The Great Falls Bison couldn’t have put together a better day at the State AA wrestling tournament on Friday at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark.
And while the Bison held a commanding lead, Billings Skyview’s Matt Dillon continued to chase the perfect season at 182 pounds, Billings West’s Koby Reyes claimed a huge win at 145 and Billings Senior’s Tyger Frye (120) moved a step closer to reaching the finals for the second consecutive year.
The top-ranked and defending champion Bison put 12 wrestlers into Saturday morning’s semifinal round and scored 163 points. Bozeman was in second place with 116 and Skyview and Missoula Big Sky tied for third with 102.5. Senior sixth with 80.5 and West eighth with 67.
“We have 12 in the semifinals. For us, that is as high as I can remember,” said Great Falls coach Steve Komac, who has been the head coach for 11 years and with the program for 14. “We let two slip away we thought we could put in. But at this level and tourney to have 12 in the semis is a heck of an effort by the kids.”
To summarize how good of a day the Bison had, 18 of 24 Bison qualifiers were left in the tourney.
“The kids are giving a great team effort for sure,” Komac said. “The kids are wrestling really hard. They are being pretty aggressive and believe in themselves. “
Komac said his team understands there is a lot of work to do Saturday, starting with the opening bell at 9 a.m.
“No matter how good today felt if we don’t wrestle well tomorrow we are in a barn burner with the other top teams,” he said. “We told the kids it would take two days of work.”
One Bison in the semifinals is junior Casey Dobson at 132. He is a two-time state placer, capturing second the previous two years. Dobson is ready to take that next step, starting bright and early Saturday.
“It’s been a pretty good year,” he said. “I think this is the right time to show everyone what I can do.
“We have team goals and individual goals. We are hungry for the state championship. It’s been our belief all season we could do it.”
Dillon, a senior, won by fall in 1:41 over Sabin Parmiter of Missoula Big Sky in his first match of the day and then claimed a 20-5 technical fall over Noah Danielson of Great Falls CMR to move into the semifinals. He is 36-0 with 19 pins and aims to make it to his second straight finals appearance. He’ll face Doug Bertelsen of Bozeman in the semifinals.
Reyes, a senior two-time state placer, defeated two-time state champion Joe Malchuski, a junior from Skyview, 13-8 in the quarterfinals in an intense match. The match was tied 8-8 with 45 seconds left before Reyes scored five points in the final 12 seconds on a takedown and near-fall.
At the conclusion of the match, Reyes emerged with a big smile on his face. Both wrestlers displayed tremendous sportsmanship and hugged at the center of the mat.
Reyes, who is 2-0 against Malchuski, explained he and Malchuski are “great friends, so it is sad. He’s such a great wrestler,” before adding, “It was a fun match and the crowd got into it. You have to love this atmosphere.”
“It was really close. I knew it would be,” Reyes said of the match, which he led 5-3 after one period and 5-4 after two. “He’s a great wrestler and a two-time state champ. It’s going to go down to the end. I knew I was going to give up some takedowns. The main thing was to be calm in the head.”
Frye, a sophomore standout, won by a 15-0 technical fall in the first round and followed that with a pin in 1:43 in the quarterfinals. He is looking forward to his semifinal match with Helena’s Landon Bailey. Frye said Bailey beat him 2-1 at the AA Duals in their only meeting on a late fleeing call.
“I should have a good semifinal match,” Frye said, noting the first takedown would be key. “I’ve lost to him before, but can turn it around pretty quick.
“Just be more aggressive and work my stuff and not let him work his.”
Reaching the semifinals for Skyview were Danny Maciel (98), Tim Garcia (106), Jace Holman (138), Jace Cooley (160), Dillon (182), Matt Welch (220) and Reece Quade (Hwt). Welch, a senior, said putting seven into the semifinals is “Excellent. It seems like we did pretty good today. We had a bit of a slow start, but we came around.”
Welch said the key to his semifinal match versus Shig Hilborn of Helena will be “to make sure I’m prepared and warmed up well and keep a clear mind throughout the match and stay focused.”
Maciel aims to prove his doubters wrong and said a summer of hard work, lifting weights, eating healthy, attending the J Robinson Camp and making the right choices has helped him.
“I was raised a wrestler and started at age six,” he said. “I didn’t have much success, but this summer I trained hard.”
For the Bears, Trayson Marker (126), Reyes (145), Hunter Gerth (160) and J.R. Slotsve (170) are all semifinalists. Marker has a date with Great Falls’ Tommy McMillen is the semis. McMillen bested Marker 10-3 in last year’s 112-pound state title match. McMillen is 2-0 against Marker, Marker said, noting McMillen claimed an 8-6 overtime win at the AA Duals.
“I’m going to have to bring my best shot. He’ll bring his,” Marker said, adding he’s dreamed about having success at the Metra since his days as an AAU wrestler. “It will be a battle. I feel I have a better gas tank because of my work. He’s a hard worker, too, so it will come down to the end.”
For the Broncs, Clay Smith (106), Brendon Vladic (106), Tim Ellinger (113), Quintel Fuchs (113), Frye (120), Dylan Veis (132) and Colter Krebill (195) all will have a chance to move into the finals. Smith and Vladic will tangle at 106 pounds in the semis and it’s also Bronc vs. Bronc at 113 as Ellinger meets Fuchs.
Coach Lonnie Robertson said Smith had a big day in beating Jon Conklin of Missoula Big Sky 3-2 in the quarterfinals. Conklin was last year’s 98-pound state champ.
“Smith wrestled a nice match,” Robertson said. “It was a huge win. He did a great job and was relentless.”