Billings Skyview junior Brock Bushfield improved to 35-0 at 160 pounds after winning by pin in 1:08 and 4:36 Friday at the State AA wrestling tournament. Bushfield, looking for his third straight state title, won his quarterfinal match by fall when leading 9-6.
"I had a rough last match," he said. "I felt like going on top is my strong spot. I've got to get it going on my feet. I'm struggling there."
Bushfield said he used an arm bar to get the pin in his quarterfinal match and a near-side cradle in the first-round contest. He said state meets can be taxing.
"It's nerve-wracking. I just have to try and go out there like it's any other match and not think it's state," he said. "I've been putting a lot of pressure on myself and have to get over that."
• Billings Senior junior Charlie Klepps (120) is also halfway to his third straight state crown. Klepps opened with a fall in 2:28 and stapled his quarterfinal opponent in 1:32.
Klepps improved to 38-1 with 22 pins.
"It's going good so far," he said. "My pace can be a little faster. I want to work on my pace this weekend.
"I just know I'm the most technical wrestler at my weight and my biggest strength is my pace and being able to break kids."
• Billings West sophomore Jace Rhodes (145) is still undefeated in Class AA. He collected a fall in 1:41 in the first round before a hard-fought 12-9 quarterfinal win to advance to the semifinals. Rhodes improved to 35-6 with 15 pinfalls.
"It's good. I can feel it now, it's close," Rhodes said of chasing his dream of a state title. "It's the second season, we have to give it all we've got and hopefully come out with a good outcome."
Rhodes battled Great Falls' Tyler Loch in the quarterfinals. He was losing 7-5 entering the third period. It was tied 7-7 with 1:27 remaining and 9-9 with 54 seconds left.
"Everybody is tough," Rhodes said. "That kid was tough and he came out to wrestle."
• Kalispell Flathead's Trae Vasquez (132) is now 27-2 after tallying a first-round fall in 1:23 and squaring his quarterfinal opponent in 3:23 at 132. Like Bushfield and Klepps, the junior is aiming for his third career state title.
The first-round pin came via a cradle and in the quarterfinals, "it was a mini scramble and I hit a pancake to his back and pinned him."
"Just believing in myself and knowing I've worked hard for this moment," is what Vasquez said motivates him. "Just go out there and have fun and wrestle hard six minutes and leave it all out there on the mat."
Vasquez said of the time leading up to the semifinals he is going to "just kind of relax and, honestly, get my mind off wrestling and hang out with the guys and enjoy my time at the state tournament."
• Billings West sophomore heavyweight Levi Malcolm is now 26-10 after winning 8-0 and 8-3 to seal a spot in the semifinals. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Malcolm said he was a state qualifier last year, but did not place. Semifinalists are automatically a state-placer and will earn a top-six finish. Malcolm isn't satisfied with that.
"One more match and I'm in the finals," he said. "And we'll see what happens there."
• Senior junior heavyweight Jarret Leinwand is in the semifinals for the third straight year. Wrestling at 182, he finished sixth as a freshman and third as a sophomore.
"I've always been undefeated this day, but never broke through the wall Saturday morning," Leinwand said. "After that match, I'm looking to get another title for my family."
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.
• Flathead had a comfortable 136.5-103.5 lead over Bozeman in the team race.
"We are doing fairly well," Braves coach Jeff Thompson said. "Our light guys wrestled their tails off. We just need to continue doing what we are doing and I think we are in the driver's seat. As long as we wrestle hard and win close matches, we'll do alright tomorrow and be in the hunt for hardware."