Wrestling coaches are a special breed. When a team title is on the line, or in doubt, they “count points,” so they know where they stand toward the end of a dual or tournament.
Polson High School coaches were probably privately conferring with each other during the stretch run in the Western A Divisional tournament Saturday at Butte Central High School. The Pirates were neck-and-neck with tourney favorite Frenchtown late in the day. As they went into the medal matches, every point was precious.
Going into the last championship match — at 152 pounds — Frenchtown held a five-point lead. A technical fall by Pirate senior Bridger Wenzel would tie the team score and mean Polson and Frenchtown would share the divisional title. A win by fall for Wenzel would give the Pirates a one-point team victory.
Wenzel was certainly up to the task. According to script (with pins throughout the tournament), he made a first-period statement — pinning Hunter Hoover of Libby in 1:49, and the Polson coaching staff, wrestlers and supporters rejoiced the tourney title as the Pirates edged Frenchtown, 221-220.
“We really didn’t really talk about it,” Polson head coach Matt Owen said. “We don’t want kids to go into matches feeling any extra pressure. He (Wenzel) went out and did what he usually does.” That is dominating early and pinning his opponent.
“It was a fun one. It came right down to the wire,” Owen said.
Wenzel was one of two individual divisional champs, as senior Hunter Fritsch pinned Ryan RunningCrane in just 36 seconds to take the 170-pound title. Fritsch was presented with the Quick Pin award, for the most pins in the shortest elapsed time. That was a mere 1 minute, 2 seconds.
Fifteen Pirates finished in the top eight in their class to qualify for the State Wrestling Tournament this Friday and Satuday at the Rimrock Auto Arena in Billings.
Ronan, which finished in 10th place with 77 points, had one divisional champion. That was senior Justin Mays, who pinned Jakob Freeman of Columbia Falls to win the 205-pound class.
Mays was one of five Chiefs to qualify for state.
“Any change in there (placings) could have cost us,” Owen said. He mentioned RJ Pierre at 113 pounds. He lost by a 14-4 major decision to unbeaten Walker Dyer of Frenchtown, but did not give up pin points. “He wrestled it really hard,” Owen said.
State qualifiers and their divisional placings were: Wenzel and Fritsch, first; RJ Pierre, second; Kedrick Baker (120) and Logan Adler (182), third; Jasper Drake (285), fourth; Jarod Farrier (132) and Caleb Pierre (145), fifth; Gavin Knudson (103), Maysn Cowell (126) and Aaron O’Roake (205), sixth; Garrett Croft (160), seventh; and Kellen Norman (120), Tyren Stidham (126) and Kaleb Unger (160), eighth.
For Ronan, state qualifiers and their divisional placings: Mays, first; Trapper McAllister (126), second; Trevor Bartel (103), fourth; Julian Strait (126), seventh; and Jamison Webster (170), eighth.
“Overall, the kids just went out there and scrapped as a team,” Owen said. “It’s a team effort when it comes down to a one-point thing.”
Last year at state, Wenzel was second in his class, Fritsch third and RJ Pierre fifth.
If he reaches the semifinals, Fritsch will face a foe that he lost to earlier this season. “I’m confident we can turn that around,” Owen said.
The coach also lauded the effort of Wenzel. “I feel he’s really coming on strong and I feel confident,” Owen said. “I think RJ has a good shot at getting to the finals.”
Sidney-Fairview — the defending state A champion — won the Eastern A Divisional title.
“They’re definitely the team to beat,” Owen said. “After that, it’s a three-horse race for second.” Those horses include Polson, Frenchtown and Havre.
Polson placed fourth, team-wise, last year.
“Our goal all year was to bring home some trophies,” Owen said. “That’s the plan.
1, Polson 221; 2, Frenchtown 220; 3, Columbia Falls 169.5; 4, Corvallis 150; 5, Browning 142; 6, Libby/Troy 140; 7, Whitefish 126; 8, Beaverhead Co. (Dillon)/Twin Bridges/Sheridan 108; 9, Hamilton/Darby 96.5; 10, Ronan 77; 11, Stevensville/Victor 52; 12, Butte Central 0.
