to wrestle into the second period once Saturday – pinning Bulldog Dakota Matt at 3:15 in the championship match. Rice started the tournament with a 1:12-pin of Bluehawk Cody White and then pinned Drummond-Philipsburg’s Barrett Stanghill at 1:41.

Hill credits Rice’s domination this year to his work ethic and his 160-pound wrestling partner Damon Cordier, who placed third at the tournament.

“Cole will do what it takes to be a champion. In my mind, he is already a champion for his attitude, work ethic and great personable behavior,” Hill said.

Cordier was one of three Warriors to finish in third at the tournament. After losing a 13-12 decision to Bluehawk Shawn Sacchi, Cordier recovered by defeating Big Sky’s Tanner Orr in the consolation match.

Hill said that Cordier will probably be the number three seed at the divisional tournament, but he requires his opponents to go full blast every match and has the potential of beating the number one and two seeds.

“If he can prevent having to catch up in a match he can beat almost everyone on his feet. Takedowns and escapes are where it counts at state,” Hill said.

Wrestling in his first tournament of the year, Zach Tameler (145) finished in third with a 6-4 decision over Eureka’s Curtis McDuffie in the consolation match. Tameler made it to state last year as a freshman, but after joining the team late in the season will have to play catch-up to make it back to Billings.

“He is a little out of shape both physically and in wrestling spirit. He made some mistakes this past weekend, but we still have a little time to fix things,” Hill said.

Following a fifth-place finish in Choteau, Warrior 105-pounder Austin Rubel defeated Flathead’s Kaileb Liehr to finish in third. Cameron Dominick (119), Carter Clinkenbeard (130) and Bryce Norling (215) finished in fourth for the Warriors.

The Warriors will travel to Thompson Falls Thursday for a dual and then wrap up the regular season at the Darby Darbarian Tournament Saturday.

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