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Warrior’s Rice reigns in Choteau, Rubel takes 5th

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CHOTEAU — With most the Class B-C teams competing at the Choteau Classic, the two-day tournament is a preview of what’s to come at the state tournament – if that’s the case, expect big things from Warrior 140-pounder Cole Rice in Billings this year.

The Arlee junior cruised through his opponents of the 32-team field at the 31st annual Choteau Classic Friday and Saturday, pinning all of his opponents to capture the crown in Choteau for the second year in a row.

Rice started the tournament with a second-period pin of Leonard Pugsley of Joplin and followed it by pinning Warden Dan Krautter in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, Rice faced another opponent from the Western B-C and pinned Darby’s Christian Hammersmith in the third period. Under the lights in the championship match, Rice dominated Huntley Project’s Loren Walker, pinning him at 1:15. 

“Cole dominated the weight class. He is the top 140 pound wrestler in the B-C rankings in the state,” Arlee coach Ken Hill said, adding that Walker is a solid wrestler, “it’s just that Cole is really wrestling tough.”

The tournament is a good gauge of what to expect at state, Hill said, but added that is was missing some tough teams like Glasgow, Forsyth, Colstrip and Poplar.

Freshman Austin Rubel made a statement at the tournament, winning four matches in the 105-pound class to place fifth.

Rubel finished the two-day tournament by defeating Fort Benton’s Molly Trindle, who was one match away from placing at last year’s state tournament. 

Rubel started the tournament by defeating Darby’s J.T. Hamblen 8-5. In the quarterfinals, Rubel was pinned by Cascade’s Kris Whitish, who finished second at the tournament. He recovered by pinning Plains-Hot Springs’ Rio Crismore and then took care of Townsend’s Tanner Johnson in the consolation semifinals.

“Austin’s performance at Choteau was outstanding. He now knows how and what he has to do to place in the state tournament,” Hill said. “Austin should be the number seed at 105 pounds in the division, and if he wrestles well should do well at the state tournament.”

Most brackets at the tournament were 32-man with pigtails the first round to get the bracket down to 16. The wrestlers that lost the opening round were placed in the junior varsity tournament. The Warriors won three of four pigtails at the tournament. Warrior 135-pounder Shane Gillette lost an 8-2 decision in the pigtail, but went on to place fourth at the junior varsity tournament.

Al Plant defeated Bulldog Dakota Matt 4-2 in the 140-pound pigtail match. It was the first time this season that Plant had beat the division rival. 

In the 145-pound pigtail match, Leif Rova pinned Noxon’s Isaiah Spray in the first period. Rova went 2-2 over the weekend. Warrior 189-pounder Curt Seidel earned his berth in the tournament by defeating Whitehall’s Cullen Fitzgerald.

The Warriors will dual Noxon at 6 p.m. Friday and wrestle at the Ted Kato Tournament in Thompson Falls Saturday.

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