By Bruce Sayler
The Maroon Activities Center will be a neutral site in the truest sense on Saturday when the facility plays host to the Western A Divisional high school wrestling tournament.
Butte Central, though playing the role of host school, will not have any entries in the tournament. All members of the five-man Maroon roster that started the season suffered injuries that kept them from finishing.
“It was a bad year,” head coach Robin Moodry lamented last week. “And, it wasn’t any one thing, nothing we were doing differently that was a cause.”
Chest, leg and shoulder injuries seemed to be what mostly took their toll. Senior Clay Fisher began the season injured from football, recovered enough to wrestle one tournament in December, but has been unable to compete since.
The two-time place-winner saw his final season end abruptly. However, he should be healed in time to join the Montana Tech football team in the fall. He signed with the Orediggers several weeks ago.
“So, we’ll come to the gym and put on a good tournament,” Moodry consoled.
Chad Petersen, Butte Central activities director, will direct the tourney, which will begin on Saturday at 9 a.m. — after weigh-ins at 7 and opening ceremonies at 8:55. Four mats will be used in the early rounds.
Petersen said “there will be short breaks between rounds,” which will culminate in the championship round scheduled for 3:30 p.m. The final round will be held on two mats with bouts deciding first through eighth places. The top eight in each weight class will advance to the state Class A tournament next week in Billings.
Ticket prices for the divisional are $8 for adults and $6 for students, with the tickets being good for admission all day.
Frenchtown is the defending Western A champion and the pre-tourney favorite to report, although stiff challenges are expected from Polson, Whitefish, Hamilton and Columbia Falls — all ranked in the Top 10 of the statewide coaches’ Class A wrestling poll.
The latest poll had Frenchtown second to Eastern A powerhouse Sidney. Polson was fourth, just behind Havre of the Eastern A. The Western A’s other entries are Dillon, Corvallis and Stevensville from the Southwest, and Browning, Libby and Ronan from the Northwest.
The only upside of Butte Central being unable to finish the season was that for, perhaps, the first time in school history the Maroons had a team dinner prior to end of the season. There was nobody left trying to make weight with everyone on the disabled list.
Since Moodry wasn’t able to coach them in postseason action, he wanted to reward them for their dedication in some way, so an actual dinner was the prize this year.
“A tough year,” he said, shaking his head.
The tourney will show several state-ranked wrestlers in the field. The top contenders look to be:
103 pounds — Landen Stewart of Frenchtown, Gavin Knutson of Polson and Nathan Sproul of Whitefish.
113 — Walker Dyer of Frenchtown, Rene Pierre of Polson and Eli Warner of Frenchtown.
120 — Jake Bibler of Frenctown, Buddy Doolin of Libby, Kedrick Baker of Polson and Jimmy Schmitt of Corvallis.
126 — Dante Venema of Corvallis, Maysn Cowell of Polson and Trapper McAllister of Ronan.
132 — Michael Golden of Hamilton, Zane Walchuck of Ronan, Zach Morrison of Libby and Carter Brown of Corvallis.
138 — Tristan Davis of Corvallis and Adrian Garcia of Hamilton.
145 — Trey Thompson of Libby, Bridger Williams of Hamilton and Randon Weidow of Corvallis.
152 — Bridger Wenzel of Polson and Cody Grace of Libby.
160 — Cooper Hoffman of Dillon, Robert Bertelson of Whitefish and Noah Hurst of Hamilton.
170 — Hunter Fritsch of Polson and Lucas Thatcher of Columbia Falls.
182 — Colten McPhee of Columbia Falls, Tate Jones of Frenchtown, Logan Adler of Polson and Tommy Campbell of Browning.
205 — Jacob Freemon of Columbia Falls and Justin May of Ronan.
285 — Taylor Gladeau of Columbia Falls, Wacey Zuback of Browning, Cody Miller of Frenchtown and Jasper Drake of Polson.
Several place-winners from last year’s state Class A tournament are expected to be in the field, headed by defending 120-pound state champion Jake Bibler of Frenchtown.
Others from The Metra arena podium experience of 2018 include McAllister, third, and Warner, fourth, at 103; Doolin, second at 113; Pierre, fifth, Dyer, sixth, at 113; Golden, third at 126; Wenzel, second at 132; Fritsch, third at 170; Mays, fifth at 205; and Gladeau, fifth, and Zuback, sixth, at heavyweight.
Frenchtown won last year’s divisional, but Polson was the highest-finishing Western A team at the state tourney, taking fourth place to Frenchtown’s fifth, 134-130. Sidney won the State A with 250 points, Havre was the runner-up with 188 and Lewistown placed third with 185.