BILLINGS — In a classification dominated by the likes of Sidney and Havre over the course of the past 30-plus years, Laurel has consistently fought to break down the door.
The Locomotives, though, haven't tasted Class A glory since 2011. Is this the year the drought ends?
They were at least in good position after the first day of the state wrestling tournament Friday at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark. The Locomotives amassed 113 points to jump into the the overall team lead.
Lockwood, with 89 points, and Sidney, with 83 points, round out the top three. Ronan (72.5 points) is in fourth, and defending champ Columbia Falls (69 points) is in fifth.
Laurel advanced eight wrestlers into Saturday's semifinal round on Day 1, as both Emerson Nose and Jonah Casterline at 103 pounds, Elijah Nose at 120, Michael Moorman at 132, Nathaniel Hill at 138, Kade Wersland at 152, Owen Younger at 160 and Beau Mares at 170 all won twice Friday.
"It's going great so far," said Wersland, who advanced to the semis by way of major decision and pin on Friday. "Our coaches are big on us beating guys that have beat us before and we had a lot of those matches today. And the guys that are highers seeds are doing their jobs, winning matches and getting pins.
"Usually our goal is to compete with the top guys or be on the podium, but this year the biggest thing is to take that gold trophy. So far, it's something we can do if we keep it up."
Casterline, the No. 4 seed from the East, pinned the West's top seed, Bigfork's Diego Rodriguez, in the quarterfinals to set up a meeting with teammate Emerson Nose in the 103-pound semis.
Moorman, the East's No. 4, also knocked off a top seed — Whitefish's Landree Aurand — in the 132-pound quarterfinals, while Hill, the East's No. 3, pinned West No. 2 Labron Shooter of Browning in the quarters. East No. 3 Younger beat a No. 2 seed in the 160-pound quarterfinals.
Meanwhile, Laurel's Sebastian Mogan, the East's No. 6 seed at 126 pounds, Levi Love, the East's No. 7 seed at 182, and Brody Van Dyke, the East's No. 5 at heavyweight, all won first-round matches over higher-seeded opponents.
Individually, perhaps the most intriguing weight class is 120 pounds, where defending champ Cole Rogers of Three Forks (which competes at Class A this year) and Ridge Cote of Ronan could clash in the finals.
Elijah Nose, meanwhile, won a title two years ago for Laurel and faces Cote in the semis. Nose beat Cote at the Great Falls CMR tournament.
"We've got a bunch of tough kids at 120," said Cote, whose dad Rocky was a two-time champion and a four-time finalist at Ronan more than two decades ago. "We're all looking for the gold."
Sidney's Reece Graves, a junior with two titles under his belt, rolled into the semifinals at 145 pounds. Lockwood teammates Cole Krutzfeldt (126 pounds) and Brody Ketterling (138) also won twice on Friday in pursuit of consecutive championships.
"My goal was to score a bunch of points in the first two matches," said Krutzfeldt, whose quarterfinal bout resulted in a 16-4 major decision. "So I feel pretty good about going into the semis. Move them and score points. That's pretty much it. I'm just trying to keep it simple."
Isaac Beardsley of Miles City, a prior champion, also wants to climb back to the top of the podium at 138 and is on pace with a berth in the semis where he'll face Laurel's Hill. Libby's Jace DeShazer (205 pounds) and Miles City heavyweight Holden Meged also punched their tickets to the semis as returning champs.
Wrestling will resume at First Interstate Arena on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. with semifinals and consolation quarterfinals. The championship round gets under way with the parade of finalists at 4 p.m.