BILLINGS – Jace Rhodes’s goal for the rest of his Billings West High School wrestling career is simple: never lose again.
“Obviously, I took a couple of losses last year, so my main goal is to go undefeated and win state again,” Rhodes said.
“When you win one, it’s easy. When you win two, it’s harder. Winning a third one is even more challenging,” West head coach Jeremy Hernandez said of chasing state wrestling championships. “He has done a tremendous amount of offseason work to put himself in a position to become only the second person in West High history to win three state titles.”
Don’t bet against him. Rhodes ended last season by winning his last five tournaments, and through one tournament this campaign he’s still perfect after taking care of business at the challenging Sidney Invitational last weekend.
“I definitely see myself as a leader,” Rhodes said. “I’ve accomplished some things that other guys in here I know want to. I think I know what gets it done and hopefully if they take after me then hopefully they can get it done for themselves, too.”
“The kid works his butt off, and to have someone like that in the room, that continually works and works and works, other kids see that and emulate what we want in a program — hard-working, hard-nosed kids that want to fight,” said Hernandez.
All that work has paid off with a 37-6 record since the start of last season, including 17 pins.
Rhodes credits most of his success to offseason preparation, but unlike most of his teammates who stayed in shape by playing on West’s state champion football team, Rhodes decided to hit the links.
“My grandpa plays a little bit of golf, and, I don’t know, I kind of like the individual aspect of it, I always have,” Rhodes said, smiling. “So it’s kind of interesting, but it’s a little bit different. But golf you kind of have to stay steady, keep it even keel, keep your mind in it.”
And right now his mind is on one thing: a three-peat.