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State wrestling tournament

Wrestlers warm up at the state wrestling tournament at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark on Friday, February 9, 2018.

BILLINGS — It’s going to be cold outside on Friday and Saturday.

But with fast-paced action, it’s going to be toasty warm indoors at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark as the 30th Annual All-Class State Wrestling Tournament takes place.

“It has been an exciting event for many years,” said Brian Michelotti of the Montana High School Association, who has served as the tournament manager since 2006. “We appreciate all of the volunteers from the Billings area and around the state of Montana. They have been a huge part of the success of this event. Also, thanks for the great fans who make the annual pilgrimage to Metra and support our hard-working student-athletes.”

Wrestlers from all across Montana qualified for the state tournament at one of eight seeding or divisional tournaments on Saturday. With 208 wrestlers eligible to qualify per class, 624 total wrestlers are eligible to qualify for the state tournament. This year, according to brackets posted on the MHSA website, the field is full except for one open spot in Class B-C at 103 pounds.

All told, a full field equals 1,131 total matches wrestled over the two days. Even with an open spot, that still leaves 1,129 matches assuming there are no other byes, forfeits or defaults.

That’s a lot of mat time. Which, in turn, could lead to plenty of interesting scenarios for the fans. Some of the possible scenarios include fast pins, one-point matches, upsets and come-from-behind wins.

The parade of athletes is at 10 a.m. on Friday with the national anthem at 10:10 a.m., and the first round begins at 10:20 a.m. The second-round consolation matches begin at approximately 5 p.m. and wrap up the first day of competition.

On Saturday, the national anthem is at 9:20 a.m. and the semifinal and consolation quarterfinal matches begin at 9:30 a.m. The parade of finalists is set to begin at 3:15 p.m., followed by the championship matches.

The two-day tourney is an exciting time and marks the beginning of postseason events for the winter sports season.

“Wrestling kicks off the winter season,” said Michelotti.

Michelotti explained that this weekend traditionally starts the postseason fun as basketball district tourneys kick into gear the following week. The state swimming meet in Bozeman is also Friday and Saturday.

While Michelotti said weather and exciting team races can play a role in attendance, traditionally 6,000 fans venture to the Metra each day to take in the wrestling.

“You can show up at the semifinals on Saturday morning or the championship on Saturday afternoon and it’s a pretty exciting event,” he said.

If the weather does happen to keep fans at home, they can find updated results at www.trackwrestling.com. On trackwrestling.com, fans can also view streams of the matches for a fee. If a person has a NFHS Network pass, they can watch all of the matches over the two days under the pass.

“The entire tournament is on Track,” Michelotti said. “We have 12 cameras and they will film 12 different matches. Every match is available.”

A camera will be stationed on each mat.

“Each one is live streaming what is going on on that mat and we’ll eventually break down to three (cameras) on championship night and film all three of those as well,” Michelotti said.

There is also a chance the elite Montana four-time state champion club will expand to 35 if Havre’s Martin Wilkie (145), Colstrip’s Jackson Currier (138) and Forsyth’s Michael Weber (152) all win their fourth individual titles.

With all the matches, excitement and drama, after two days of action at the Metra, fans will probably forget that it’s winter outside in Montana.

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

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