(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, No. 12 — Scott Barrett, No. 11 — Gary Albright, No. 10 — Turk Lords, No. 9 — Larry Quisel, No. 8 — Tyrel Todd.
No. 7 – Reese Andy, Billings Skyview
Every coach can point to the one athlete they knew they could count on – that individual that would give it his or her all, using their competitive nature to battle until the final horn sounded. A fair number of Montana wrestlers have shown this dedication and competitive spirit, but few more than Reese Andy.
Reese Andy stat sheet
Andy burst on to the Montana wrestling scene as a freshman qualifying for his first Class AA state championship match in the 98-pound weight class. On the other side of the bracket was another freshman in Great Falls High star Bill Zadick. Andy finished runner-up in that 1988 showdown, but it would serve as motivation for the rest of his prep career.
As a sophomore, he competed in the 105-pound class and again made a run to the championship match, winning his first individual title.
Andy made a significant jump as a junior, moving from the lightweights to the 145-pound weight class. The vault made no difference in his win-loss record. He continued living up to his high expectations, capturing the 145-pound title and becoming a back-to-back state champion in the historic Skyview program.
His senior season, Andy again jumped weight classes, participating in the 160-pound event. He capped his prep career with an 11-4 decision over Missoula Big Sky’s Moe Johnson in the championship bout, becoming the 34th three-time champion in Montana’s history and the first from Billings Skyview.
Throughout his high school career, coach Rich Malia and other Skyview wrestling members would travel to tournaments across the country. One of Andy’s biggest accomplishments was a win at the ‘Best in the West’ championships in California, where he bested some of the top elite talent in the western United States.
Despite offers from NCAA wrestling powerhouses, Andy chose to stay close to home and attend the University of Wyoming. The decision would benefit both the Skyview grad and the Cowboys.
Andy won three Western Athletic Conference wrestling championships from 1994-1996 and was named the league’s most outstanding wrestler in each of those campaigns. As a sophomore in ’94 he made a run through the NCAA Championships, finishing second in the nation at 177 pounds. He defeated the No. 1 wrestler in the country during his journey to the finals and captured is first all-American honor.
The following season, after another WAC championship, Andy suffered a rib injury in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships, but still managed a 4-3 record, sixth-place finish and all-American campaign.
His senior season, Andy again won the WAC’s 177-pound championship and became a three-time NCAA qualifier. He again qualified for the NCAA finals, becoming the only Montana athlete to be a two-time NCAA finalist. His runner-up finish was good for his third all-American season, joining Dick Ballinger as the only three-time all-Americans in Cowboy wrestling history. Andy also became one of only five Wyoming NCAA finalists.
He currently ranks 13th in UW history for career wins, after posting a record of 110 wins and 29 losses, including a 38-4 campaign his senior season. His 17-second victory by pin in 1995 is tied for the eighth-fastest in UW history and he also ranks eleventh in single-season wins with the 38 his senior season. He was selected to compete in the Collegiate Wrestling all-star match in 1995.
His efforts led the Cowboys to second-place finishes in the WAC each year, and 22nd, 27thand 15th-place finishes at the NCAA Championships. He was one of three UW all-Americans in 1996.
Andy was named the Everett Lantz Most Outstanding Wrestler each year with the program and was inducted into the Wyoming athletics hall of fame in 2004. The 1997 Montana AAU Little Sullivan winner tried his hand in mixed martial arts, appearing in two Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) matches in 2008.
… on Reese Andy
Former Billings Skyview head wrestling coach Rich Malia: “Thinking about Reese, the two things that stick out in my mind are, number one, he was extremely technically sound. One of the things you worry about as a coach and as a dad, is the burnout factor. There are so many tournaments kids can go to and seasons are long, then you have the summers and stuff, it’s hard to determine how much is too much for a kid. But Reese was a unique guy in that, I don’t think you could burn him out. He could not get enough. Even in college where a lot of guys need a break, but Reese was hungry for it. He’s unique to the fact that I don’t think you could have burnt him out because he loved it so much.
“The second thing is, besides state tournaments, we would travel and go to California and even at the college level, he had a composure that was second to none. I never ever saw him panic in a match. No matter if he was in junior high or high school or even the college level, he was just so much in control that you couldn’t tell if he was seven points ahead or four points behind, it was all the same. You just don’t see that and obviously, that’s why he’s a two-time NCAA finalist, because of that confidence and composure that he had.
“When Reese was younger, we obviously had older kids around the program and he was near them at clubs and camps, and he would ask, ‘Hey, can you show me this or that?’ and he would even come back to our room and say, ‘Hey coach, check this out. Here’s something I picked up at a camp or something I picked up this summer.’ He was really a student of wrestling and wanted to add as many things to his arsenal as possible. He was one of those kids that when he went to a camp, he wasn’t just there to fill time, he was really trying to pick up things. When we had a kid that was more experienced, an older kid in the high school room, he would get with them and say, ‘Hey can you show me this? Can you help me with this?’ He was constantly trying to improve and it made him an elite kid.
“He was a three-time state champion and probably in any other weight class would have been a four-time state champion, but the match he had in the finals was against Billy Zadick, who is obviously one of the greatest wrestlers who came out of our state. Those guys, I think they had three matches their freshmen year and they were classics to watch. Reese won a match and I think Billy beat him twice and obviously, Billy won in the state finals. Those were classic matches.
“The funny thing is, nothing against Wyoming at all, but I think Reese had opportunities to go to the Iowa’s and Nebraska’s and Iowa State’s, some of those bigger colleges were interested in him, but being in Montana I don’t think he got the exposure. He did a lot of different tournaments and placed at national tournaments, so people knew who he was, but I think he felt comfortable with Wyoming, they were happy to have him. Nothing surprised you with Reese because of the level of confidence he had, but it’s a tremendous accomplishment to be in the NCAA finals twice.”