Mission Valley individual wrestlers
103 — 3, Trevor Bartel; 6, Gavin Knutson.
Gavin Knutson, Polson (2-3) – Andrew Carmody (Ham) 6-4 d. Knutson; Knutson 2:04 p. Iliff; Knutson 3:34 p. Logan Bratch (Ham); Bartel tf-1.5 17-0 5:00 Knutson; (5th place) Mark Spencer (Corv) 3:36 p. Knutson.
Trevor Bartel, Ronan (2-2) – Bartel 3:35 p. Carmody; Landen Stewart (Frtwn) 0:37 p. Bartel; Bartel tf-1.5 17-0 5:00 Knutson; (3rd place) Nathan Sproul (Wfsh) 2:12 p. Bartel.
Braedon Iliff, Polson (1-2) – Iliff 6-2 d. Gavin Bauman (Frtwn); Sproul (Wfsh) 1:38 p. Iliff; Knutson 2:04 p. Iliff.
113 — 2, R.J. Pierre
R.J. Pierre, Polson (2-1) – bye; Pierre 1:54 p. Jackson Carson (Wfsh); Pierre 5-2 d. Eli Warner (Frtwn); (championship) Walker Dyer (Frtwn) 14-1 md. Pierre.
120 — 3, Kedrick Baker; 8, Kellen Norman.
Kedrick Baker, Polson (3-1) – Baker 0:49 p. Colton Hogan (CF); Buddy Doolin (Lib) 12-3 md. Baker; Baker 9-1 md. Kellogg; (3rd place) Baker 1:57 p. Nicholai Blanchard (Frtwn).
Kellen Norman, Polson (2-3) – Norman 3:12 p. Forrest Wagner (Dil); Jake Bibler (Frtwn) 0:30 p. Norman; Norman 2:48 p. Ty Thompson (Stev); Dean Kellogg (Wfsh) 2:29 p. Norman; (7th place) Ashton Flamand (Brn) 2:20 p. Norman.
126 — 2, Trapper McAllister; 5. Maysn Cowell; 7, Julian Strait; 8, Tyren Stidham.
Trapper McAllister, Ronan (3-1) – McAllister tf-1.5 17-2 3:48 Stidham; McAllister 0:39 p. Noah Cooke (Wfsh); McAllister 5:47 p. Cowell (Pol); (championship) Dante Venema 1:35 p. McAllister.
Maysn Cowell, Polson (3-2) – Cowell 1:31 p. John Laplant (Brn); Cowell 0:39 p. Strait (Ron); McAllister (Ron) 5:47 p. Cowell; Robbins (Stev) 4:28 p. Cowell; (5th place) Cowell 0:47 p. Cooke (Wfsh).
Julian Strait, Ronan (2-2) – Cowell (Pol) 0:39 p. Strait; Strait 6-1 d. Sidney Cooke (Wfsh); Noah Cooke (Wfsh) 3:41 p. Strait; (7th place) Strait 1:43 p. Stidham (Pol).
Tyren Stidham, Polson (1-3) – McAllister (Ron) tf-1.5 17-2 3:48 Stidham; Stidham 2:39 p. Quenton Campos (Brn); Kellen Robbins (Stev) 0:51 p. Stidham; (7th place) Strait (Ron) 1:43 p. Stidham.
132 — 5, Jarod Farrier
Jarod Farrier, Polson (4-2) – Farrier 1:49 p. Teron Morrison (Dil); Thomas Peters (CF) 3:36 p. Farrier; Farrier 0:18 p. Zack Gray (CF); Farrier 0:31 p. Jeff Madman (Brn); Adrian Garcia (Ham) 12-4 md. Farrier; (5th place) Farrier forfeit over Benji Opat (Corv).
Dugan Davis, Polson (0-2) – Triston Davis (Corv) 1:05 p. D.Davis; Smokey Stoker (Frtwn) 2:24 p. D.Davis.
145 — 5, Caleb Pierre
Caleb Pierre, Polson (3-2) – Randon Weidow (Corv) 5:29 p. C.Pierre; C.Pierre 1:20 p. Cole Anson (Ham); C.Pierre 1:59 p. Isaac Balla (CF); Chance Kittson (Brn) 1:53 p. C.Pierre; (5th place) C.Pierre 3:31 p. Peter Gibson (Dil).
