Glacier and Flathead will be at owr near the limit of wrestlers – 24 for Glacier, 25 for Flathead – when they take to the mats Saturday at Helena High School for the Western AA seeding tournament.
At stake are top-eight finishes in each of 13 weight classes. Those wrestlers qualify for the State AA wrestling meet Feb. 14-15 at Billings MetraPark.
Flathead is a perennial power that saw its streak of five straight state titles end in 2019. The Brave Brawlers are intent on climbing back to the top behind their nucleus in the middle weights and higher.
Sophomore Asher Kemppainen is 37-8 at 132; senior Brendan Barnes is 38-8 at 138; sophomore Fin Nadeau is 37-5 at 145; senior Tanner Russell is 36-6 at 170; and junior Zaybin Stewart is 34-9 at 205.
Russell, Nadeau and Barnes all won divisional titles last year.
“Our goal is of course is to get as many wrestlers qualified as we can,” Flathead coach Jeff Thompson said. “But also to get them placed high. If you can get your guys in the top three that really sets you up well for your first-round matches at state.”
Missoula Big Sky has the wrestlers and depth to challenge Flathead and Glacier isn’t far behind. The Wolfpack has built momentum around junior Lance Fretwell (25-14 132; 12-6 against AA competition) and senior Camryn Vergeront (25-8 at heavyweight).
Both Kalispell teams have excellent freshmen: Cade Troupe is 39-5 at 126 and Noah Poe-Hatten is 34-12 at 152 for Flathead; Josh Melton is 29-11 at 103 and Teegan Vasquez is 30-1 at 113 for the Wolfpack.
Ross Dankers, seventh-year head coach of the Pack, is hoping his team’s depth will win out.
“We’re just hoping to push through as many No. 2s as we can. I think we have as good as No. 2s as anybody in the state,” Danker said. “Then place as high as we can and go from there.”
Junior Cody Frost (120) is a returning divisional champ for Glacier. He, Melton and junior Kael Willis (170) have 13 pins; Vasquez and Vergeront lead the Pack with 18.
The one-day meet is unscored.