Winning four straight state wrestling titles is hard enough, but the reclassification of weight classes in Montana that began this year will likely make the feat decidedly more difficult.
When the Montana High Schools Association shifted from 15 to 13 wrestling classes, it eliminated the weight at which many four-timers wrestled as freshmen.
The 98 and 105 weights were combined — as were 195 and 220 on the upper end — to form a new hybrid weight of 103 that will leave fewer holes in brackets and dual lineups.
But it also adds new competition for the lightest weight, the one typically housing freshmen, by doubling the participants.
“It’s going to be interesting with the weight changes,” said Columbia Falls wrestling coach Jesse Schaeffer, who has a senior in his wrestling room chasing state title No. 4 this week in Shonn Roberts. “I think that’s going to maybe reduce that.”
Twenty-three Montana wrestlers have completed their four-peats and 11 of those started at 98 pounds of lower — Gene Davis of Missoula County High, the state’s first four-timer, won his freshman year at 95 pounds in 1960 before a similar weight shift later in the decade.
Add in Roberts, who will compete at 138 pounds when state action begins Friday in Billings but won at 98 in 2012, and that’s exactly half.
“It’s kind of weird since that’s what I wrestled at as a freshman,” Roberts began, “but 103, the 98-105 mix, I think that’s reasonable. It’ll make things a little bit tougher.”
That’s hardly the thinking behind merging weights, though. At either extreme ends of the weight scale (195 and 220 became the 205 class) fewer teams — especially at lower classifications — could field a full lineup. Many times, too few entrants there led to a state bracket marred by automatic byes and regular season duals that might as well skip on to 105 pounds anyway.
The unintended consequence is that 2015 may be near the last time wrestling fans will get a trio of four-time possibles all on the mats at the same time.
Sidney’s Gresh Jones joins Roberts in the Class A tournament this week at 126 pounds searching for his fourth, while Forsyth’s Matt Weber will be the talk of Class B-C with a potential fourth title.
Both boys won their first — and lightest — at 112 pounds, though.