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Class B-C state wrestling: Huntley Project, Glasgow lead in packed trophy chase

Hank Dunn
Posted at 8:57 PM, Feb 14, 2020

BILLINGS -- Gavin Nedens started it, Journey Grimsrud finished it and three teammates in-between carried Huntley Project to a Day 1 lead at the Class B-C state wrestling tournament at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark.

The Red Devils scored 72 points Friday, finishing six ahead of second-place Glasgow's 66.

"I feel like it's an honor to be here," said Nedens, only a freshman, who advanced to the semifinals at 103 pounds. "I'm loving every minute of it and I'm thankful for everybody who has helped me get here."

It's modest, to say the least, after Nedens pinned both of his first-day opponents -- Simms' Harley Wade in 1 minute, 14 seconds, and Superior-Alberton's Ryder Hansen in the quarterfinals. Nedens started the run of Red Devils, who also saw Cooper Lane (113 pounds), William Loveridge (170), Stran Selman (182) and Grimsrud (285) win quarterfinal matches Friday afternoon.

Every win was needed, particularly those of the bonus points variety -- pins and technical falls -- as the Red Devils try to keep ahead of traditional power Glasgow in the race for the Class B team trophy.

"We need to steal points in our consolations, and even my next match (Saturday's semifinal against Jefferson's Leo Anderson)," said Nedens. "We can all do our best to get our team some extra points."

"I'm kind of new to this, so I'm going to try to keep my head and enjoy my time," he continued. "Do my best to make my team proud."

Nedens may be new to the scene, but the top two teams in this year's trophy race are anything but. Glasgow has won 12 state titles, including a four-peat from 2007-10. Huntley Project is the owner of six championships, winning five of those between 1986-91.


The Scotties punched four athletes -- Colten Fast (132), Dylan Nieskens (182), Cooper Larson (205) and Mayson Phipps (285) -- into the semifinals. Fast and Nieskens won individual titles a year ago.

"You can't affect the whole team, obviously, there is more than one guy that indicates the team score," said Fast, after winning his quarterfinal match against Elijah Ratliff of Thompson Falls. "We just have to work together to gather those team points, that's what we're all thinking."

"I'm paying a little bit of attention, but I'm not too into it," he continued of the team standings. "I'm just trying to do the best I can individually."

Adding fuel to the fire for the four Scotties in the semifinals, as well as the three still alive in the consolation bracket, is the storied tradition of Glasgow's wrestling program. Considered one of the top powers in the state, past Scotties continue to set the bar high for the current generation.

"It means a lot. We walk into practice every day and the board is right there, the records are right there," said Fast. "It's overwhelming sometimes, but we're trying to continue the tradition and keep it moving forward."

Cut Bank and Whitehall tallied 55 points each Friday, while Eureka's 49 points have the Lions in trophy contention. The Lions send four athletes to Saturday's semis -- Gunnar Smith (126), Kyle Durden (132), Nathan Schmidt (138) and Hank Dunn (152).

"We all worked so hard this year, everybody on our team," said Smith, a junior who has secured titles in each of his previous two years. "We have tough practices, tough coaches and we're tough kids. It means a lot to everybody to go out there, give it your best."

Smith's 126-pound division is arguably the most challenging at the semifinal stage -- he's set to face Forsyth's Camron Reilly, while Conrad's Roper Mycke meets Cooper Cook of Columbus-Absarokee on the other side of the bracket.

"One match at a time, that's how you have to look at it. All these kids are good kids, and nothing is given, everybody wants it," said Smith. "I just have to give it my all because I know (Reilly) is."

All four Eureka athletes in Saturday's semis placed in the top three at last year's tournament and, with high enough finishes this weekend, could sneak Eureka into the trophy hunt.

"We're a little low in numbers, but if we can get in there and sneak our way into a trophy, that would be great. That would be awesome," said Smith.

Circle, meanwhile, is seeking its third consecutive Class C team trophy, and the Wildcats are in good position after Day 1 with 46.5 points. Krayle Stormer (113), Tugg Taylor (120), Canyon Casterline (138) and Cole Becker (145) are all in Saturday's semifinal round.

Though his team is out of contention for a trophy, St. Ignatius-Charlo's Isaiah Allik is two wins away from a perfect season at 170 pounds. After a fourth-place effort at state a year ago, the senior came to Metra with one simple goal.

"To win. I came here with one thing on my mind and that's to come home with that big piece of paper (state championship bracket)," he said. "Right now it's just kill, kill, kill. That's what our coach likes to say. Go out there for the kill, I guess."

Allik, who won his quarterfinal over Glasgow's Ty Kittleson via injury default, says he treats state like "a normal tournament." While he would never admit to looking ahead -- he faces Huntley Project's Loveridge Saturday morning -- it's hard not to think about a potential championship showdown with Shepherd standout Nate Gorham.

"He got second last year at 182," Allik said of Gorham. "He's pretty tough. He came into this tournament 38-1, I came in 38-0, so he seems like a great kid. ... I'm just looking forward to a battle."

Before rushing off to cool down and change, Allik took one look around the impressive Day 1 crowd and smiled.

"I think the Montana state wrestling tournament is the coolest sporting event in the whole state. Hands down. The atmosphere is just awesome," he said.

For complete results from Day 1 of the State B-C wrestling tournament, please click here. Scroll through the videos above to watch video highlights from around the state.