BILLINGS — Only three legendary wrestling coaches own more state championships than Guy Melby — hall of fame coaches Jim Street of Butte (14) and Missoula Sentinel’s Jug Beck (12), and Class A rival Scott Filius (12) of Havre.
Melby has seen his share of titles, winning eight Class A championships at Sidney High School, but it seemed the Eagles were due.
“We had probably a 12-, 13-year hiatus where we took a couple of seconds and a couple of thirds, but there isn’t anything like this,” Melby said Saturday night, after his Eagles wrapped up the State A title for the ninth time. “It’s nice to be back in the saddle again and win it. We’re young and we have a lot of kids coming up, so I don’t think we’re going anywhere.”
That’s tough news for the rest of Class A to hear. Melby, who captured his 500th career dual win this season, has rejuvenated the Sidney program and brought back the state-championship mentality it held for so long.
Sidney has been a mainstay in at least the top five of the State A tournament over the years, but suffered an unusual 2017, placing outside the top 10. That didn’t sit well with Melby, the coaching staff and especially the wrestlers themselves, who set a goal and completed it, by winning the team title this weekend.
“It’s well-deserved. This team, I might have told you this before, but last year after the state tournament we had a sour taste in our mouth and Monday after the state tournament, we started lifting and didn’t stop until this Wednesday,” Melby said. “These guys have worked hard and paid their dues and they deserve to be state champs. That’s the way this works. They worked harder than probably any team I’ve had.”
“It helps a lot. The difference between here and last year, just putting in work, pushing ourselves, it really makes a difference and you can see that on and off the mat,” added Sidney heavyweight Ryan Horner.
Horner was one of two individual champions for the Eagles, joining 103-pound Kaiden Cline in becoming the 60th and 61st state champions under Melby’s tutelage, according to the Montana High School Association.
“Oh, it’s so much fun. I feel so good right now,” Horner said. “I feel like it’s a dream come true, truthfully. Words can’t describe how happy me and the team are.”
“That’s nice. I tell these guys all the time, ‘There’s one guy in each weight class that leaves happy. The rest of them have some disappointment,’” added Melby. “It takes a little bit of the chip off with us winning (the team championship.) We came in here with 17 (wrestlers) and still had 15 guys this morning, then we end up placing 11. That’s pretty incredible.”
Twelve years of waiting, pent-up frustration and even anxiousness all celebrated in one worthwhile night. Yes, Sidney wrestling is back and ready to stay where it believes it belongs — at the top.