COLUMBIA FALLS — The Columbia Falls Wildcats are the defending Class A state wrestling champions and, despite losing a few seniors, they’re eager to defend their title.
"We definitely have a chip on our shoulder," said senior Traic Fainter. "We're gonna do as much as we can to go get her done, but it's gonna kind of come down to how we wrestle out on the mat and what the placements look like."
As for what it’ll take to set themselves up to repeat as state champions and capture their fourth title in program history:
"A lot of hard work. I mean, we're in here every single day grinding after practice," said junior Winslow Peters. "And then during school, we're putting the work in the classroom, and then after practice or before school, we're in here either way, lifting or getting a workout in, so we're definitely putting the work in to go two-time."
Despite losing several key seniors and being hit with some injuries throughout the season, the Wildcats have faith they’ll peak at the right time.
"There's definitely been ups and downs in our teams," said junior Dylan Delorme. "But I think we're gonna go through and pull it through. We got horses on our team that will get it done."
When it comes to how that work gets done, it all boils down to the brotherhood that the team has fostered.
"We're enemies on the mat, but once we get off the mat we can be friends again," junior Rowdy Crump said with a smile.
"We come in here, we pound heads sometimes, we're trying to fight some, but that's that brotherhood. No matter what, we come back to each other, we always stay friends. And at the end of the day, we're still patting each other on the back and saying, ‘Good job, man, you made another day.’"
And it’s that ‘enemies on the mat, friends off the mat’ mentality that has shaped the team and its growth.
"No matter what, I've got your back and you've got my back and it's goes hand in hand," said sophomore Blaise Cronk. "So it's really sweet to be a part of. It's amazing to be in here grinding with everybody every day. And then to go out and put it to work and see the improvements on the team every weekend is incredible."
State wrestling will begin at the MetraPark in Billings on Feb. 9 as the Wildcats look to defend their state title and repeat as back-to-back champions.