By Bruce Sayler
BILLINGS — Flathead High of Kalispell was the big winner in Class AA while Sidney and Colstrip also stepped up to team championships as the state wrestling tournaments for Class AA, A and B-C all concluded Saturday evening in the Rimrock Auto Arena at The Metra.
Butte High’s Gabe Tierney was a runner-up to lead his team’s performances and Dillon saw its first three-time state champion crowned when Brent Tezak climbed to the highest stair.
Tierney’s match in the championship round was a heart-breaker for the senior 120-pounder, his coaches and his fans.
“I was winning with three seconds left,” he said moments after receiving his runner-up medal following the 4-3 loss to Bozeman standout Sterling Quinn. “I almost had the victory.”
Tierney upset top-seeded Hayden Azure of Helena Capital on the way to the finals and started his championship match with a single-leg takedown of Quinn. He held the Hawk in control for about 20 seconds when Quinn scored the escape and the first period ended with Tierney ahead 2-1. Quinn rode Tierney for most of second stanza, until the Bulldog popped out from underneath to carry a 3-1 advantage into the third frame.
An escape for Quinn made it a 3-2 match and the opponents countered each other’s moves until Quinn caught Tierney on the edge of the mat as the clock passed three seconds left. The takedown stood and Quinn had the win.
“We’re heartbroken about it,” Butte High head coach Cory Johnston said later. “That’s as hard a loss as it gets. But, you know, he came off the mat with a smile on his face and he loved every minute (of the wrestling). When the realization set in is when it hurt him and us.”
Tierney said he had no idea how and when Quinn scored bout points. He wrestles and stops at the referee’s direction.
“I’ve wrestled him at every tournament,” Tierney said of Quinn and confirmed he defeated him is once, at The Mining City Duals/Jim Street Classic in Butte. “At state, it’s a big match. This is a tough tournament. I had him beat this time until three seconds (remained).”
Johnston said Tierney set the work ethic example for the program and was a good influence on the younger kids. He was one of just three seniors on the 16-team Bulldog delegation to the state tournament.
“He was a cornerstone for our program,” Johnston said.
The loud Butte crowd saw five Butte High wrestlers and one Butte Central grappler earn place-winnings. Johnston was sure to thank the contingent that braved cold temperatures and tough roads to cheer on the Bulldogs, a celebration of a sort that started with a pep rally the eve of the tourney.
Junior Carl Anderson placed third at 160 pounds, senior Jeff Queer was fourth at the 285-pound limit class, sophomore Kobe Moreno was fourth at 170 and his twin brother, Kameron, finished in sixth place at 182 with his losses being by razor=thin margins. Clay Fisher of Butte Central placed fifth at 126 pounds in Class A.
“Carl had a good tournament,” Johnston said after Anderson fought back from an early-round loss to place highly. “After divisionals, he could’ve pouted and thrown in the towel because he didn’t like his draw. But, he came to practice Monday and said the worst he was going to finish at state was third.”
Anderson clinched third place when his consolation finals opponent, Connor Peterson of Missoula Big Sky, was unable to finish because of what looked to be a severe arm injury. Anderson held a 4-3 edge at the time. Getting there, he needed a miracle move in the waning seconds of his consolation semifinal. Garrett Rieke led Anderson 10-7 before the Bulldog fired a successful head-and-arm that took the Flathead wrestler off his feet and to his back. No pin occurred, but the five-point move gave Anderson a 12-10 victory and advancement to the third-place match.
Queer, the champ last year at heavyweight, experienced mixed results on Saturday. He lost on a major decision to Alex Paull of Kalispell Flathead in the semifinals, then shook it off and outlasted K.C. Buday of Great Falls C.M. Russell in the consolation semis. Their match extended through overtime tied 3-all and into sudden death when Queer muscled out an escape. He was caught by Levi Malcolm of Billings West for a pin in the consolation final.
Kobe Moreno saw overtime in his 170-pound match with Jacob Fritzler of Bozeman for third-and-fourth places. They each scored an escape in regulation, then Fritzler maneuvered the takedown for the 3-1 win, relegating Moreno to fourth place.
Kameron Moreno lost twice to Brenner Bushfield of Missoula Big Sky at 182 pounds. Once was by a 4-3 difference in the quarterfinals Friday, the other by 7-6 in their match for fifth place Saturday. Moreno scored a 54-second pin of Helena Capital’s Zane McCormick in the consolation quarterfinals, but lost by fall to Bozeman star Brandon Cooper in the consolation semifinals.
“Kobe lost to two seniors for his only losses,” Johnston said. “That bodes pretty well for the future. Kameron wrestled really well with some really close matches. A point here or there and he could’ve been wrestling for third place — or even in the finals.”
Fisher lost in overtime to Hamilton’s Michael Golden in the consolation semifinals, which sent him to the fifth-place match. The runner-up in the weight class last year, Fisher, a junior, recovered to take on a strong Havre entry, Marc Ramirez for fifth place. Fisher built a 6-3 advantage on takedowns, but found himself caught in one late in the bout. He fended Ramirez off the last five seconds and kept off his back to gain the 6-5 win, and fifth place.
Tezak won the 160-pound title in Class A, outpointing Tyler Clapp of Glendive 9-4. A takedown, reversal and escape gave Tezak a 5-2 lead through two periods. Escapes were exchanged for takedowns in the third.
“It’s pretty special out there,” Tezak said, nodding to the mats on The Metra floor moments after descending from the awards stand. “Nobody’s done this (three state championships) from Dillon before. It’s a lot of fun.”
Tezak said he wasn’t any more nervous about his first two championship bouts than he was this one. Thus, none of his state crowns mean more than the others.
“I really don’t like to think like that, with the nerves and that,” he said. “If I feel nervous, it means something’s up.”
Whitehall 285-pounder Dawson Hoerauf was second in the Class B-C 285-pound class, losing in the title round on a pin to Merlin Whitedirt of Colstrip. Boulder 160-pounder Nate Brunett was the runner-up at B-C 160 after a concussion check. He was powered hard to the mat by Dalton Herbst of Baker on a strong, legal move.
Charlie Klepps added his name to the role of four-time state champions. The Billings Senior star won a 13-5 major decision over Jaden MacNeil of Flathead in their championship bout at Class AA 132 pounds. The win finished a 24-0 season for Klepps, as well. Huntley Project senior 205-pounder Blaine Buchanan stretched his season record to 46-0 with a 7-1 decision over Trey Yates of Colstrip in the championship round.
The first all-girl bout in the history of Montana state high school wrestling tournaments was wrestled on Monday in the first round. Rebecca Stroh of Chinook scored a 5:47 pin over Tjo Friis of Anaconda. Stroh went on to finish in sixth place.
Flathead scored 288 points in repeating as the AA champion, 66 points ahead of second-place Bozeman. Billings Skyview was third with 181 ½. Butte High placed eighth with 104. Sidney’s 250 points in Class A ended the five-year grip Havre held on the team throne. The Blue Ponies were second with 188 and Lewistown was third with 185. Colstrip had 196 points to win Class B-C while defending champion Eureka was second with 127 ½. Glasgow placed third with 120 ½. Forsyth was the top Class C scorer with 89 points.
Complete results can be found at trackwrestling.com.