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Girls' weekend: Eagerness swarms 1st state wrestling tourney

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Posted at 11:28 AM, Feb 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-17 14:08:38-05

BILLINGS -- State tournament wrestling makes its way to the mats Friday on a course Montana has never seen.

The Lockwood Lions recently wasted no time volunteering to host Montana's first-ever state girls wrestling tournament. Athletes and coaches funnel into the area Thursday with matches starting Friday.

Like any growth from ground zero, there's a bit of mystery to how it'll play out.

"I'm interested to see," Billings West head coach Jeremy Hernandez told MTN Sports. "I don't know, we've never had a girls state tournament so we're going into it in the dark. But it'll be run well, I'm excited to see it."

Billings Senior head coach Josh Beeman is also eager to see it. He's helping coach more than a dozen girls with the Broncs this season.

"Hopefully, it comes out just like they want it to," Beeman told MTN Sports. "We have 16 tough girls who have not missed any practices and they've been to absolutely everything possible. They're going to be ready to go."

This year's Broncs are one of the exceptions for such a high number of female wrestlers. Some schools only bring one.

"We have a girl on our team, Alyvia Ruiz," Hernandez said. "So I'll be out there helping her out and seeing how she does. She's excited. She works her butt off in the room and we're glad to have her on our team."

Ruiz weighs in at 103 pounds and due to the number of wrestlers in lower weight classes, the Montana High School Association has adjusted the opening day schedule to balance the number of participants and spectators per session. Friday morning, weight classes between 103-126 pounds will go. Friday afternoon, the 132-205 classes take the mats. The inaugural heavyweight class has only has three wrestlers, meaning they'll hold off until Saturday morning.

Please visit here for brackets, guidelines and the full tournament schedule.

The biggest adjustment from any past Montana state wrestling tournament hits Thursday when no on-site practice is allowed, according to the MHSA. That includes all gyms in the district. The MHSA's reasoning is "liability and the host site having to provide cleaning and sanitation staff outside the normal tournament schedule." Teams are allowed to practice on their own at a private facility, like the hotel.

That limitation likely won't affect the favorites chasing state titles.

"I'm sure there's two or three girls that have been wrestling since they were 4 years old that nobody knows about," Beeman said. "They're going to show up and whip some tail, so you've got to be ready for whoever is there."

One of those is Kaylin Taylor from Great Falls High. In her early days, she'd rock pink hair and a Wonder Woman singlet. Now a freshman for the Bison, she has visions of becoming one of Montana's first four-time female state champs. Taylor won't be in the Wonder Woman singlet this weekend but fans will likely notice her socks.

"I've been wearing rainbow socks for a lot of my tournaments since at least seventh grade, but I have a lot of other crazy socks I like to wear," she said.

Taylor is undefeated against girls this season and notices at least one strategic difference compared to wrestling guys.

"There's different tactics boys and girls use, and I feel like girls are a lot more flexible," she said.

Don't be surprised to see her on the mat when championship matches start Saturday at 3:30 p.m.