GREAT FALLS — The first day of practice is always something to look forward to, but when the defending Class AA wrestling champs at Great Falls High returned to the mats this week, there was a noticeably different energy.
“Monday was amazing, I was like a kid at a candy store,” second-year head coach Luis Carranza said. “It was awesome being back in the room. Kids were excited, they were happy to be back. We’re just going to take it day by day, because we know it can get shut down at any moment.”
Practice looks a lot different this year. Normally the wrestling room would be full of athletes running drills. But due to COVID-19 protocols, mat time is cut in half.
“It’s completely changed, we have to follow the 25 people per room, per facility,” Carranza said. “So, right now we’re running two groups, a heavier weight group and a lighter weight group. Both groups are getting some wrestling time, some conditioning time and some weight lifting time, so it’s building on my philosophy of being strong. That kind of helps out.”
Though the season will consist of only duals, the Bison are once again eyeing a AA title. Great Falls High returns a pair of two-time State AA individual champs in seniors Elijah Davis and Ethan DeRoche.
In total, the Bison return nine wrestlers who placed at the state tournament. In addition to Davis and DeRoche - Aaron Liscum (4th, 103 pounds), Irish Furthmyre (5th, 126 pounds), Mason Huber (4th, 145 pounds), Brendan Lockhart (3rd, 160 lbs), Payton Gonser (6th, 160 pounds) and Liam Swanson (3rd, 182 pounds) are back in the room.
“Goals are always going to be the same, just compete to the best of our ability, get better every day, hopefully the end result will be there,” Carranza said. “If it happens, great. If not, we’re just going to do everything we can to be ready for that day.”
There’s also a new addition to the coaching staff. Shonn Roberts enters the wrestling room with a sterling pedigree. He was a three-time MHSA state champion at Columbia Falls before an all-American career at the University of Providence.
“I always wanted to give back to the sport that gave so much to me,” Roberts said. “I’ve known Luis since my recruitment process at UGF. I feel like it’s a high-level coaching staff and a bunch of good guys, so glad to be a part of it.”
Carranza says Roberts’ experience is a welcome presence for the Bison.
“He’s young, full of energy, chomping at the bit, he’s already getting familiar with the kids, diving in, showing them his stuff,” Carranza said. “It’s a huge asset to have him here in our room and we’re going to use him to our advantage.”
Great Falls High won’t start competition until after the new year.