(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.
No. 15 – Chris Nedens, Hardin
From the time wrestling became a sanctioned sport in Montana through the turn of the century, only a handful of Treasure State athletes had captured four consecutive wrestling championships. Only one, Jim Darlington, had won those individual titles by starting at a weight class above 112 pounds. That changed from 1998 through 2001 with Hardin’s Chris Nedens.
Chris Nedens stat sheet
The 11th four-time champion in Montana high school wrestling history, Nedens began his career at 119 pounds and won at three different weight classes, capturing first at 130 pounds his sophomore season and winning twice at 140 pounds. The only four-time champion between 1997 and 2004, Nedens put together a dominant high school mark of 135 wins and only one loss, which came during his freshman season against Colstrip great Travis Taylor (a 16-15 decision).
His 108 straight wins at Hardin rank sixth all-time in Treasure State history. He became the first prep wrestler to win four titles at the Miles City Cowboy Invitational and was named most outstanding wrestler at Billings Skyview, Butte and Belgrade tournaments.
Nedens left his mark on the national stage, earning various all-American honors before continuing his dominance in college. As a 141-pound grappler at North Idaho Junior College, Nedens was victorious in the NJCAA national championships and was named Most Outstanding Wrestler in 2003. He was also named North Idaho’s male athlete of the year.
Nedens told MTN Sports during his senior season of high school it was his dream to wrestle for a Division I school and win a national championship. Half of those dreams would come true when Nedens joined the wrestling program at Nebraska.
In 2001, Nedens won three individual titles at open tournaments and posted a 25-4 record for the Cornhuskers – only three teammates had more wins on the year. He, along with teammates Jacob Klein and B.J. Padden, shared the program’s redshirt of the year honors in 2002.
Nedens appeared to be on his way to great things for the Huskers, but a neck injury forced him to sit out the 2003-04 season and he would not wrestle a single match in ’04-05.
… on Nedens:
Havre High wrestling coach Scott Filius: “The big thing with Chris was he never broke position. As a young kid he wanted to wrestle the best kids around. We would go to camps in the summer and train for junior national camps and he would find the toughest kids in the room and bang heads. On the national stage he was always going back and forth with the best kids in the country.
“He was a Fargo all-American several times. I was back there with him all the times he went and I’m pretty sure his junior and senior year he was a Fargo all-American in freestyle twice and Greco-Roman once. I’m not sure of his places, but he was trading blows with the best kids in the country.
“He was just wide open. I remember the one year he had (Caleb) Schaeffer in the finals and he was out there on a swollen ankle, it was just huge. He hobbled out there and opened a can of whoop ass. He was such a competitor when the lights were on. I had some really good kids and he put knots on their heads.
“Of all the kids I’ve watched in Montana, Mike Zadick and Chris Nedens were the most dominating four-timers I’ve seen. I know there were other good ones and some who went undefeated, I know Ben Stroh had a streak of 100, and I don’t mean to step on anybody’s toes, but those two just flat dominated kids — the best kids in the state and a large state region and the national stage.”