The Choteau High School wrestling team wrapped up its season on Feb. 8 at the Northern B-C Divisional tournament in Conrad. None of Choteau’s four wrestlers placed in the competitive tournament that determined which wrestlers get to compete at the all-class state tournament this week in Billings.
Cut Bank won the divisional tournament, Simms took second and Fairfield finished in third. Choteau took 12th out of 13 teams.
The CHS wrestling squad started the season with just five wrestlers, including two girls who were wrestling for the first time ever. By the end of the season, the team had lost one of the girls to injury, one of the boys had left the school system, and another student joined the team just in time to compete for his first time this year at the divisional tournament.
Ending the season on the team were sophomore Daysha McLoughlin at 120 pounds, juniors Chance Jury and Kaide Kindler both at 138 pounds and sophomore Jacob Major at 170 pounds. McLoughlin and Liberty LaValley, a junior, were Choteau High School’s first female wrestlers.
McLoughlin, Jury and Major all went 0-2 at the divisional meet. Major finished the season with 13 wins and 24 losses. Kindler went 1-2 at the divisional meet and ended the season with 23 wins and 21 losses. Kindler scored the team’s three points by pinning a Conrad wrestler in the consolation second round.
Next year, the Montana High School Association has voted to add girls’ wrestling as a separate sport, in tandem with the existing boys wrestling program. They will travel together to tournaments, and there will be a bracketed girls tournament at the state level as well.
Head coach Sam Armstrong said he knew this year would be a rebuilding year, based on participation in junior high wrestling over the past several years. Four years ago, he said, there were only six junior high wrestlers and Jacob Major is the only one still with the wrestling program.
This year, he said there are 20 youths out for junior high wrestling, including Choteau’s first female junior high wrestler, Lucy Armstrong, Sam’s daughter. There is also a good turnout of boys and girls for the Mat Sharks Little Guy wrestling program run by Chuck and Cari DeBoo.
Armstrong noted that Cut Bank, the divisional winner, had 28 kids out for wrestling this year, including three girls. Five years ago, he said, the same coach had only four kids out.
Wrestling, Armstrong said, is a sport that builds from the ground up, starting early with participation in Mat Sharks, then junior high and finally high school competition. He said he is pleased to see the participation levels in Mat Sharks and junior high wrestling and hopes that in time, turnout for the high school-level teams will improve.
The CHS team may have been small this season, but the kids who stuck it out wrestled with huge hearts and great work ethics, Armstrong said. “They all worked hard,” he said, adding that all four were disappointed in their divisional finishes, but they were already talking about summer conditioning and training and tournaments they could go to to keep improving. “They care about” wrestling, he said.
He said he is excited to see how McLoughlin does next year. She learned the technique faster than any other wrestler he has coached, and now just needs strength and experience to propel her to a successful season. “She loves wrestling,” he said of the talented sophomore who can also sing and plays flute and violin.
Kindler, he said, fought sickness the last three weeks of the season and that affected his stamina at the divisional tournament. All season, though, Kindler was the leader of the team, who kept the others inspired and upbeat. He missed only a few practices because of illness, Armstrong said, adding that he is confident Kindler will have a successful senior year.
Major started the year overweight and needed to improve on technique, Armstrong said, but he worked hard, did what needed to be done, trimmed up and really, really improved 10-fold. He will continue to improve as he gets more experience, the coach said.
Jury attended Choteau Public Schools in grade school, where Armstrong first coached him in junior high. He came back to CHS mid-way through the school year, and worked hard to get his 11 practices in just in time for the divisional tournament. Armstrong said he learned a lot in his two losses at the divisional tournament and hopes he will be here next year for wrestling.
Armstrong said he is excited for the next season and will now be working as assistant coach to Levi Guenzler, the head junior high coach. The junior high program, open to boys and girls in fifth through eighth grade, will have its first home meet Feb. 21-22. All of Choteau’s high school wrestlers will be helping with the junior high program and with this tournament, that will give every junior high wrestler five matches.
1. Cut Bank, 157; 2. Simms, 102; 3. Fairfield, 98; 4. Fort Benton/Big Sandy, 96; 5. Malta/Whitewater, 90; 6. Chinook, 80; 7. Conrad, 74; 8. Valier, 53; 9. Shelby, 49; 10. Chester-Joplin-Inverness, 28; 11. Harlem, 20; 12. Choteau, 3; 13. Hays-Lodgepole 0.
Choteau individual results
120 — Daysha McLoughlin, p. by Brady Barnhill, Conrad, :15; p. by Lane Snider, Chinook, 1:05.
138 — Chance Jury p. by Bayley Genereau, Fort Benton/Big Sandy, :24; bye; p. by Braden Evans, Fort Benton/Big Sandy, :24.
— Kaide Kindler, bye; p. by Bayley Genereux, Fort Benton/Big Sandy, 2:35; p. Dallas Biggers, Conrad, 1:59; p. by Shane Soul (Malta/Whitewater), 2:53.
170 — Jacob Major p. by J.T. Hauer, Chinook, :27; m. dec. by Hunter Decker, Simms, 2-11.