BILLINGS — The prospect of knocking Huntley Project from its perch atop the Class B-C wrestling summit remains ambitious — if not altogether dubious.
Things couldn't have gone much better for the Red Devils on Friday during the first day of the state wrestling tournament at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark. The two-time reigning B-C champions went 14-0 in the first round, then put nine wrestlers into Saturday's semifinals to jump out to a massive lead.
Project piled up 112 team points on Day 1 to distance itself from second-place Conrad (53.5 points), third-place Eureka (53 points) and everyone else.
Ethan Reynolds (103 pounds), Blake Ramaeker (113), Baylor Burton (120), Huntly Harp (126), Derek Lachenmeier (145), Grady Schmidt (152), Hayden Ramaeker (160), Tucker Kaczmarek (170) and Spencer Higareda (heavyweight) all advanced to the semis for the Red Devils, giving the team plenty of opportunity to accumulate another swath of points on Saturday.
Burton, a junior, kept alive his hope of winning a second straight individual title at 120, while Reynolds and Blake Ramaeker — who wrestled for a grand total of 2 minutes, 40 seconds on Friday — are contributing to Huntley Project as eighth graders.
Beyond that, Huntley Project had 16 pins between the first round and the quarterfinals.
"That's huge to start the tournament and get some momentum going," said 15th-year Red Devils coach Tim Kaczmarek. "A lot of bonus points. That's our goal. You want to get pins and majors and tech falls, and coming back (Saturday) hopefully we can do that again."
Still, Kaczmarek guarded against complacency, saying "it's not over by any means. We've got to keep winning matches and keep getting bonus points and kind of help ourselves out for tomorrow."
Aside from Burton — who had two pins Friday — Class B-C features three other individuals vying for consecutive titles.
Eureka's Timothy Schmidt could to do it again at 120 pounds, though he and Burton are on pace to clash in the finals Saturday. Schmidt marched into the semis with two pins of his own.
Baker 132-pounder Riley Davis was a two-time winner on Friday, positioning himself for a run at a second straight championship. Thinking back to his title run a year ago, Davis would love to feel that rush again.
"It made a lot of dreams come true," said Davis, a senior. "To do it again it would just mean the world."
At 182 pounds, Thompson Falls Max Hannum also stayed true in his pursuit of a second title. Hannum recorded two pins Friday in a total of 3:03 to march into the semifinals.
Hannum said the quest for a repeat has proven a bit more difficult, but he's staying true to the formula that's always worked for him.
"I'd definitely say it's harder to win your second one because there's a lot more people after you," he said. "But you just have to focus. No distractions. It's a warrior mindset; a champion's mindset."
The tournament resumes 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.