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Class AA state wrestling: Great Falls High leads crowded race after Day 1

Posted: 7:58 PM, Feb 14, 2020
Updated: 2020-02-14 23:00:35-05
Liam Swanson Jake D'Agostino

BILLINGS -- Great Falls High has a storied tradition at the all-class state wrestling tournaments.

The Mighty Bison, winners of seven Class AA state titles, including a run of three straight from 2013-15, are again chasing gold this weekend at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark.

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Great Falls High scored 127 points on Day 1 of the Class AA state wrestling tournament, opening a narrow lead over Billings Senior and Butte in the team standings.

"We preached it before we headed out for the Parade of Athletes that this is a team sport," said Bison senior Tyson Krahe, who advanced to the 170-pound semifinals. "We want to win it as a team. We want our guys to do good on their own, but overall it comes down to the team.

"All season the coaches haven't preached, 'Do this for yourself so you can stand on the podium.' It's, 'Do this for your team so your team can get on the podium.'"

That message appears to have stuck, as seven Great Falls High wrestlers advanced to the semifinal round, including reigning state champions Elijah Davis and Ethan Deroche.

Irish Furthmyre, Cache Hilliard, Brendan Lockart, Krahe and Liam Swanson are also one win away from reaching the state finals.

"It feels pretty good. It's my first time not having to fight back through the consolation bracket," said Krahe, "so it feels good to take a break."

Behind the Bison sit five other teams with more than 80 points, including second-place Billings Senior, which will also sent seven to Saturday morning's semis. Senior scored 108.5 points, while Butte sits third with 102.5.

The Broncs stressed earning extra points via pins and technical falls to keep pace in the race for the team title.

"Our coach told us he wanted us to go for bonus points this weekend, get as many bonus points as possible to put the team first," said Senior's 160-pound Thomas Klepps, who will face Butte's Quinn Sullivan Saturday morning. "That's what all of us are trying to do, so we'll see what happens."

With older brother Charlie, a former four-time state champion, watching with family mere feet away, Klepps lived up to his part of the bargain, winning by technical fall in the first round and pin in the quarterfinals.

"I just like to focus on being as crisp as I can with my moves," he said. "All year you can be a little sloppy, but by the time you get to state, you have to make it as clean as possible."

Sullivan is one of six Bulldogs to advance from Friday's quarterfinal round, while Kalispell Flathead, which boasts 99 points, also has seven wrestlers set for Saturday morning's semifinals.

Bozeman, the defending state champion, is No. 5 with 94.5 points and four semifinal qualifiers, including potential four-time state champion Leif Schroeder.

Saturday's state championships, which begin around 3:30 p.m., will begin at 132 pounds, which is arguably the most electric in Class AA. Last year's champion Carson DesRosier of Helena Capital is joined by Bozeman freshman sensation Avery Allen, Billings West's RJ Lowdog and Flathead's Asher Kemppainen in the semifinals.

DesRosier will meet Lowdog, while Allen and Kemppainen square off Saturday morning.

For complete results from Friday's Day 1 of the Class AA state wrestling tournament, please click here. Scroll through video highlights from around the state above.