GREAT FALLS — CMR’s Kai Stewart has a simple goal every time he steps on to the mat against an opponent.

“Break them,” he smiled. “You just got to push the tempo and don’t let them outwork you. The rest will take care of itself.”

Well, not many wrestlers have outworked Stewart this year. The Rustler sophomore had dreams of being a four-time state champion, but failed to place in 2016. He used that disappointing finish at state last year as motivation, and he’s dominated Class AA this season, where he’s currently ranked No. 1 in the 138-pound weight class in the most recent coaches’ poll.

Stewart was initially ranked third, but has posted wins against the two wrestlers ahead of him – Helena’s Kyle Tabbert and Glacier’s Justin Gibson to claim the top spot.

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“He’s a pretty good leader as far as work ethic,” said CMR head coach Aaron Jensen. “He just wrestles hard. He might get taken down in the first period, but he keep wrestling through it and so, if there’s time to score on the clock he’s never out of it.”

For Stewart, the improvement from freshman to sophomore year came from focusing on his team goals over his individual ones.

“Not focusing on myself, just focusing on my team,” he explained. “That’s really helping me care for them as much as I care for me. Makes me want to push harder for them. We had two of our best wrestlers (Deven Altenburg-Lasher and Max Sechena) out, so I had to step up while they were out with injuries.”

But make no mistake – his personal goals are lofty. Four state titles are out, but wouldn’t three be nice? Only three Rustlers have ever accomplished that feat. But for now he’s just focused on getting the first one.

“Everything I do, I do with that in mind,” Stewart said. “I just want to get better every day and come February win a state championship.”

Kai Stewart (CMR) pins his oppponent. (TOM WYLIE/MTN Sports)