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State B-C wrestling: Huntley Project rolls to title on historic final day

State wrestling championship matches
Posted at 9:50 PM, Feb 10, 2024

BILLINGS — From the start of the state wrestling tournament Friday morning to its completion Saturday night, Huntley Project never swayed from its place at the pinnacle of Class B-C.

The Red Devils cruised to their third consecutive state championship at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark, rolling up 206 total team points to easily surpass the field. Eureka, with 124 points, placed second while Conrad, with 103.5 points, came in third.

RESULTS: 2024 CLASS B-C BOYS STATE WRESTLING

Project advanced nine wrestlers into the morning semifinal round and then put six into the finals, where 113 pounder Blake Ramaeker, 120 pounder Baylor Burton and 160 pounder Hayden Ramaeker won individual titles.

"The boys competed hard every match all weekend. Even the matches that we lost we came out and gave it all we could," said 15th-year Project coach Tim Kaczmarek. "That's all I ask as a coach — compete hard and see what happens."

For Burton, it was his second consecutive championship. He defeated another returning champion, Eureka's Timothy Schmidt, 1-0 in the 120-pound finals. Burton also defeated Schmidt 1-0 in a match earlier in the season.

Blake Ramaeker, meanwhile, became the first eighth grader in state history to win gold with an 8-0 major decision over Forsyth's Trey Starcher. Hayden Ramaeker trailed late in the third period of his match against Cut Bank's Alex Wahl but scored a pin with three seconds left to prevail.

PHOTOS: BOYS WRESTLING STATE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCHES

But the team championship was locked up before the finals even began. Kaczmarek said the Red Devils' goal was to reach 22 total pins. They came close, finishing with 20.

Burton said the Red Devils wrestled "amazing. Nine in the semis, six in the finals, we had the team score wrapped up ... amazing."

The third consecutive team championship marks the longest run of state tourney success for Project since it won four in a row between 1986 and 1989.

But that wasn't the only bit of history that was made Saturday: Blake Ramaeker, of course, etched his name into the narrative as the only eighth grader to win gold regardless of class (eighth graders were allowed to compete in varsity sports beginning last season).

"Blake's a hard worker," Kaczmarek said. "He puts the time in, he works hard every day, he lives life right, he lives in the weight room. He's still got a lot of growing to do and I'm excited for him. He'll put the work in to do what he's got to do."

Of the four wrestlers that came in looking to win consecutive championships in B-C, Burton and Baker's Riley Davis repeated the feat. Davis earned a 7-4 decision over Forsyth's Payne Reilly in the 132-pound finals.

As for the others, Eureka's Schmidt fell to Burton at 120 and Thompson Falls' Max Hannum was bested by Fairfield's McCoy Banner in the 182-pound final by a 6-3 decision.

Banner and Hannum had wrestled four times previously, with them splitting two wins apiece. Banner, though, took the fifth and final bout. When it was over, Banner fell to the mat in satisfaction.

"Relief," Banner said, describing his post-match reaction. "I've been wrestling forever and this is really a full-circle moment for me. Max is an awesome wrestler. I wouldn't be as good as I am without him. He's really pushed me to be better than I was. This year I came a long way."

Cut Bank's Richard Schmidt won the 103-pound title 6-1 over Huntley Project's Ethan Reynolds, while Choteau's Asher Clayton won at 126 with a first-period pin of Conrad's Blaine VanDyke.

Kanon Branch of Cut Bank was the 145-pound champion with an 8-4 decision over Shepherd's Tyler Niles. Khye Gamas of Glasgow got an 2-1 overtime win over Huntley Project's Grady Schmidt to win the 152-pound title.

Conrad's Christopher Graham pinned Eureka's Caden Pecora in the third period to capture the crown at 170. Brady Armstrong of Jefferson got a first-period pin of Wesley Banks of Eureka in the 205-pound final, while Anaconda's Aiden Miller scored a 10-0 major decision over Project's Spencer Higareda to win the 285-pound crown.

Jefferson's Armstrong was the B-C quick pin award winner, scoring four pins in the tournament in a total of 8:40.

State wrestling championship matches
Forsyth’s wrestlers pose for pictures with the Class C trophy after the finals of the state wrestling tournament at First Interstate Arena in Billings on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024.

The Class C team championship trophy went to Forsyth, which scored 61 points to earn a spot on the podium in its first year as a Class C school.

The Dogies had previously won four state titles in program history, including three in a row from 2011-13.

"I remind them all the time, 'Forsyth is on your singlets. We're tough,'" said coach Ben Reilly. "Just keep on grinding away. We've got to get better every day and right here, this weekend, it paid off."