KALISPELL — Flathead High School has been the gold standard for wrestling in Montana for several years now, and after winning state for boys and girls the past two years the programs now has their eyes set on a three-peat.
"I would say the biggest thing is we have fun," said boys head wrestling coach Jeff Thompson. "As a coaching staff, as a program, wrestling is such a tough demanding intense sport, we really try to make it fun."
Fun that has led to success.
"I think a lot of the programs just look at us like, ‘Oh my gosh these guys are a bunch of goofballs,'" said Thompson. "But you know what, we’re having fun too and that’s why I think our coaches love to be involved, they enjoy it, and I think the biggest thing is making it fun."
And it’s the 'work hard, play hard' mentality that continues to draw in more students every year.
"It’s really neat to see the numbers grow each year," said girls head coach Amber Downing. "The fact that we have to have two different gyms, two different practices to accommodate all of our athletes, male and female, that are coming out to this program."
And after winning the first two state titles in existence for girl’s wrestling in Montana, Downing knows how powerful that impact is on girls sports.
"Just show the girls that this is a sport that isn’t just for the boys, it’s for us as well," said Downing with a smile. "It teaches healthy body image, healthy lifestyle ,and just getting out and finding out how to be confident."
Confidence that is on full display even in the freshman in the program.
"One of my really old coaches said I shouldn’t do wrestling because I’m a girl, so it just drove me to do wrestling more," said freshman Bella Downing. "I’ve just always liked combat because I do jujitsu so that just led me to go do wrestling."
And when it comes to the other wrestlers it couldn’t be more clear how pure their love for the sport is.
"I think my favorite part about it is it’s just like it’s you against one other person," said Anders Thompson. "So if somewhere along the line you lose a match you made a mistake, if that makes sense. So it’s cool to be able to determine your own fate if you win or lose."
Flathead will look to defend both their state titles in February in Billings at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark.