CIRCLE -- Ty Taylor likes to joke he's less of a wrestling coach and more of a rah-rah kind of guy.
“I was just going to say that, I have the best seat in the house. I just (be a cheerleader) on the sideline during the matches," joked Taylor during a recent phone interview with MTN Sports.
It's humor, of course, but Taylor has had plenty to cheer about from the Circle Wildcats' coaching corner over the past few seasons. Circle enters the 2020-21 campaign as the three-time reigning Montana Class C state champion, with all five state qualifiers last season landing on the podium. Two of those wrestlers, Krayle Stormer and Cole Becker, won individual state championships.
“I’m lucky this year, I have all of them coming back that was at state last year. They’re embracing it, looking forward to it, I guess, is how they’re acting. They’re working hard in the practice room. We don’t try to talk about it much," Taylor said of the Wildcats' chase for a fourth straight title. "That’s a little farther down the line yet, so we haven’t got into that. Their goal is to do it again, but it’s not worth worrying about yet, now.”
Though championship weekend is months away, it's also worth noting Stormer will be chasing a third individual title wherever the Class B-C state tournament will be held. The senior won the 113-pound championship in February, while Becker, also a senior, took the top spot in the 145-pound bracket.
But the talent pool runs much deeper than just that duo.
Canyon Casterline finished third at 138 pounds a year ago, Tugg Taylor, son of head coach Ty, was fourth at 120 and Bryson Bartelson placed sixth at 120 pounds. All three enter their junior seasons this winter. Three other wrestlers, including "promising sophomore" Grady Richardson, bring the Wildcats' roster total to eight.
“They all chip in. When we’re doing our live wrestling, two kids wrestling, they’re coaching. If they see something that a kid did that they think he can do better, they’ll stop and grab him and show him what they saw. I have it kind of easy," laughed Ty Taylor. "I do it myself, too, but they’ve gotten to the point where they (can do it). Like I said, they’ve been at it since they were 4, so they understand it. It’s always easier to see it when you’re on the sideline than in the match, so they’re all very good, these five jump in and help.”
The Circle coach of seven years, "or is it eight," he laughed, noting he's helped coach since he finished his own high school career, gives credit for the Wildcats' success to one of Montana's most-storied programs some 75 miles away.
“Probably two things — they start at age 4, so that’s big. I would also like to thank Guy Melby of Sidney and Shane Gorder, Nick Lonski and Ty Graves. Their AAU program (the Sidney Wrestling Club), they have a bus and they let us jump aboard their bus," said Taylor. "We’ve traveled to Iowa, Florida and more, and that’s probably been the huge success because putting them in the big-time competitions, when they get to state, it’s not as big or scary as you think it is.”
“That, plus I have good help. My assistant coach, Jesse Yerbich, he wrestled in Minnesota and was a very talented wrestler over there," Taylor continued. "I have a younger brother that wrestled with a two-time national champion out of Dickinson State (N.D.) that helps me out, the Stormers help out. I just have a lot of help. It’s not just one coach, but six, seven, eight of us. That’s a lot of the success, and we work well together, that always helps.”
The Wildcats have had Saturday, Jan. 2 circled on the calendar since the Montana High School Association announced it would be the first day high school winter sports could be conducted. Right now, the Sidney JV program will travel southwest for competition, though Taylor is "hoping to add one or two more teams."
With no competition for nearly a month, Taylor said he's keeping the preparation focused on the simpler items that will improve each wrestler.
“Right now we’re not trying to push too hard on live wrestling, I’m more on the drills for take-downs and bottom-top positions," he said. "I’m conditioning. We’ve got a month, I can have them in shape, a little better shape than the normal 10 days of practice.”
Taylor also noted the addition of freshman Cierra Norton to the program, as girls wrestling enters its first official season, with its own postseason tournament, which is to be determined.
“She is (excited). They have their own level, so she’s kind of a guinea pig, I guess. I hope it works, and I think it will," Taylor said of the girls league. "I have no doubt it will after watching the girls and how they’ve progressed the last 10 years, it’s amazing.”
One more thing to cheer about.