BILLINGS — The countdown is still fresh in Ty Bradley’s mind.
Five, four, three, two, one and the whistle that followed.
It was in those final seconds that Bradley, then a junior wrestler at Colstrip High School, earned a takedown to secure a 5-4 decision over Huntley Project’s Matthew Middleton for the State B/C 152-pound championship. Being honored on the podium was one thing, but the countdown and takedown will be a memory forever.
“That part is awesome, but the best part is the last two seconds when you realized you won (a state title),” Bradley said during Thursday’s practice round for the 2019 state tournaments. “All that hard work you put in, you realize it was worth it. That feeling is unreal.”
It’s a feeling Bradley is expected to encounter again. A favorite to win the 160-pound championship this weekend, while also helping the Colts to a second-consecutive team championship, Bradley and his teammates carry the burden of a large target on their backs, one he’s not concerned about.
“The mindset is to always come in, just wrestle. It’s easy to overthink, but come out here and wrestle, that’s all you can do, wrestle your best, try hard and we’ve put in the work. Practices have been rough, so trust the work you put in out here,” he said.
Colstrip could be the most decorated program at this weekend’s state tournaments at Rimrock Auto Arena in MetraPark, at least in terms of gold medals. Bradley joins teammates Jackson Currier, Rylin Burns, Cody Blaede, Nakoda Siegel and Trey Yates as potential individual champions, while a few other Colstrip wrestlers could be dark horses in their respective brackets.
That kind of success is almost unheard of.
“We could have about six state champions. It’s awesome. It’s so fun,” said Bradley. “It’s sad to see this is my last year, but all of us have been wrestling since we were about 4, that helps tremendously, plus everyone has a good attitude, good work ethic and everyone loves it. All of us seniors help each other out, and it’s who you surround yourself with. Everyone is a bunch of good guys, so it’s fun.”
Arguably no team was having more fun during Thursday’s practice round than Colstrip, which ended practice with its annual softball game, as well as its own version of ultimate frisbee. Other wrestlers were also drawn to the Colts area during drills, including Havre’s Martin Wilkie and Forsyth’s Michael Weber, who join Colstrip’s Currier in chasing their fourth-consecutive titles.
“It’s awesome. It’s like a big family kind of, you know? It’s another group of guys that we’ve grown up with, the people that love it, a band of brothers, it’s awesome. Especially in here right now, this atmosphere, it’s awesome.”
The 2018-19 winter could be a storied one at Colstrip, with the wrestling team seeking a title and both the boys and girls basketball teams seemingly state contenders.
“It definitely fires them up. We have a bunch of basketball buddies that are like, ‘Go get that state title.’ Then we come back and say, ‘OK, we got it. Now it’s your turn.’ That really pumps everybody up and it’s awesome,” said Bradley.
Though Colstrip is the heavy favorite to win the Class B team title, programs like Glasgow and Columbus-Absarokee will also be in the trophy hunt.
Class C teams will also battle for a trio of trophies, where Circle enters the weekend as the defending champion and favorite to repeat. Wildcat senior Trey Taylor says the team is in the right mindset to do just that.
“We’ve been working hard, we have that mentality that we’re going to come in strong and try to take another title,” said Taylor, the No. 2 seed from the Eastern B/C division. “We’re pretty excited about it and coming in with good confidence about it. We’ve prepared well and are coming in ready to take another title.”
This season has been a special one for Taylor, whose younger brother, Tugg, is one of three freshmen for the Wildcats. Both Taylors are likely to land on the podium, potentially reaching the finals on Saturday evening.
“My brother is a big goofball out there. He’s a lot of mouth, a lot of talk,” laughed Trey. “I just told him not to be nervous, to go out there with a good attitude and don’t be nervous about it.”
Circle sophomore Krayle Stormer is another likely title contender for the Wildcats, who will look to hold off the likes of Valier and Arlee for the State C title.
“(I need to) push my teammates, make sure they’re working hard, doing what they do, and make sure they go out there with the right mindset,” said Taylor.
The 2019 state wrestling tournaments begin Friday morning at 10 a.m. with the parade of athletes, with first-round matches scheduled to begin around 10:20 a.m.
For a link to updated brackets and team scores, please click here.