BILLINGS – The Sidney Eagle Invitational is one of the most difficult early-season wrestling tournaments Montana has to offer.
Twenty-three top wrestling teams from four states are headed to Sidney this week, including all of the Class AA schools from Billings. That includes a Billings West squad that was disappointed with its 10th-place finish at state a year ago.
This is a new year and this group of Golden Bears are eager to prove they will now be a state force.
Jace Rhodes is a two-time state champion and is looking to make school history with a third. His run toward the top starts Friday in Sidney.
“Kind of a litmus test for what the rest of the year has to come,” Rhodes said. “Just keep doing what we’re doing or put in more work or kind of slow down a little bit. We’ll see what happens, but I think we definitely have a good shot to open some eyes.”
Best of all, the Bears now believe they have the perfect mix of young and veteran talent. West returns Rhodes as well as two-time state placer Levi Malcolm. The two stars are now going to make it a family affair. Malcolm’s brother Zac is a freshman and will wrestle at 205 pounds this season, while Jace will welcome in Drake Rhodes. The younger Rhodes will lead the way at 113 pounds.
It’s all of that young talent that has sophomore RJ Lowdog excited. Lowdog himself is quite the talent, coming off a state appearance as a freshman.
“I think we’ll do good as a team to where everybody could pretty much win it if we wanted to,” Lowdog said. “We just have to try. If I were to win Sidney, I believe that I could win everything.”
Coach Jeremy Hernandez is excited to see where his team stands at this point in the early season.
“It’s a good, good tournament,” Hernandez said. “We love going to that tournament, because we practice 10-11 days against each other, beat each other up a little bit, it’s nice to go wrestle someone actually not on your team and put a little more force on them and just see what you’ve done and how well you’re doing.”
The West Golden Bears will travel to Butte later in December for one last tournament before the Christmas break.