By Bill Foley
If it looks like Jeff Queer is having fun on the wrestling mat, it’s because he is.
The Butte High senior is smiling all the way as he looks to defend his state title in the heavyweight division. It is a smile that looks half sinister and half fun as Queer almost appears to toy with his competitors.
“Kind of both,” Queer said after pinning Havre’s Austin Ratliff Saturday morning during the 30th Annual Mining City Duals Jim Street Classic at the Richardson Gym. “The smile gets in their head, but I’m always having fun, so I’m always smiling.”
That is an interesting approach for a brutally tough sport that is notoriously not fun.
“I just go out and have fun on the mat,” Queer said. “That’s why I do the sport because I love it so much. It’s fun for me.”
At 6-foot-2, 240 pounds, Queer, who sports a mustache to highlight his smile, is definitely a menacing character as he takes the mats. His record adds to that look.
As a sophomore, Queer fell to Billings Senior Devan Maua in the championship match in the heavyweight division. A year later, Queer was back in the title match. This time, he beat Levi Malcom of Billings West 9-4 to claim the Butte High’s first individual state title in three seasons.
Queer said he started to realize he was pretty good at the sport he was starting to love during that run to the title match as a sophomore. Before that, wrestling was a sport that was kind of on again, off again for the Bulldog big man.
“I wrestled a little bit when I was young, then quit because it was too hard,” Queer said. “I came back in like fifth grade, broke somebody’s shoulder and quit again for a couple of years. Then I started up again in seventh grade and stuck to it since then. I enjoy it.”
Queer also played football for the Bulldogs, but he wasn’t quite as smiley on the turf at Naranche Stadium.
“Not so much,” Queer said about liking football. “I was kind of forced into play football all four year.”
He was still good enough at the sport to start in the trenches for the Bulldogs.
“Other people say so, but I didn’t think I was too good,” Queer said.
There is no question about his wrestling skills. Queer’s spot in the lineup has already become the main event at Bulldog duals.
That’s something that just kind of happens when there’s a defending champion in the house.
“There’s a lot more pressure,” Queer said. “Everybody expects you to win all the time, every match. I know I can do it, it’s just more pressure, more nerves going into matches. I just don’t want to get caught.”
While Bulldog fans certainly have high expectations for the defending champion, Queer is expecting even more from himself.
“I’m trying to go undefeated all season with zero takedowns on me,” Queer said.
Queer has added on to that pressure by competing against Gabe Tierney, a Butte High wrestler who is about half the size of Queer.
“I’ve got a bet with our 120-pounder that I’ll have more takedowns than him at the end of the year,” Queer said. “Last week he got me beat.”
Queer isn’t sure what the future holds beyond February’s state wrestling tournament in Billings. He hasn’t decided if he’s going to take his wrestling skills and his smile to the next level.
“I haven’t decided yet,” Queer said. “I’ve got a couple of colleges looking at me here and there, but I have no plans yet.”