State Wrestling Finals

Kalispell Flathead's Michael Lee raises the hand of Alex Paull after Lee defeated him in the Class AA 285-pound match in the championship round of the state wrestling tournament at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark on Saturday.

BETHANY BAKER, Gazette Staff

BILLINGS — The wrestlers were going to feast on Saturday night after the state wrestling tournament had concluded. 

After a season that saw many of them watching their diets, and an energy-absorbing two-day tournament at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark, many of them had worked up an appetite. Like a bear coming out of hibernation, these wrestlers were ready to eat. 

Pizza seemed to be a favorite. Billings Senior four-time State AA champion Charlie Klepps said a pizza party was in the works and a team breakfast on Sunday. The two-time State AA champion Kalispell Flathead Braves were also going to have a pizza party and play video games to celebrate before leaving Billings.

"We just go and eat some pizza and play some games," said Flathead's Tucker Nadeau, who capped his senior year with a 46-0 record and a state title at 182 pounds. 

Isaac Romero wasted little time in picking up his title at 113 pounds. Romero, of Helena, was the Class AA quick-pin winner with four falls. His pin times were 4:28, :46, 2:59 and 5:51. Romero said it was the first-quick pin award he'd earned. Romero was also ready to celebrate.

"We'll just go and get some food, probably some Italian," he said. "I'm hungry. Maybe some ice cream after."  

Billings West 152-pounder Jace Rhodes was going to mark his second straight championship with a family dinner. 

"Just go eat with my family and then get back to work," Rhodes said. "I've got more tournaments coming up."

Rhodes and his brother Drake Rhodes, an eighth grader at Ben Steele Middle School, were going to wrestle in an AAU tournament next weekend in Butte. Rhodes said he was also going to Virginia Beach for a tournament in March.

Would there be a contest to see who would eat the most slices of pizza at the Braves' celebration?

"Usually one of the heavyweights wins," Nadeau said. "They'll probably do it again."

The Braves heavyweights had earned the right to enjoy an extra slice of pizza. In one of three overtime matches in the AA finals, Michael Lee defeated teammate Alex Paull. According to Flathead coach Jeff Thompson, it was the first time the Braves had went head-to-head in the finals since 2008. In that 152-pound championship tilt, Tyler Wells pinned Caleb Allen-Schmidt in 1:56. The Braves were also state champions in 2008. Wells is now an assistant at Flathead and Allen-Schmidt is an assistant at Missoula Sentinel. Thompson said a picture was taken of Lee, Paull, Wells and Allen-Schmidt to mark the occasion.

• Billings Senior's Jarret Leinwand capped his senior year and ended his wrestling career with a state title at 205 pounds. The title is the culmination of a long journey for Leinwand. He is also glad to add to his family's wrestling heritage. 

Leinwand's brother Jake was a two-time state champ at Billings West and his uncle Mike Leinwand was a three-time state champ at Forsyth and an NAIA national champion for MSU Northern in 1998.

"This has been a goal of mine since I was a little kid watching my brother win a couple titles," Leinwand said. "Words can't describe this moment. I've been dreaming my whole life about it. It still hasn't hit me I'm a state champ.

"I've wanted it my whole life and to add another title to my family's legacy means the world to me."

• Sure, wrestlers want to win and do as well as they can. But, this wrestling extravaganza is like no other and part of qualifying for the state tournament is enjoying the moment. Billings West wrestler RJ Lowdog, who is missing his lower legs, finished sixth at 113 pounds. After he competed on Friday and was observing another match unwind, Lowdog said, "I think it's really fun. I like watching the close matches and I like watching everyone wrestle."

• Doug Dierenfield was recognized during the finals Saturday night for his 29 years of service to the state tournament. Over the years, Dierenfield and a group of volunteers handed the placers their medal before they took their place on the podium.

• Spencer Condie of Wheatland, Wyoming, is working on an app that will chronicle the history of the Montana high school wrestling state tournament. 

Condie was at the state tournament to promote the app. He has begun work on the app and while it is not available now, Condie hopes it is available to the public before the school year ends. The goal is for the app to have every state placer included in its files. Information on families that have won multiple championships and team statistics should be available as well. Information would date to the first Montana High School Association sanctioned tournament in 1956. Condie said the app would likely cost a small fee for the initial download and updates would be available for a lesser fee.  

The app will be called Champ Stats. Other states Condie is compiling the information for include Wyoming, Utah, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa and California. 

While he has much of the information he needs, Condie needs help finding full names of placers for several years. In some instances he only has last names. Some of the years Condie needs help with to compile the Montana information are 1956, 1957, 1958, 1969, 1971, 1972,  1973 and 1999. If anyone has brackets with first and last names, or programs from those years, contact Condie at 307-202-0142 or spencerbcondie@gmail.com.

Email John Letasky at john.letasky@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJohnL

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