Manny Rowan, Ronan (0-2) –
152 — 1, Bridger Wenzel.
Bridger Wenzel, Polson (3-0) – Wenzel 0:14 p. Tristin Lowell (Dil); Wenzel 0:14 p. Derrik Gasvoda (Corv); (championship) Wenzel 1:49 p. Hunter Hoover (Lib).
160 — 7, Garrett Croft; 8, Kaleb Unger.
Garrett Croft, Polson (2-2) – Kyler Pancake (Stev) 14-2 md. Croft; Croft 2:32 p. Jordan Knapton (CF); Tucker Masters (Lib) 3:50 p. Croft; (7th place) Croft 8-3 d. Unger.
Kaleb Unger, Polson (2-3) – Unger 5:40 p. Jordan Knapton (CF); Cooper Hoffman (Dil) 3:29 p. Unger; Unger 0:14 p. Smith (Ron); Robert Bertelsen (Wfsh) 2:02 p. Unger; (7th place) Croft (Pol) 8-3 d. Unger.
Christian Smith, Ronan (0-2) – Pancake (Stev) 0:30 p. C.Smith; Unger (Pol) 0:14 p. Smith.
170 — 1, Hunter Fritsch; 8, Jamison Webster
Hunter Fritsch, Polson (3-0) – Fritsch 0:20 p. Ethan Chavez (Corv); Fritsch 0:06 p. Jake Houlihan (Frtwn); Fritsch 0:36 p. Ryan RunningCrane (Brn).
Jamison Webster, Ronan (0-3) – bye; Lucas Thacker (CF) 2:42 p. Webster; bye; Allec Knapton (CF) 4:17 p. Webster; (7th place) Ethan Chavez (Corv) 2:59 p. Webster.
182 — 3, Logan Adler; 8, Jessie Littleboy
Logan Adler, Polson (4-1) – Adler 1:47 p. Jessie LittleBoy (Ron); Adler 2:26 p. DJ Laycock (CF); Tate Jones (Frtwn) 1:43 p. Adler; Adler 0:45 p. Jonah Hinterding (Frtwn); (3rd place) Adler 1:26 p. Tommy Cambell (Brn).
Jessie LittleBoy, Ronan () – Logan Adler (Pol) 1:47 p. LittleBoy; LittleBoy 2:30 p. Kale Wanner (Ham); Hinterding 8-3 d. LittleBoy; (7th place) Daniel Rigney (Lib) 12-3 md. LittleBoy.
205 — 1, Justin Mays; 6, Aaron O’Roake
Justin Mays, Ronan (3-0) – bye; Mays 0:33 p. Ashton Akey (Wfsh); Mays 8-6 sv-1 Levi Downard (Frtwn); (championship) Mays 5:16 p. Jakob Freeman (CF).
Aaron O’Roake, Polson (2-3) – bye; Jayden Salois (Brn) 1:03 p. O’Roake; O’Roake 2:28 p. Brock Jones (Ham); O’Roake 2:10 p. Sandoval (Ron); Downard (Frtwn) 3:53 p. O’Roake; (5th place) Preston Hales (Dil) 2:15 p. O’Roake.
Persephone Sandoval, Ronan (0-3) – bye; Jakob Freeman (CF) 0:17 p. Sandoval; bye; O’Roake (Pol) 2:10 p. Sandoval; Ashton Akey (Wfsh) 3-0 d. Sandoval.
285 — 4, Jasper Drake
Jasper Drake, Polson (2-2) – bye; Drake 2:50 p. Jake Woods (Stev); Taylor Gladeau (CF) 0:50 p. Drake; Drake 0:26 p. Harley Wise (Corv); (3rd place) Cody Miller (Frtwn) 1:24 p. Drake.
Larz Sorrell, Ronan (0-2) – bye; Cody Miller (Frtwn) 3:47 p. Sorrell; Harley Wise (Corv) 2:53 p. Sorrell.
— John Heglie contributed to this article.