(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, No. 14 — Kyle Smith.
No. 13 – Jade Rauser, Townsend
Records are meant to be broken. Former Billings Skyview great Beau Malia established himself as one of Montana’s greatest prep wrestlers; finishing his career as one of the Treasure State’s lone four-year undefeated state champions. His 144 consecutive wins was the best ever posted by a Montana athlete (he finished his career with 156 wins, but his lone loss came outside of Montana competition). In 2009, Sidney’s Beau Melby won his 166th match – also good for the top spot in the MHSA record books. However, in 2011 another rare wrestler came along and re-wrote the record books – Townsend’s Jade Rauser.
Jade Rauser stat sheet
Rauser began his wrestling career around the age of four, traveling across the country competing with his twin brother Val. After capturing numerous youth titles, Rauser joined the Townsend program his freshman season and history would soon be made.
As a freshman, Rauser worked his way through competition and entered the state tournament with an undefeated record. There was one close match along the way – Rauser trailed 5-0 and rallied for a 9-5 victory, showing coaches and fans a glimpse of determination that would continue throughout his career.
At the state tournament, Rauser earned an opening-round fall in just 0:26 and continued pinning opponents in the 98-poound class. His 15-0 technical fall victory in the championship gave him his first prep title. Brother Val would finish first at 105 pounds.
The following season Rauser again pinned his way to the state title bout, this time at 105 pounds. After pinning Jaren Van Dyke in the championship, he had pinned all three of his opponents in a combined time of 3:45. One weight class up, Val finished runner-up to eventual four-time champion Luke Zeiger of Glasgow.
Rauser’s win streak had caught the attention of wrestling fans across the state and the region and he continued to add to his legacy with a quarterfinal pinfall victory his junior year in only 0:14. Rauser’s 11-0 major decision over Glasgow’s Braden Hallock in the 119-pound championship added him to the list of Montana’s great three-time state champions.
Rauser again defeated Hallock in the 119-pound championship his senior season, capping his career with a perfect 175-0 record – the longest win streak in Montana’s history. Fans and wrestlers each offered one of the greatest ovations in state tournament history.
Val would finish as a three-time champion for the Bulldogs.
Outside of Townsend, Rauser was breaking national records as well. A gold medalist at the Pan Am Games in Nicaragua, he would become the first wrestler in history to capture an elusive triple crown – winning national championships in freestyle, folkstyle and Greco-Roman.
Rauser continued his career at Utah Valley University and posted a 15-4 record as a redshirt before earning his first trip to the NCAA Championships the following season, the first freshman in UVU history to do so. His 1-2 record at the NCAAs set the bar for seasons to come.
As a sophomore he again qualified for the NCAA Championships and was named second team all-Western Wrestling Conference and finished runner-up at the NCAA West Regional/WWC Championships in the 125-pound weight class.
Rauser again made Utah Valley history as a junior, becoming the first three-time NCAA Qualifier in program history. His 22-8 overall record led him to a conference title and first team all-conference selection. At the NCAAs he earned a first round upset over all-American Mason Beckman of Lehigh before dropping his final two matches for a 1-2 overall record.
Utah Valley would watch Rauser earn his first all-American honor as a senior after his fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Championships, breaking his own record in the process. He earned an automatic trip to the NCAAs after finishing third at the Big 12 Championships. Rauser fell in his opening match to the No. 2 wrestler in the 133-pound bracket, but won four straight matches to secure his all-American status with an eighth place finish.
His 77 wins rank fifth in Utah Valley program history. He is currently a youth development coach in Utah.
… on Jade Rauser:
Townsend wrestling coach John O’Dell:
“You could list his accolades all day long. He was amazing. That just showed his diversity on the mat, he could wrestle any style and to be able to win all those tournaments was amazing.
“All great wrestlers wrestled as much as they can and (the Rauser kids) wrestled 12 months per year and sacrificed a lot of fishing and camping time and that made them great wrestlers. Jade was so diverse because he would wrestle all over the country and there weren’t a lot of tricks he didn’t know were coming.
“(His fourth state championship) was special. We were trying to get him beat his junior year and sophomore year but once it got to be Christmas of his senior year then I didn’t want him to get beat anymore. From the CMR Holiday Classic on there was a lot of pressure on him and it was weighing on him. Once we got to the state meet we didn’t want that to be where he lost so it was relief and then joy. He was pretty happy.
“Every year at the NCAAs our high school slows down that day and we stopped and watched every match this year on an 80-inch flat screen. The whole school came and watched because it meant a lot for our whole school and the community and it was something I was hoping he would get and that’s such a hard thing to be an all-American at the Division I level. He had no doubt in his mind and he rolled through that wrestle-back and it was amazing.”