The Choteau High School wrestling team will compete for the first time this season on Dec. 6-7 at the Cascade High School invitational meet.
Head coach Sam Armstrong, assisted by Levi Guenzler, will take four wrestlers to the meet — Kaide Kindler, a junior; Daron Leeper and Jacob Major, sophomores; and Hagen Kalista, a freshman.
In addition to those four, Armstrong has two high school girls out for wrestling in the first year of a two-year pilot the Montana High School Association is running to see whether there is enough interest statewide to create a girls wrestling program that would run in tandem with the boys wrestling programs.
Amrstrong said former wrestling manager Liberty LaValley, a junior, and sophomore Daysha McLoughlin, who wrestled in Mat Sharks as a little kid, are the two girls out for the program.
The MHSA is considering offering girls wrestling so that talented Montana female wrestlers can compete for athletic scholarships to college. Armstrong said some people may not think of wrestling as a women’s sport, but noted that there is a division in the Olympics for women’s wrestling and the sport is offered at multiple colleges and in high schools in other states.
He said adding the girls to the program doesn’t create any new costs since they are doing the same style of wrestling as the boys and will travel to the same tournaments as the boys.
McLoughlin, LaValley and Leeper are all brand new wrestlers, so practices have focused on teaching the fundamentals, Armstrong said. The team started practicing on Nov. 21 for the season that runs through Feb. 15.
Armstrong said there may be a couple of more boys, who just moved here, planning to join the team but for now he has six wrestlers out. The team will be missing powerhouse Carter Morgan, a talented sophomore who broke his arm in the last few weeks of the football season.
Junior Anna Stutz is returning as the team’s manager.
This week in practice Armstrong said the wrestlers would be doing more drills and practice wrestling in preparation for the Cascade tournament, where all four wrestlers should get a lot experience in multiple matches.
Armstrong said he hoped to have a larger turnout this year, but is pleased with the boys and girls who are out. “The cool part is that everyone is excited to be there. Everyone has individual goals for what they want to do,” he said.
Choteau’s wrestlers will have a new practice mat this season. The high school, Booster Club, Mat Sharks and the Choteau Wrestling Club pooled funds to purchase the new $12,000 mat, Armstrong said, replacing a mat the school acquired when he was in second grade in the 1994-95 school year.
The old mat was cracked and chipped, he said, but will still be used on the opposite side that is not cracked and worn, for when Choteau hosts five separate tournaments for Mat Sharks, junior high and high school wrestling.
Anyone interested in donating to help defray costs of the mat should send contributions earmarked for the wrestling mat, to CHS at 204 Seventh Ave. N.W., Choteau, MT 59422.