The Polson High School wrestling team had a topsy-turvy week in their final duals of the regular season between Ronan, Whitefish, and Browning.
The Pirates, who were missing two of their key contributors, fell to Ronan 46-27 but quickly found reprieve the next night defeating Browning 45-30 and Whitefish 63-6.
Now that the regular season has concluded, the Pirates are focused on going to Divisionals on Feb. 2-3 at Columbia Falls High School.
The Pirates, who struggled against their cross-county rival Ronan, aren’t concerned about the next level.
“We had a pretty good talk after the Ronan match,” Pirates’ coach Bob Owen said. “We had a lot of competition last week. Having wrestled on Tuesday, we wrestled back-to-back nights. Ronan wrestled well though and I don’t want to take anything away from them.”
Ronan, who moved up in classification from Class B to Class A during the final quarter of 2016, will, along with Libby, create a more competitive atmosphere for individual wrestlers to qualify for State.
“I think Ronan is wrestling very well,” Owen said. “It makes a big difference and Ronan and Libby both have some really quality kids. It is going to make a huge difference. There will be more competition and it looks better for a team that has front-liners that are going to make the finals.”
The Pirates will enter 15 of their boys in the Divisional tournament, which is fewer than some other teams. They will enter four extra kids in four weight classes to give them experience at the varsity level in a tournament setting.
“It could really help if one of the wrestlers over performs,” Owen said. “The neat thing is that they will get this opportunity. Those four kids, with the exception of one or three of them, have very little varsity experience. This will get them an idea to experience Divisionals and what it means for the next year. Having that experience in a tournament is invaluable.”
The Pirates will try to qualify for the state tournament by using a method called “Taper,” a method used at the end of the year that makes practices shorter and more intense.
“We use Taper to imitate the match at a state tournament,” Owen said.
The Pirates will take several kids at the varsity level to Divisionals that accumulated more than 20 wins during the regular season. This core group is expected to bolster Polson’s chances of medalling at State and also competing with the tournament favorites Havre and Sidney. The following are some of the wrestlers from that core group that looks to make an impact as the team prepares for Districts and State.
Mason Cobb (27-14): The Pirate freshman made an immediate impact in the 103-pound weight class and looks to be one of the favorites to clinch a state berth in his respective weight class.
Mateo Quinones (32-12): Last year Quinones finished fourth in Divisionals and fifth at State in his respective weight class. Hampered by a sprained ankle at the beginning of the season, Quinones has put the injury behind him to become the No. 1 or No. 2 ranked competitor in the 113-weight class, according to Bob Owen.
RJ Pierre (27-9): Quinones and Pierre are a lethal combination at the 113-pound weight class. Pierre, who finished fourth in the state in 2016, missed a season with a dislocated elbow and after suffering an injury last year, didn’t get a chance to place in Divisionals or compete at State. Now healthy, Pierre will look to return to the podium in 2018.
Kedrick Baker (20-15): Baker, who finished second in Divisionals and fourth at state in 2017, is considered one of the top 4 competitors at his weight class, according to Owen.
Bridger Wenzel (37-9): Wenzel is the type of wrestler that is the first at practice and the last to leave. Owen has referred to Wenzel, who will compete in the 132-pound bracket, as “one of the hardest working kids on our team.”
“Wenzel was working with a couple of kids the other day and it wasn’t mandatory,” Owen said. “That is how you become a champion. He does the things that most kids don’t do in practice and that is why he is a champion.”
In 2017, Wenzel finished second in Divisional and third at State that earned him a No. 1 seed in his weight class. He has only taken one loss in Class A and is a returning state champion.
Cameron Brown (34-7): Pirates wrestler Cameron Brown finished third at Divisionals and fourth at State last year after overcoming a catastrophic injury.
Brown has overcome adversity to be one of the top tier wrestlers in the 145-pound weight division.
“He is another wrestler that should be one of the top-seeded wrestlers in his weight class and he is really dialed in,” Owen said of Brown. “Cameron is wrestling as well as he has his whole career and I am excited about his chances.”
Brown, who suffered a rib injury in January, was forced to miss the Rocky Mountain Classic. Owen said he felt Brown’s record would be better if he hadn’t suffered the setback.
“He hurt his ribs pretty bad and his record would be much better,” Owen said. “He’s just wrestled outstanding.”
Parker Adler: 39-4: Parker Adler transitioned from the 138-pound weight class to the 152-pound weight class this year.
At the 2017 tournament, Adler finished second and fell to Sawyer Deagan in the championship round at Billings.
“He’s the guy to beat (in our state) at 152 pounds,” Owen stated. “He has only lost to Tri-State in Coeur d’Alene and two other state champions in Class AA.
The consensus among the coaching ranks is that Adler is the favorite to not only win District in Columbia Falls but also capture gold at the state tournament.
Hunter Fritsch (23-9): Hunter Fritsch was close to capturing the state wrestling title last season as he finished second in Billings in 2017 and finished first at Divisionals last year.
Fritsch, who has competed at the 170-pound weight class, will battle with Columbia Falls’ wrestler Ben Winduer at his weight class. The winner of the match will get a more favorable seed and have a better path to the state championship.
“It’ll be a huge match and whoever winds up in second in that weight class will have a tougher semifinal match at state,” Owen said.
Noah Humphrey (19-17): Noah Humphrey has become one of the emotional leaders and a key component to a stacked Pirate group ready to head to divisional and state.
“He really deserves a shot at a state title,” Owen said. “He has been with us for four years and has put in a ton of work. He has gotten what he deserves as a result of that work. We have a sense he is going to be ready this time around in the Divisionals and State competition.”
Because of it being Humphrey’s senior season, Owen said he feels a “sense of urgency” from Humphrey as he prepares to enter Divisionals and the state tournament.
“He really wants to finish his career on a positive note,” Owen said. “I am hoping he will step up and get what he deserves.”
The Polson Pirates will hope to qualify for the Class A state tournamenton Feb 9-10 in Billings at MetraPark.
If the Pirates make it to state they will compete with Havre, Sidney and other elite teams in Class A wrestling at Billings MetraPark Arena.