BILLINGS — In two short weeks, Billings Senior’s Charlie Klepps will have a chance to join one of his heroes of wrestling.
If Klepps is to capture his fourth consecutive State AA title on Feb. 10 at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark, he would join former Bronc Tanner Sprenkle on the elite list.
Sprenkle wrestled at Senior from 2008 to 2011 and was a favorite of Klepps, who is an avid student of wrestling. In fact, from third through eighth grades, Klepps volunteered at the state tournament running out to the mat to towel tap the referees to let them know the clock was about to expire.
“That would be really cool,” Klepps said of joining Sprenkle as a four-time state champion and becoming only the second Bronc on the list. “He was always a big role model for me. The way he wrestled and pushed the pace is how I try to wrestle. It would be crazy to have that similarity with Tanner Sprenkle.”
Klepps is aiming to become the 32nd Montana high school wrestler to win four state titles. This year, he is 35-3 record with 17 pins and is top-ranked in Class AA at 132 pounds. One of the losses was to a Post Falls, Idaho, wrestler at the season-opening Sidney duals tournament, another was to Colstrip two-time state champ Jackson Currier in the 138-pound finals at Sidney and the last was to Frenchtown's Riley Gurr, last year's State A champ at 132, at the Mining City Duals.
“It’s been fun,” Klepps said of his season. “I try to move around. I moved up a couple times to wrestle tough kids from other classifications.”
His freshman year, Klepps was State AA champ at 103 pounds. He was the 113-pound titlist as a sophomore and as a junior won the crown at 120 pounds. A key to Klepps’ success each year is not constantly looking back on what he accomplished the previous season.
“I try to not focus on that and focus on this year and to be as good as I can for state,” he said. “You don’t want to get caught up for your whole career. You must focus on one year.”
Broncs coach Josh Beeman said each and every year it’s the same goal for every member of the school’s wrestling team. The fact that Klepps has a chance to win his fourth state title is not part of the discussion in the Broncs’ wrestling room.
“Honestly, we haven’t talked about it one time,” Beeman said. “The goal is always the same, to go out and perform your best and be the best you can be and not the best in the state. That’s the philosophy we mold around all the boys, not everybody’s goal should be to be a state champ, but to go out and get a scholarship and be the best they can be.”
While the conversation is not dominated by four-time champion talk in the Broncs’ wrestling room, there is no hiding what Klepps has accomplished on the mats. Beeman said Klepps is the all-time wins leader at the school, surpassing Tyger Frye who graduated in 2016. Klepps is also the Broncs’ all-time takedowns leader and has a chance at becoming the career pins leader. Frye totaled 155 wins and Klepps now has 158.
“He brings about everything to the table and is smart and one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met and every time he gets out there he has a plan,” Beeman said of Klepps. “One of the coolest things about him is he truly gets upset when one of the other kids on the team doesn’t do as well as they could. He wants everybody on the team to find success and helps build the Bronc legacy he has been a part of for four years. He is passionate about Senior High and it’s pretty cool to watch.”
Caleb Johnson is a senior for the Broncs and wrestles at 132 pounds. He echoed Beeman’s thoughts.
“Charlie brings a relentless attitude and mentality that nothing can keep us down,” Johnson said. “He strives for all of us to be better and perform to the best we can be.”
Klepps, who was a key member of senior’s state title team in 2016 as he won his 113-pound title, not only is a successful wrestler, but a is a two-time all-state soccer player. He has not decided if he’ll pursue either of the sports at the collegiate level but he does plan on attending college and would like to have a career in sports journalism.
“In school, we’ll write in English class. If it’s a book I enjoy reading I’ll enjoy writing about it,” Klepps, who carries a 4.3 weighted grade point average said. “Writing about something I enjoy would be really cool and I enjoy sports.”
As a student, Klepps is enrolled in the Platinum Program at Senior. Students in the program are in advanced placement and honors courses Beeman said. His senior year research project and presentation, The Wrestler’s Journal, is based on nutrition and wrestling. In the journal, the Broncs list their goals each week and their weight at the end of practice. Klepps has also had Senior football coach Chris Murdock and retired volleyball coach Jeff Carroll give motivational speeches to the Broncs over the last eight weeks as part of the project.
“All the wrestlers have a journal and every Wednesday this year he brings in a new speaker to give talks,” Beeman said. “It’s been a real powerful and engaging for the wrestlers.”
During his freshman year, Klepps attended a camp where the wrestlers wrote in a journal every day. Part of the reason Klepps chose this as his Platinum Program research project was he thought it would benefit his teammates.
“I was hoping it would help us stay focused as a team and we would find success being more organized with our weights and goals,” Klepps said.
On Saturday Klepps did not wrestle in the Billings Duals at Skyview High as it was a rest day and an opportunity to get other Broncs some matches. However, he is looking forward to getting back on the mats for the Eastern AA Divisional Tournament on Feb. 3 at Great Falls. Wrestlers must qualify for the state tournament at the divisional.
“The goal is always the state tournament,” Klepps said. “That is what everyone thinks about at practices is competing there. That has been my goal all year and motivates me at practice.”
Klepp's past performances at Metra have undoubtedly made him a hero to some young wrestlers.