(Editor's note: MTN Sports is featuring a Midland Roundtable Athlete of the Year finalist nightly leading into this year's awards banquet Wednesday, May 18, at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center. Ten graduating seniors (five boys, five girls) in Billings are nominated annually by coaches and activities directors before Roundtable members, a group of longtime sports enthusiasts in Billings, vote on one male and one female winner. In rare instances, the award has been shared.)
BILLINGS - West High's Drake Rhodes is as tough as nails on the wrestling mats, but partial to tiny fish away from competition.
"I like goldfish," he told MTN Sports with a smile, "...goldfish are probably my go-to."
Rhodes is not talking about the kind that swim, but rather his go-to snack.
We all know how rigorously wrestlers watch what they eat to make weight, but Rhodes says this senior season was nice because his diet was a little more fast and loose than in the past.
"I ate good food, but I could eat what I wanted. It was nice because I could just burn it off in practice," he said. "Other years I had to watch it a little more."
These last two years everybody was watching him.
Rhodes punched out perfect as a junior and senior becoming only the third West wrestler to win three individual state titles. His career high school record was 134-7.
It gets better. He's also a three-time high school All-American while placing three times at Preseason Nationals. The payoff? Soon to be wrestling for the University of Iowa, where he won't even have to change school colors.
"I probably wanted to go there my whole life, but freshman or sophomore (year) it seemed a little more achievable," Rhodes recalled. "Then junior year I was like, I can do this, because I started getting better and I felt like I was actually getting closer to being able to go there."
Having not lost a high school match in two years, does he still get nervous?
"It's not really nervous, it's more like butterflies. It's like, I'm excited to go and just do my best."
Butterflies and goldfish — making a difference for this power wrestler.
Male finalists: Isaiah Claunch (West), Caden Dowler (West), Taco Dowler (West), Drake Rhodes (West), Payton Sanders (Skyview).
Female finalists: Brooke Berry (Skyview), Kaitlin Grossman (West), Mya Hansen (Central), Kennedy Venner (Senior),Jaeden Wolff (West).