COLSTRIP — One of Montana’s top-ranked wrestlers will head to the Division I ranks next year.
Colstrip senior Nakoda Siegel, last year’s Montana Class B-C champion at 170 pounds, has given his commitment to Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina. He and coaches confirmed the commitment to MTN Sports on Thursday evening.
“They flew me out there Sunday (Nov. 4), right after the game in Big Timber, so I went to Billings Saturday night and they flew me out,” Siegel said Friday morning. “(The team) was actually at the Hokie Open (at Virgina Tech), so I didn’t see them until next day, but they took me out for breakfast, showed me around campus. I’m looking into (majoring in) physical therapy and they have an awesome facility, it’s pretty sweet.”
One of Montana’s highest wrestling recruits this winter, Siegel says the coaching staff, a who’s who of former wrestlers, helped secure the commitment to join the Fighting Camels’ program. Head coach Cary Kolat, a former United States national champion and Olympic team member, is in his fifth season as the head coach at Campbell, sending a program-record five student-athletes to the 2017 NCAA Championships.
The Camels’ coaching staff also boasts a two-time national champion and three-time all-American in Dean Heil, two-time all-American in Scotti Sentes and three-time national runner-up Mike Evans.
Each member of the staff brings a different dynamic, and Siegel sees each improving his own skills.
“I love the coaching staff. Head coach Cary Kolat, every wrestler knows who he is, or they should know who he is,” Siegel said of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame member. “Mike Evans, he used to help run some camps out west and he’s going to be my main coach. He works with higher-ups and they’re planning to wrestle me at 174 (pounds). The head assistant, Scott (Sentes), I really like him. Two-time national champ Dean Heil is also on coaching staff. There wasn’t anything I didn’t like, if that makes sense? I loved everything about it. They’re an up-and-coming program with a phenomenal coaching staff. They gave me a good deal and I couldn’t say no.”
The transition from Colstrip to North Carolina will admittedly be challenging, but a familiar face in the Camels’ wrestling room, former Colstrip four-time state champion Clayton Currier, will help Siegel feel right at home.
“I miss him. He’s a goofy kid, but I am so excited to start wrestling with him. We’re cousins and I think it would be sweet for us, at the highest stage of wrestling, NCAA Division I, that two kids from Montana could be in the line-up and do some damage nationwide,” Siegel said. “(Currier) hasn’t said much, he was just excited I was coming. I already know what to expect (at the next level) because I’ve been around college rooms. Completely different level. You can’t expect to get in here and be dominant because you’ll get worked. I fully expect that with this jump. I think you have to love wrestling, to go do it on the biggest stage, you have to love it. It’s so far away from home, too, so you have to love the sport. I do, I love this sport.”
Former Lewistown state champion and four-time finalist Caleb Birdwell is also a member of the Campbell wrestling program.
Excitement continues to build since Siegel made the decision to join Campbell, but he does admit work remains in Colstrip, specifically defending the Colts’ Class B team championship from last February. Colstrip totaled an impressive 196 team points at the state tournament, riding four individual state champions — Siegel at 170, Merlin Whitedirt in the heavyweight bracket, Ty Bradley at 152 pounds and Jackson Currier at 138. The Colts also saw then-sophomore Trey Yates finish runner-up in the 205-pound bracket.
Cody Blaede placed third at 160 pounds.
The roster is reloaded for this winter, though Siegel’s status is currently up in the air after an ACL injury in the Colts’ final regular season football game of the year against Baker. However, wrestlers have competed with similar injuries in the past, so does Siegel plan to join his teammates in pursuit of back-to-back state titles?
“Absolutely. The strange part is, the only thing that tore, usually you tear your meniscus and other things, but I just tore the ACL and sprained my MCL, which is fine now,” he said. “It’s feeling really good. Not sure what I can do on it yet, but I’m going to try to wrestle. I’m just not going to completely push it to the brink.”
“What I really want to do is get back-to-back, I don’t think Colstrip has done it, he continued. “We’re looking pretty tough. We have a bunch of good freshmen filling lower weights, so we’re looking at filling the whole line-up. I don’t think we’ve done that this well since Colstrip was Class A. All of us wrestlers, we’ve been traveling together since we were three. Ty Bradley, Jackson Currier, they won state titles (last season). Trey Yates took second. Cody Blaede (placed third). We’re all super close. I would just hate to miss out on that.”
Colstrip has won two of the last three Class B wrestling titles and three of five dating back to the 2014 season. Siegel earned a fourth-place finish his sophomore year at 152 pounds, a runner-up finish for the Colts’ team, then clinched his first state title last winter.
With his college decision behind him and an ACL injury quickly healing, don’t be surprised to see him chase another pair of titles, individual and team, this February in Billings.
Excited to announce that I will be continuing my academic and wrestling career at Campbell University! Thank you for all the support that I’ve got on this journey so far. #rollhumps 🐪 pic.twitter.com/q4MjYNkDc2
— Nakoda James Siegel (@koda_siee) November 9, 2018