Billings Senior's Charlie Klepps

Billings Senior's Charlie Klepps celebrates after winning his class AA 120-pound match against Helena Capital's Nick Kunz on Saturday.

BRONTE WITTPENN, Gazette Staff

Charlie Klepps was all smiles Saturday at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark.

While Klepps was flashing his familiar grin after winning his third State AA wrestling championship, Billings Senior teammate Jahzriel Peak was pulling off a stunning upset to claim the 132-pound bracket.

And one "hard-working" wrestler won the title at 145 pounds. Billings West coach Jeremy Hernandez has been saying that Jace Rhodes is the "hardest-working kid" he's ever coached. The sophomore improved to 37-6, and was 20-0 against AA competition, in winning his championship. 

Klepps (120) won his championship bout 13-5 over Nick Kunz of Helena Capital to finish off a 40-1 year.

After Klepps won his championship, he acknowledged the Senior crowd by sticking his tongue out and smiling.

"It's just something you've done for so long, it's not worth it if you aren't having fun," said Klepps of his constant smile. 

It was the second straight year Klepps stuck his tongue out after winning the crown.

"It's just whatever happens, when it happens," he said. "I don't plan it."

Klepps was sporting a cut underneath his right eye that opened during the championship match with approximately 20 seconds left. He brushed it off, saying, "at the end, every wrestler is marked up."

With four champions claiming their fourth individual title Saturday at Metra, it was natural for many to think about Klepps' chances next year. He's not too worried about it, saying, "I'm just enjoying this." 

"It was never really my plan," Klepps elaborated. "We prepare for one season at a time. I'm just preparing for my next season. It's my last one. I just want to have a lot of laughs and want to enjoy it."

Peak derailed Kalispell Flathead junior Trae Vasquez, who was aiming for a third state title. With the match tied after Peak was awarded a stalling penalty point with seven seconds left, Peak won 6-4 on a takedown as the buzzer sounded. The Senior fan base erupted. 

"I actually knew he would keep moving and moving and I didn't think he would get tired," Peak said. "But, I knew to keep pushing the pace. The third period is my period."

Peak (29-10) moved to Billings from Portland, Ore., where he was a state qualifier as a freshman. Peak said he didn't overanalyze who he was wrestling.

"I didn't really think about it as hard as everyone wanted me to," the sophomore said. "I figured if I went out and wrestled my match I'd be fine."

Senior coach Josh Beeman was proud of his grappler, saying, "That was wrestling the complete match right there."

Rhodes won his first-round match by pin in 1:41 and then earned hard-fought 12-9 and 4-2 victories. He regained his pinning touch in the finals when he stapled Butte's Kadin Schonsberg in 4:44.

"You just go out there and wrestle hard and try to score points," Rhodes said, noting he was 3-0 vs. his finals opponent with three pins. "If you come out with a pin, it's awesome." 

To celebrate his title, Rhodes was going to go home and go out to eat with his family. For Rhodes, it's time to take a break from all the hard work.

"It's all the hard work has paid off," he said. "It's fun because when you put in the work, it's not as fun. This is when you rep the rewards. It's awesome."

Billings Skyview bounced back from its seventh-place finish from a year ago to finish third behind champion Flathead and second-place Bozeman. Behind nine state-placers, it was their 10th top-three finish in the past 13 years.

"Third place is not too bad, especially from last year," said Skyview coach Joe Malchuski. "The boys definitely turned it on and the ones who needed to showed up. I'm very proud of our seniors. We had three place.

"The team is happy and you have to move on and move past it. It is something to work on and build off for next year."

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Deputy Sports Editor

Sports writer for The Billings Gazette.