GREAT FALLS — Sometimes at practice, sophomore Elijah Davis takes on multiple opponents at once. And it takes about four or five freshmen to finally bring him down.
“That’s just sometimes how I warm up sometimes as a joke,” Davis said. “It’s fun to mess around with the freshmen.”
Davis is strong. He’s the anchor of the Bison wrestling team at 182 pounds and is often called upon to move up a weight class, where he’s shown a knack for taking down bigger wrestlers.
“I practice a lot over the summer, but I have a lot of things to clean up,” he said. “Getting in competitions, I’ve just gotten better throughout the year.”
Davis was injured for much of last year and missed out on a spot at the state tournament. So the first time many casual wrestling fans might have heard his name was a few weeks ago when he claimed a title at the Jug Beck Rocky Mountain Classic in Missoula, when he avenged a loss to Columbia Falls star Colten McPhee.
“It was kind of surreal, I was going up against a kid that I lost to,” Davis said. “And I did everything that we practiced and it worked.”
Davis hopes it’s just the start of things to come. He didn’t start wrestling until the seventh grade, and he got good quick.
“Elijah started in middle school,” said Great Falls High coach Steve Komac. “He started traveling with us, and his work ethic is just making that rise very fast. He has talent and strength and toughness.”
It’s not just winning that motivates the talented sophomore. Davis lost his father, Mike Davis, to a heart ailment in December of 2015, before Elijah started wrestling.
“I don’t think about him before every match,” Elijah said. “But when we get to Fargo (N.D.) and nationals, and other big tournaments I think that it would be cool if he was there.”
Wrestling is a release.
“In a way, yeah, it’s more of a way to kind of cope with everything,” Davis said. “There’s no other sport that’s really as fair. You do your work, and you don’t count on anyone else, you go out and you compete.”
Davis isn’t the only talented sophomore in the Bison wrestling room. He trains with one of the state’s top heavyweights in Ethan Deroche.
“Elijah Davis, I made him better, he’s making me better,” Deroche said.
The big man also claimed a title at the Jug Beck classic, picking up a 5-2 decision over Trace Franks of Mead High School in Spokane. The win certainly surprised some folks, including himself.
“It was a first time for me winning something like that,” Deroche said. “I have a lot more confidence now, a lot more confidence.”
“Ethan is just a talented son of a gun,” Komac said. “I hope people who know wrestling can appreciate this, but you don’t find big kids with a work ethic like him or don’t find big kids that are athletic like him, and he’s both.”
It’s rare for underclassmen to find quick success in the heavier weight classes, but the Bison have two of them with loads of talent and unlimited potential. And they share the same goals.
“I want to be a state champ,” Deroche said.
Davis echoed: “I really want to win state this year, and I really want our team to place in the top three.”
Great Falls High closes the regular season Friday with a crosstown clash at CMR, before divisional seeding in Bozeman and state in Billings. The Bison have won 11 straight duals against their Electric City rival.