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.
Sometimes reinforcements for a high school sports program come of age and up from the local middle school. Sometimes they come from Idaho.
The Hamilton boys’ golf team wrapped up the State A title Saturday at their home course behind five balanced scorers, one of whom wasn’t even enrolled at a school in Montana last year.
Max Toenjes, who moved to the Bitterroot since last fall from Sandpoint, Idaho, fired a team-best two-day 155 to finish fourth and help the Broncs bust Day-1 leader Billings Central.
With the conclusion of Saturday’s championships in the Southwestern and Central A’s and Western B-C divisional softball tournaments, the state tournament brackets for Montana’s three high school sports classifications for spring 2014 are set.
Here are the first-round pairings for each, with tournament play beginning next Thursday in Great Falls and Polson:
Great Falls High and Great Falls CMR were part of the East-West Class AA softball exchange that blew through Missoula on Friday. Each stopped off at the respective Garden City schools for one matchup each in a tripleheader.
And boy did things go well for the Bison and Rustlers.
The Great Falls schools swept all three and again look like the favorites for the State AA title coming up in two weeks with the tournament held in, of course, Great Falls of all places.
From 2010 to 2013, Polson pitcher Shalaina Duford was a pain in the sides of more batters than possibly any other hurler in the history of the sport in Montana high schools.
She won three State A championships in ’10, ’11 and ’12 and more games than any other pitcher before or since. But strangely enough, Duford is out of the pitching circle now with the Community College of Spokane.
And killing it all the same
Missoula Hellgate’s run to the championship game gave the Knights a unique set of circumstances as the State AA boys’ basketball bracket played out. The Knights would only face teams they’d lost to during the regular season.
Hellgate lost four games during the regular season starting with – in chronological order – Billings Skyview, Billings West and Helena Capital (twice).
In order to win a second straight state title, the Knights needed to beat – again, in order – Skyview, West and Capital.
Here’s a quick look at what the girls of Missoula Sentinel’s class of 2014 have done in four years on the basketball court:
Four straight State AA title game appearances
Three straight State AA championships
A four-year combined record of 83-10
So is it safe to call this group the greatest girls’ basketball class in Sentinel history?
When the Columbia Falls boys bumped Laurel off the championship track in Friday’s State A semifinal, Locomotives coach Patrick Hansen Jr. knew exactly who would win Saturday’s title game, even before C. Falls had an opponent line up for the finals.
The cards all pointed to the Wildcats, or at least Laurel’s bizarre pattern of semifinal state losses did. Including this weekend, the Locos have lost in four straight semis, each time the team they’ve lost to winning it all.
Like clockwork, the luck of the Laurel loss held true Saturday night when the Cats won their fifth championship in program history with a 56-47 victory over Dillon.
UPDATED: A blizzard warning forced the postponement of the Sentinel-Capital basketball games Thursday. The action will be made up on Monday, Mar. 3, with Sentinel’s girls still hosting Capital at 7 p.m. and the boys on the road in Helena also at 7 p.m.
Almost four weeks ago, Helena Capital knocked Missoula Sentinel off the path of the unbeatens by upsetting the No. 1 ranked Spartans 55-50 in Helena.
Neither team has lost since as last year’s State AA finalists have been hurtling toward another rematch this week. The now top-ranked Bruins come to Missoula to face the second-ranked Spartans for a 7 p.m. tip-off Thursday, a meeting of two 17-1 clubs with high state aspirations.