As Havre’s five state champions gathered with their coaches for photos, Dane Flammond held tight to his championship placard.
He might never let it go.
The piece of cardboard had extra special meaning for the 160-pound state champion.
Flammond was the final state titlist for the Class A state champions, who piled up 257.5 points for their fifth consecutive team championship.
It matches Ronan’s record of five straight (1978-82) and gives the Blue Ponies 14 total, only second to Butte’s 17.
Havre wrapped up its title during Saturday morning’s semifinals. Columbia Falls was second with 131, while Glendive was third with 125 and Hardin fourth with 111.5. The third-place trophy was Glendive’s best finish at the state tournament according to tweets by school officials.
Flammond had finished third the previous two years, both times losing in the semifinals.
“It was frustrating,” he acknowledged. “I was a little depressed when we left last year.”
After receiving a first-round bye, Flammond won by a technical fall and had a 19-second pin in the semifinals. He erased two years of frustration with a technical fall at 2:31 (15-0) against Hunter Fritsch of Polson for the title.
“This means so much,” Flammond said after receiving his first-place medal. “Knowing how hard I worked makes this so much better.”
Flammond finished 38-6.
“That one makes you feel pretty good,” said Havre coach Scott Filius.
Havre’s other titles were Quin Reno (103), Martin Wilkie (126), Parker Filius (145) and Jake Stokes (160).
The Blue Ponies also got second-place finishes from Lane Paulson and Cameron Plenninger, along with third-place finishes from Mason Dionne (152) and Connor Harris (132), along with a fourth place from Ryan Stewart (113). Heavyweight Jared Sienkowski was fifth.
Wilkie, a sophomore, won his second straight title. Reno, Plenninger and Dionne are all freshmen.
“All season long we worked with the younger kids and this weekend they came of age,” Filius said. “This was a passing of the torch from the other kids to the younger kids.”
Reno pinned Plenninger in 3:59 in the 103 title match.
“We didn’t coach them,” said Scott Filius of the match featuring teammates. “We told them they had to make their own decision. We would make sure the score was correct. That’s how we’ve handled that situation on other years.”
• Sawyer Degen of Belgrade matched his older brother Jarrett and then went one better.
Degen became Montana’s 29th four-time state champion with a 4-0 win over Parker Adler of Polson at 138 pounds.
“This is amazing, I’m super excited,” said Degen. “It feels good to be able to go out and match my brother. I knew I had to keep my head in the match and push the pace in the second and third periods so he would get tired.”
Degen capped off a 41-0 season. Jarrett Degen came in from Virginia Tech to watch his younger brother make Montana and family history.
The Degens are the third set of brothers to win four state titles, joining Matt and T.J. Campbell, along with Bill and Mike Zadick.
“It was so great he was able to make it out here for this,” Degen said. “He never had an undefeated season, so I’m one up on him.”
Degen was one of two Belgrade state champions.
Freshman John Mears pinned his way to the 120-pound state title. Mears had pins of 0:57, 1:10, 1:58 and 5:24 to earn the Class A quick pin award.
“He’s super tough,” said Degen of his younger teammate. “He’s our hardest worker in the wrestling room. He works harder than me. If he keeps working as hard as he does, he’ll get his four.”
• Other Class A state champions were: Jake Bibler, Frenchtown, 113; Riley Gurr, Frenchtown, 132; Brent Tezak, Dillon, 152; Patrick Griffin, Dillon, 170; Manny Rivera, Hamilton, 182; Garret Hunt, Corvallis-Darby, 285.
Tezak, the 138-pound state champion last year, defeated Brenden Roan of Hardin 6-4 in overtime in the title match.
He was hit with a stalling penalty in the closing seconds to force the extra time period. Tezak won the match with a takedown in the opening seconds of overtime.
“That kind of upset me a little bit,” he said of the penalty. “I just wanted to get a takedown. I shot to one side for the single all night so I thought I’d go to the other side for a double leg.”
A year ago, he defeated Bryce Roan — Brenden’s twin — in the 138-pound semifinals.
“They wrestle pretty much the same,” Tezak said. “This (a second title) makes me want to come back and go for a third.”
Bryce Roan was third at 145 this year.
Griffin pinned Ben Crews of Stevensville in 3:36 for his second title. Griffin won at 160 a year ago, while Crews was the 152-pound champion.
“Winning a first was so big, so special, I wanted to do it a second time,” said Griffin, who was 3-0 against Crews this season.
• Filius has been the head coach for 12 of Havre’s 14 team titles. Ironically, the 1986 graduate of Billings Senior never won an individual title in high school. He did win a national junior college title and an NAIA national title for Montana State-Northern.
That leaves his son well up on his father for high school titles.
“Sometimes I remind him of it and then he throws me around,” said Parker Filius with a big smile. “I’ve just got to stay fast.”
Father acknowledged grappling on the mat with his son.
“He might be better, but I’m still heavier,” said Scott Filius.