BILLINGS — Charlie Klepps has always had a bit of bulldog in him. Well, a lot of bulldog.
Never mind that Klepps has three state wrestling championships for Billings Senior. His mentality comes through on the soccer field, as well.
Even when Klepps was a 103-pound freshman (that was his wrestling weight), he could be found mixing it up in front for the Bronc attack during the playing minutes that would come his way. Nearly all the defenders on the opposing team’s back lines were — and still are — bigger than him, but that didn’t seem to matter to Klepps, who sailed unflinchingly in for headers or tried to squeeze between defenders on fearless quests for goals.
He often times paid the price, but rarely, if ever, did that slow him down.
"I'd love it if all my soccer players wrestled," Senior boys soccer coach Zach Robbins said, and you pretty much believe him. "That wrestling experience just provides a gritty mentality."
Three years later, that doggedness continues to pay off for Klepps, now a senior, and the Broncs. His three goals Tuesday night, in a 5-1 win over Billings West, put him at 25 for the season. That tied a Senior regular-season record set by Blake Chase in 2015. Billings West’s Alex Gallagher also scored 25 goals in 2009. The Class AA record, per wallsoccer.net, is held by Missoula Sentinel’s Kyle Sillars, who scored 31 goals in 2000.
Klepps hasn’t just been putting the ball in the back of the net, either. His 12 assists are second-best in the Eastern AA, one behind Bozeman’s Larkin Lane and one ahead of Senior teammate Caleb Borgstrom, who has 15 goals and 11 assists.
"Chuck kind of took it upon himself this year to score a little more," Robbins said. "And he's got great support around him. He's got some selfless players who want to get him the ball and when Chuck gets the ball, he produces."
The Broncs completed an unbeaten regular season, finishing 11-0-1, the lone blemish a scoreless draw with Bozeman. In the process, Senior won its fifth consecutive Billings Cup as city champs, collecting a perfect 12 points in the four matches against West and Skyview.
"You step into this program and you're expected to perform," said Robbins, whose team will be off until the state tournament next week. "Granted, we've had some misfortune at state the past couple years, but we're usually (No.) 1 or 2 in the East. I put high expectations on these guys to fill, and they do. Year in and year out they step up to the plate and accept responsibility, and Chuck's been a part of that."