(Editor’s note: MTN Sports began recognizing some of the best wrestlers in Montana history on Jan. 16 with the launch of the #MTTop20. Athletes will continue to be featured until Friday, Feb. 10 when No. 1 is unveiled.)
Top 20 rankings: No. 20 – Jarrett Degen; No. 19 – Luke Weber, No. 18 — Ben Stroh, No. 17 — Curtis Owen, No. 16 — Chris Currier.
The #MTTop20, MontanaSports.com list recognizing the best wrestlers ever to come out of Montana, has already included the state’s all-time wins leader and the state’s consecutive pins leader.
And we haven’t even broke into the top 15 yet.
Needless to say, many great grapplers have graced the Montana mats. Wrestling produces as many or more Division I athletes as any other high school sport in the Treasure State, and those athletes find success at the highest collegiate level and beyond. The top 20 will reveal some of the great wrestlers who got their starts in Montana.
There, of course, will be some notable exclusions from the top 20, so a list of honorable mention athletes will be included around the time the No. 1 wrestler is unveiled on Feb. 10. Five wrestlers, though, stand out — too good to be honorable mentions and just outside of the top 20.
The following five wrestlers just missed the #MTTop20; call them Nos. 21-25, though they are listed alphabetically.
Matt Campbell, Havre/Missoula Hellgate
Campbell was a four-time state champion in Montana, splitting his titles between Havre and Hellgate from 1979 to 1982. He wrestled at Nebraska, earning letters in 1983 and 1984 when he qualified for the NCAA Wrestling Championship.
Evan Hinebauch, Chinook/Havre
Hinebauch won three state titles at Havre in 2005 (160 pounds), 2006 (171)and 2007 (189), and placed his freshman year at Chinook. He continued wrestling in college at MSU-Northern, earning all-America honors four times and winning one NAIA national championship.
Beau Malia, Billings Skyview
The Malias are a household wrestling name out of Billings, and Beau, who graduated from Skyview in 2004, was one of the best. He won four state championships wrestling for the Falcons, losing only one match — at a tournament in Washington — in high school. He continued his wrestling career at Oregon, but the Ducks dropped the program after his junior year.
Nels Nelson, Whitehall/Dillon
Nelson reached the championship match all four years of high school, claiming three state titles. He continued his wrestling career at Boise State, where he was an NCAA all-American at 150 pounds and in 1992 and a two-time Pac-10 champion (1991 and 1992).
Dan Troupe, Kalispell Flathead
Troupe was a three-time state placer at Flathead before embarking on an impressive career. He was a two-time NCAA all-American at 190 pounds at Iowa State, a two-time Junior World Greco-Roman champion (1989 and 1995), and a three-time qualifier for the Olympic Trials. Troupe coached the program at MSU-Northern from 2005-2008.