BUTTE — Jeff Queer had to wait three years to reach his dream.
The Butte High senior has spent all four of his high school years in the heavyweight bracket at the Montana Class AA state wrestling championships, falling in the consolation bracket as a freshman, finishing runner-up as a sophomore and capturing the elusive title as a junior.
Queer became the easy favorite to repeat as the 285-pound champion this season, but with numerous opponents also returning — runner-up Levi Malcolm of Billings West, Michael Lee and Alex Paull of Kalispell Flathead — he knows the target on his back has only grown larger.
“Oh yeah. Everybody wants to come after me now because I’m the one everybody needs to beat to win. I guess I do, I feel like I have that target,” he said.
Many student-athletes would be excited to reach the pinnacle of Montana’s prep wrestling. While Queer was happy with his title, he felt there was still something to prove.
“I mean, it was great but it wasn’t as great as I thought it would be. I wasn’t really satisfied, which is why I went on to a couple of national tournaments. I worked my (butt) off, but I wasn’t really successful at those, I couldn’t quite get it done.
Top-ranked, undefeated and admittedly “pissed off” at how those national competitions ended, Queer enters Friday and Saturday’s state tournament looking to make a statement. The extra motivation, though likely unnecessary, could give fans even more to cheer for.
“I’ll just go out there expecting to wrestle (hard),” said Queer. “I can’t really underestimate any of them, but you don’t want to overestimate any of them either. Just go out there, warmed up and ready to wrestle.”
Ready to make that statement as well.
Queer opens the state tournament Friday morning against Helena Capital’s Jake Slagel. Kalispell Flathead senior Alex Paull is on the same side of the bracket as Queer, while Malcolm and Lee, the defending runner-up and third-place finisher, respectively, are on the opposite side.