BILLINGS — When it was over and coach Ted Hill could finally evaluate Laurel's championship performance Saturday at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark, one thought prevailed.
"A complete and utter team effort," Hill said.
He wasn't exaggerating. Laurel finished the state tournament with one individual state champion but had enough depth to win its first Class A team title since 2011, scoring 192.5 points.
The Locomotives came into the tourney's final day with a solid lead in the team race. But perennially strong Sidney and up-and-coming Lockwood made Laurel sweat for the championship.
At one point Saturday Sidney had vaulted into the lead. But that was short lived, and the Locomotives finally knew they had sewn up the title in the later stages of the finals, at which point Sidney coach Guy Melby and his staff exchanged handshakes with Laurel's crew to congratulate them.
Sidney, which has won 13 titles in its history, placed second with 177 points. Lockwood came in third with 156.
Laurel's lone champion was 152-pounder Kade Wersland, who won with a 3-2 decision of Ronan's Koda King in the finals. Two others made the championship round — Emerson Nose at 103 pounds and Elijah Nose at 120. The Locomotives scored loads of points through the consolation rounds, and finished the tournament with a whopping 23 total pins.
"We kind of just stayed the course, and that's what we've done all year," Hill said. "We stayed consistent and were able to hold it together. But yeah, man, 13 years is a long time coming. Being out of a trophy by a half a point a couple times, it was a little frustrating.
"We needed help from some other teams, too. It just shows you how tough this tournament is, and how tough our division is."
Overall, the 120-pound weight class featured plenty of intrigue, with defending champion Cole Rogers of Three Forks, Laurel's Elijah Nose, a champion from two years ago, and Ronan's Ridge Cote making a title push as well.
Nose pinned Cote in the semis to set up a championship bout with Rogers, who pinned Lockwood's Kona Fandrich in the other semi. Rogers then pinned Nose in the finals to win his third consecutive title.
Rogers' latest championship accomplished a rare feat. He had won his previous two titles at the B-C level, but with the Three Forks-Ennis co-op wrestling at the Class A level this season, Rogers became a champion at two different classifications.
"I'm really glad that I got to do that," Rogers said. "I haven't heard of anybody else who has. I'm sure someone has, but I mean, just to think that I'm one of the very few who have, it's really cool. I feel like I wrestled great. I couldn't feel any better about how I wrestled."
Meanwhile, Libby's Jace DeShazer, at 205 pounds, captured his third consecutive state title with a 12-0 major decision over Miles City's Easton DeJong.
It was the final wrestling match for DeShazer, who is headed to Montana Western to play football. He basked in the moment afterward.
"I feel like I did everything I wanted to," DeShazer said. "I feel so complete with myself. I feel like I achieved every goal I wanted to achieve. I'm really proud. It's a surreal feeling."
Three other returning or previous champions in Class A made it back to the top of the podium Saturday night. Lockwood's Cole Krutzfeldt (126 pounds) repeated with a 13-3 major decision over Sidney's Brenner Mullin, while Miles City's Holden Meged (285) did the same with a 3-1 decision over Havre's Tommy Lewis.
Miles City's Isaac Beardsley, a title winner two years ago, reclaimed first place with a first-period pin of Sidney's Brody Keysor.
"It's just great, because I was sick and I was injured half the year, and I don't have as many matches as everybody else," Beardsley said. "But I finally was able to come back and take it."
Sidney's Tyson Syth won the title at 103 with a pin in 3:51 against Laurel's Emerson Nose. Traic Fainter of Columbia Falls was the 113-pound winner with a pin in 2:25 over Sidney's Gordon Knapp.
Fainter was the Class A quick pin award winner, with four pins in 8:18.
At 132 pounds, Lockwood's Dalton Hinebauch was the champion with a 3-1 decision against Sidney's Aaron Schmitz. Browning's Tahj Wells won the 145-pound title in a 4-3 decision over Columbia Falls Dylan Delorme.
Delorme made the finals with a 6-3 decision in the semis against Sidney's Reece Graves, a junior who was looking for his third straight championship.
Miles Wells of Hardin won the crown at 160. It appeared Wells had been pinned by Columbia Falls' Blaine Cronk, but it was ruled that Wells was out of the circle. Wells later came back to win the title in overtime.
Ronan's Landon Bishop, at 170, reached the top of the podium with a 12-7 decision in the finals against Glendive's Jaden Silha. At 182, Lewistown's Wyatt Elam shook off previous finals disappointment with a title victory over Columbia Falls' Rowdy Crump, a 6-2 decision.
In his third trip to the finals, Elam was able to come out on top.
"It feels really good to get over the hump," Elam said. "I've been working since my sophomore year to be a state champ. And so it's a long time coming. It feels really good to finally get it done."