Coach Steve Komac planned to have prime rib. As for his team, “they could have anything they want.”
For the second year in a row, the Great Falls Bison held a victory celebration at Gusick’s Restaurant after defending their State AA team wrestling title with a dominant performance Saturday.
The Bison had what is believed to be a school-record six champions and a school-record 17 state placers in scoring a whopping 353.5 points at the state wrestling tournament at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark. Bozeman was second with 225 and Billings Skyview third with 207. Billings Senior was sixth with 143 and Billings West eighth with 105.
It was the most team points in Class AA since Kalispell Flathead tallied 410 in 2008 and the second-most in history.
“It feels great to repeat,” Komac said. “That was the single biggest goal we had. Every coach wants to do that. The way the kids competed was unbelievable. It was the best performance of my career for a team.
“You don’t dream it up much better.”
Junior Jarren Komac, who captured his second straight crown with a pin at 113, had the best of both worlds. Komac is the son of the head coach.
“It is just like last year,” he said of his individual crown. “It is one of the greatest feelings you’ll feel as a wrestler.
“We came in here and had nothing holding us back and wrestled with that mentality. We also wrestled like it was the last match of our entire lives.”
The Bison weren’t the only ones who capped an incredible season. Skyview senior Matt Dillon, who was second last year at 160, finished an undefeated season at 47-0 with a 2-1 double-overtime victory over Randy Keesler of Great Falls at 182 pounds.
The bout was tied 1-1 after the third and remained that way after the first overtime as neither wrestler scored from their feet. Dillon was down for the first 30-second OT and escaped eight seconds in to go up 2-1. In the second 30-second period, Dillon rode Keesler out for the win.
“I did it. I don’t know how to describe it,” Dillon said. “I held on and got the W. ... He is a good kid.”
Dillon said he improved to 3-0 against Keesler. The match very well could have been the bout of the night in Class AA. Both wrestlers’ fans were loudly cheering them on.
“It was one of my goals in the year,” Dillon said of going undefeated. “No. 1 was to win a title and the second was to go undefeated and it just happened.”
The Falcons had two other champions in junior Tim Garcia (106) and senior Matt Welch (220), who competed in the first title bout of the night. Freshman Danny Maciel (39-8) was second for Skyview at 98.
Welch scored on a takedown just before the whistle ended the first period to go up 2-0 and set the tone against Jammer Halverson of Helena in a 5-1 victory. Welch finished 26-4 and said he is now 1-0 against Halverson.
“That takedown let me know I could do that the whole way through the match and opened the floodgates,” Welch, who said he stayed calm before the match by listening to classic rock, said.
Afterwards, Welch received congratulatory recognition from coach Rich Malia and assistants Joe Malchuski and Shane Salminen as the Skyview faithful erupted.
“It’s all the hard work and great guys to drill with in the wrestling room,” Welch said of what drove him to win the bracket.
Garcia and Senior’s Brendon Vladic were tied at 2-2 after two. Garcia wound up winning 3-2 on an escape with 54 seconds left. Afterwards, Garcia pointed to his Skyview fans and gave them credit for motivating him.
“I want to thank the fans, coaches and coach Malia. He has pushed me to be a state champion,” Garcia said, also noting the importance of practice partners Maciel and Brayden Schwalbe.
Garcia said he improved to 2-1 against Vladic this year. Vladic had downed Garcia 10-3 for the seeding tourney title.
“Coming off a loss to him it was my biggest goal to beat him,” Garcia (29-5) said of Vladic (29-2). “Coming into the finals, I had to give it my all.”
Skyview had 10 state placers on its way to the third-place trophy.
“We were happy with this evening and how it finished with three of four champions,” Malia said. “Matt Dillon, to be undefeated, was a big deal for us.”
Malia said the Falcons lost a few matches they were capable of winning at the two-day event. However, he said Great Falls was impressive.
“Great Falls High, I’m not sure if we wrestled our best, we could catch them,” he said. “They are outstanding. You don’t see teams like them often.”
Junior Quintel Fuchs (37-4) was also second for Senior at 113. Fellow Bronc, senior Colter Krebill (38-5), scored another second-place finish at 195.
West had two seniors place second. Koby Reyes (35-5) lost in the closing seconds, 6-5, to Levi Renz of Butte at 145. Hunter Gerth (24-10) was the state runner-up at 160.
Bozeman’s Keavon Buckley (195) was the quick-pin winner. Buckley stapled his four opponents in 8:27 on his way to the title.