They didn’t leave Miles City with hardware Saturday, but fifth-year Belgrade wrestling coach Sean Dellwo was still pretty pleased with the effort.
The Panthers qualified 10 grapplers for state at the Eastern A Divisional, including a champion in junior John Mears. They also placed fifth in the team standings with 113.5 points.
“We needed some things to go our way to get that third place (trophy) and to fifth place, top half, is where we expect to be week in and week out. And we did a good job of doing that this weekend,” said Dellwo. “Unlike last year where we had a bunch of seventh and eighth place matches, this year we were wrestling in every single placing match. So it was good, it was solid.”
Defending State A champion Sidney won the tournament with 349.5 points, while Havre placed second and Custer County was third with 233.5 and 173 points, respectively. Laurel finished fourth with 152.
Mears (31-4) went unbeaten at 152 pounds en route to winning his third consecutive divisional championship. He pinned Park County’s Memphis Burgess in the quarterfinals and then beat Billings Central’s Jacob Morgan by technical fall in the semifinals.
That set up a rematch against Havre’s Connor Harris, who had pinned Mears for the first time in his career at the Class A Duals on Jan. 18. Mears gutted out a 7-4 decision to claim the title.
“It was a big match for him. He needed that, he needed the confidence boost going into state next weekend,” said Dellwo. “And it really sets him up nicely for the state tournament. There’s going to be three guys all (ranked) in the top four on the same side of the bracket and then there’s John on the other side. He’ll have to wrestle hard, but he made his path a lot easier by winning that match.”
Senior Kevin Aiken and freshman Oden Currier placed third at 170 and 126, respectively. Aiken pinned three of the four opponents he faced. The lone loss came against Sidney’s Trevor Dean in the semifinals.
Currier (18-9) also pinned three opponents on the day en route to finishing with a 4-1 record. The lone loss came against Fergus County’s Cooper Birdwell in the semifinals, but he bounced back to pin Havre’s Kendall Pleniger it the consolation semifinals and then decision Laurel’s Keagan Thompson in the consolation match.
“Those guys wrestled their butts off. Oden wrestled a really good match against Birdwell. Couldn’t quite finish it, but it I think we put a little bit of fear in Birdwell, which is important,” said Dellwo. “And Kevin Aiken went in and did what Kevin Aiken has done all year, and he’s putting people on their backs with that spiral half and pinning people.”
Xaden Cunningham placed fourth at 182 pounds for the Panthers. He too reached the semifinals, but lost to Sidney’s Jett Jones by fall.
Fellow freshman Mason Jacobsen posted a 2-2 record on the day en route to placing fifth at 205, while Matt Foley and Gabe Linn were sixth at 113 and 160, respectively.
Brendan Gill (145) and Zayne Konkol (285) each finished seventh, while Colter Lindsey (138) rounded out Belgrade by placing eighth.
“Kids were winning matches, so I think we’re on the upward swing,” said Dellwo. “You never know what can happen at state. Kids get nervous and maybe we can cause a couple upsets and really cause some havoc at state.”