KALISPELL — Flathead High School has been a powerhouse for wrestling in Montana, and the school has won state championships for both boys and girls in each of the last two years. With the state tournament beginning Friday at First Interstate Arena in Billings, the teams have their eyes set on a three-peat.
"It’s kind of like unreal that I’m part of a team like this," said senior Forest Howell. "The success we have, it’s not even just in-season, out of season, everywhere we go we have guys that are successful."
It's success that is the product of a family-like community atmosphere, something Howell experienced after returning from a torn ACL this year.
"They were there for me, they knew I could do it the whole way, and they really just wanted to see me succeed," said Howell. "And I want to see them succeed and I want to be a part of another one."
Assistant coach Dallas Stuker who’s been coaching for eleven years also knows the tightknit bond is what makes the program so successful.
"The biggest thing I think is just the family atmosphere," said Stuker with a smile. "We do a great job of making sure everybody’s included, making it hard so it can’t be rewarding unless it’s hard. But then also having fun with it too."
With state knocking at the door, Stuker says he’s definitely seen an uptick energy and knows the 20 boys and 18 girls who are competing can’t wait.
"They’re excited to go out and just kind of prove that the hard work they put in is going to pay off for them and just get after it and see what happens," said Stuker.
One senior who only started wrestling last year couldn’t be more grateful that she did.
"The fact that I’m a second year and I’ve had the coaches put so much time and valuable life lessons into me," said Reina Koehler, "it just means a lot for me to be here."
And when it comes to all the new talent that continues to join the program every year Koehler has high hopes.
"I was super excited to see what their potential was and I think that a lot of these girls have a lot of stuff to bring to the table," said Koehler. "And I think that we’re there to show up and take what’s ours.
Flathead will have the chance to secure both three-peats this weekend in Billings.