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Mission-Charlo wrestler — all heart, brains, brawn

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Most kids would revel at the chance to talk about being a State champ two years in a row, boasting two consecutive undefeated seasons on the wrestling mats — but not this guy. Jacen Petersen is all about his team. 

“It was great watching the team do well,” he said. “It made me the most excited.”

Petersen, who wrestles at 170 pounds, grabbed first place at the State Tournament in Billings this last weekend with a challenging pin against Belt’s Hunter Croff in 5:04 minutes, one of the longer pin times for Petersen. 

“Yeah, it was definitely tough,” he said. “I’ve had some decisions, but this was one of my longest pin matches.”

To get to the top at State, Petersen first pinned Glasgow’s Kevin Frigon in 1.04, then earned a 10-0 decision against Choteau’s Steeler French and finally pinned Evander Wilbur of Townsend in just 1.12 minutes.

Petersen picked up wrestling at the tender age of four after watching older brother Jamie compete. 

“I really didn’t have much to do at home without my brother, so I started wrestling,” he said.

Not only does Petersen credit his brother to his success but says he couldn’t have done it without the help of his coaches. Coach Lyle Cronk has been Petersen’s wrestling coach for the four years of his high school career and Petersen is thankful for all that he has learned. 

“He has helped me out with the small things, always keeping me where I need to be,” Petersen said. “I remember sometimes I would get frustrated when Coach Cronk would pick out small things, even when I did well. I really appreciate that, he helped make me who I am.” 

Other influences include assistant coaches Jake Bosley and Mark Johnston. “Those guys helped me a lot,” Petersen said. “They put in so much time with me. They’re experienced coaches.”

Not only has Petersen ranked on the mats but he’s also been a force on the football field, grabbing a State MVP award. Petersen also excels as an honor student when it comes his studies. He wants to put that hard work to use as he is aspires to study secondary education with dreams of teaching math or history, and maybe even becoming a coach himself. Although approached by colleges from Montana as well as Oregon, North Dakota, and Arizona, Petersen has not yet made a decision where he will sign. One thing’s for sure, he will be competing at college level on the mats and will take with him the experience he has gained through high school. Though Petersen says he has grappled with a few college kids and knows it will be different, high school coaching has prepared him for the future. “High school has given me work ethic and competiveness,” he said. “I’ve had experience being pushed by good coaching.”

Petersen will take the experience with him, but he’s humble when it comes to accomplishments with his most cherished memories – his team. 

“It was pretty cool to be able to share this with my team,” he said. “I’m proud of them.”

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