BILLINGS — The Ronan Chiefs’ third place finish at state wasn’t just catapulted by Noah Cheff capturing the Class B-C Montana State wrestling championship at the 132-pound weight division. It was a result of the entire team Saturday at the Rimrock Auto Arena.
According to Chiefs’ Coach James Muir, third place is “something to be proud of.”
“We wrestled tough all year and we were in the hunt for hardware,” Muir said. “We had our sights and goals set on a gold medal. We just didn’t quite have the horsepower to make it happen as a team quite yet.”
Next season, the Chiefs will lose two seniors on their young squad. Tyler Houle, at 160 pounds, placed fifth at state, and Steven Wyant won two matches in the 182-pound division.
“They really did an awesome job for us and stepped up at the state tournament,” Muir said. “Knowing this was their last go, they dug down deep and showed a lot of heart. We bumped Steven up to 182. He turned it on from there and did a really good job for our team. We are pleased with the way he performed and the amount of matches he was able to win for us (at state).”
Of the Chiefs’ nine state qualified, they placed a grand total of six.
“Our tournament was really successful for sure,” Muir said. “We just came and wrestled this weekend. The first round wasn’t our best round and that was a big eye-opener for some of our guys. There were guys that lost in the first round and still placed. Even after they lost in the first round, they wrestled all the way back to place. They did a great job to put themselves on the podium.”
Ronan’s Hunter Peterson took third place at the 126-pound division.
“Hunter is obviously a heavy-hitter and wrestled really tough at the semifinal match,” Muir said. “He wrestled really well and didn’t come back on top but he wrestled in third place. He did a really great job for us and with him we are looking at another potential state title.”
All season the Chiefs had a positive problem at their 103-pound weight class. They had four wrestlers that could potentially place at state. They chose to take Caden Rhine and Zane Walchuk. Walchuk finished fourth and Rhine finished fifth at their respective weight class.
“All of our 103-pounders are neck and neck, and those two guys finished fourth and fifth in the state of Montana,” Muir said. “These guys are really solid wrestlers. They are great in the practice room for our other 103 pounders.”
Owen Brown finished fifth at the 120 pound division as a freshman. Muir said his youth and experience gives him a high ceiling to reach for in the future.
“Brown took fifth place and wrestled really well,” Muir said. “He is a freshman. You can look to him to be a lot higher and more solid wrestler when the talent and the hard work that should come together for him really soon.”
Another wrestler that did not place is junior Sam Mockabee. Mockabee, a football player that was recruited to wrestle, has a lot of potential, according to Muir.
“He had a slow start to wrestling and we tried to figure out how to use his body weight at that level,” Muir said. “Because of his inexperience, we aren’t going to make him a technique machine. We gave him three or four good moves and once he learns how to use his body weight, he will win matches. Towards the end of the season, that worked out really well and put him in the state tournament. We really see big things for him as well.”
Muir said he felt his team has a tremendous upside as they progress towards next year.
“With our team placement, that increases the number of participants that want to come out for wrestling again,” Muir said. “We are getting there. We have the kids that can do it now and they’ve finally believe in what they can do. They’ve seen exactly what it takes now. Next year and for years to come should be solid years for Ronan.”