The North/South Middle School Athletic Association held their Divisional Tournament this past weekend in Fairfield to showcase area wrestlers and their teams in the final showdown of the season.
Wrestlers from Choteau, Cut Bank, Conrad, Browning, Fairfield, Cascade, Valier, Simms, Chester/Joplin/Inverness, Havre, Shelby, Big Sandy and Fort Benton traveled to Eagle Country to compete in the prestigious event.
A young Coyote squad from Shelby was determined to make their mark on the mats and prove that hard work pays off. After a long day of blood, sweat and tears, the Coyotes found themselves in seventh place out of 13 teams and placed four on the podium.
The lone champion from Shelby was fifth grader, Kael Young (70lbs). Kael has wrestled well all year and was the second seed at 70lbs. He pinned his way to the finals. He defeated Trace Kosse, of Choteau, by fall in 1:59 in the quarterfinals. In the semis, he defeated Izaak Munsi, of Cascade, by fall in 1:10. In the finals, he defeated Chance Rohrback, of Havre, by fall in 2:08 to become the 70lb champion.
“I have never seen a kid that is so comfortable riding with his legs at such a young age,” said Coach Thad White. “He seems to always come out on top riding legs, even in the most precarious positions. He’s a natural.”
Wrestling their way back through the consolation bracket, three Coyotes found themselves in the consolation finals. Joey Riehl placed third, defeating Devine Parker, of Havre, by fall in 1:20 at 140lbs, while Berlin Larson (130lbs) and Joryn Bunnell (165lbs) placed fourth.
“At the start of the season, I felt we were at a disadvantage due to our collective lack of experience,” said Coach White. “It was the very first year, ever, for over half of our team. I am humbled that these kids decided to come out for the sport. After having some success at the varsity level, I think people are starting to recognize how wrestling can be the perfect compliment to other sports. For this reason, more and more parents are encouraging their kids to try it.”
Coach White went on to say, “I also give a ton of credit to the volunteers in our Little Guy program. They have done a great job at promoting the sport. Once we got the kids in the room and showed them some simple moves and pinning combinations, they started to really catch on. It was fun to watch them develop and start to win some matches. Our practices were intense, but fun, and attendance was better than expected. At the end of the regular season last week, the kids were so disappointed that it had to come to an end. I am excited at the prospect of having growth in our varsity program. We could potentially add five or more wrestlers from the JH roster to an already solid line-up in varsity next season. Success has a tendency to breed success.”