SIDNEY – Guy Melby used to get butterflies when postseason wrestling came around.
The 31-year veteran coach of the Sidney Eagles’ wrestling program, Melby still understands the final weekend of the year can bring a mixed bag of emotions.
“I don’t think anything has changed (over the years),” he said. “I may not be as stomach-nervous as I was when I was younger but I still get that feeling in my gut that, ‘Alright man, here we go.’ We call it a payday, (Saturday at divisionals) was a payday that we’ve worked a whole year to get to that point, so that’s what we call it, our payday and we’re going to cash in.
The Eagles earned their paycheck on Saturday at the Eastern A tournament. 10 athletes qualified for the state invitational: Kaiden Cline (103 pounds), Everett Jensen (113 pounds), Ashton Swenson (132 pounds), Jace Winter (138 pounds), Jace Johnson (145 pounds), Avery Gurney (152 pounds), Jett Jones (160 pounds), Trevor Dean (170 pounds), Sawyer Thogerson (182 pounds) and Ryan Horner (285 pounds).
None of the qualified grapplers is a senior, with Melby bringing four juniors, two sophomores and four freshmen. Despite the youth, the championship-winning coach enjoys the challenges each squad can bring.
“I think we’re ready but we’re young – we don’t have a senior on our squad – but we’re getting better and better every week,” he said. “It’s that time of the year everyone is pretty excited and we’re looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s still very, very exciting for me. I love getting up and coming to work every day, I love going to practices still and love the competition on the weekends, especially the last two weeks of the season,” he added. “It’s fun and I hope that brushes off on the kids too so they’re excited as well. You get to go prove yourself and that’s what it’s all about.”
The Eagles spent the latter part of the season ranked second behind four-time defending champion Havre High. If Sidney hopes to compete with the Blue Ponies, Melby knows the majority, if not all, of his wrestlers will need to podium. As for the number of wrestlers in the program with a legitimate medalist opportunity, coach isn’t sure what to expect.
“It’s hard to say. I’m looking at the polls right now and some of our guys, just like every other team, we’ll have to fight just to battle. We have good numbers from our division and good quality so we better be on our game,” he said.
Guy Melby’s name is all over the Montana High School Association record books: all-time coaching championships, consecutive championships, individual champions coached, dual victories and so on. If the young Eagles get hot this weekend in Billings, those record books could need some updating.
Perhaps a moment like that would bring the butterflies back again.