BUTTE — When the MHSA State Wrestling Championships begin on Friday morning, Butte will be well represented.
The Bulldogs are bringing 16 wrestlers to Rimrock Auto Arena and among them is talented senior heavyweight Jeff Queer. It’ll be his third-straight attempt to make finals, as he was runner-up in 2015 before taking home the 2016 title.
Undefeated in Class AA action this year and victorious in the Eastern AA seeding tournament, Queer has stayed atop the coaches poll throughout the season and seems to be the clear favorite at 285.
“He wants to go out a two-time state champ and at the divisional he put himself in the best place to do that,” Butte head coach Cory Johnston said. “I think that’s his expectation and that’s what we expect him to do.”
Queer is hardly the only Butte wrestler looking to make his mark at the tournament, nor is he the only Bulldog wrestler that topped the seeding tournament. Kameron Moreno, who is 21-8 on the year, took first at 182. His brother, Kobe, took third at 170. Gabe Tierney also finished third and should have a solid shot at placing in the 120 pound class.
The Bulldogs had eight total wrestlers finish fifth or better in their divisional and Johnston seemed excited about the opportunity in front of his team.
“We’re going to have to wrestle well,” Johnston said. “In some of our weights we didn’t do a whole lot of favors to ourselves in the first round. But in a lot of the tournaments we’ve done well at this year, we haven’t done well because of champions, but because of how well we’ve wrestled in the backdoor.
“We’re expecting the same thing this week.”
Picking up wins in the consolation rounds, as Johnston mentions, will be important in this tournament. Last season, the difference between second and fifth was just 34.5 points. Butte finished ninth and the expectations are higher this year.
Bonus point wins on the backside of the brackets will be huge and in a tight tournament, absolutely critical. That said, there’s a simple focus for his team as they head to Billings on Thursday.
“There’s no use look ahead of your road and seeing what you have coming up,” Johnston said. “Lots of crazy things happen at this tournament and the second you have your road planned, it changes.”
There is one road that can be planned, however, and it’s the path down I-90 toward the tournament, which will include several local teams, including two wrestlers from Butte Central.
Seniors Clay Fisher (126) and Roy Russell (103) are both headed to state for the Maroons. Fisher — who was runner-up at the state tournament last season — finished second at the Western A divisional.
Fisher has battled injuries at points this season, but the feeling is that he’s now 100 percent.
“Physically he’s ready, mentally he’s ready, he’s hungry,” Central head coach Robin Moodry said. “I’m excited for the kids and both have high expectations, and I’m just happy they’re competing.
“They just need to leave everything on the wrestling mat and have no regrets.”
Dillon’s Brent Tezack has a chance to leave his mark as he searches for his third-straight state title, which would tie him with Nels Nelson for the most in school history. The Beavers are sending six total to Billings.
In Class B-C, Whitehall will send nine wrestlers to state, including four — Dawson Hoerauf (285), Kayden Howser (205), Connor Johnson (132), and Trentin Walker (113) that placed first in the southern divisional. Jefferson has 14 wrestlers qualified, seven of whom finished in the top two spots at the southern divisional.
Anaconda qualified two.