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MatCats win first state A wrestling title in 33 years

by CHRIS PETERSON
Editor | February 15, 2023 2:00 AM

The drought is over.

The Columbia Falls boys wrestling squad won its first state A title in 33 years on Saturday with 201 points. Miles City was second with 152 points.

Senior Justin Windauer was the champion at 160 pounds, going undefeated on the season as he beat Miles Wells of Hardin with a takedown in the final moments of the match.

He was the lone champ for Columbia Falls, which placed 10 wrestlers.

Chris Rathjen (138) took second to Tristan Stygles of Havre and senior Tyler Gilfry (126) also took second, losing to Cole Krutzfeldt of Lockwood by decision.

Traic Fainter (103) took third; Blake Hoerner (132) took sixth; Winslow Peters (138) took sixth; Billy Gustafson (145) took sixth; Blaise Cronk (152) took third, pinning teammate Josiah Kilman; Rowdy Crump took third (170); and Brandon Role (182) took third to round out the scoring for the team.

It was a total team effort, coach Jessie Schaeffer said.

“I’m super excited for them,” he said. “It all came together and they bought into what we were trying to accomplish. It was cool.”

Schaeffer is in his 17th year coaching. He said they started feeling pretty good when Rowdy Crump wrestled back to take third at 170. It was then they knew they had the points for the title.

He was also impressed with Windauer, who wrestled up a weight class and had a tough championship match Wells of Hardin, who was a big guy and had dropped weight.

“(Windauer’s) selflessness was a driving force for where we could put our kids,” Schaeffer noted. By wrestling at 160, that allowed Blaise Cronk and Josiah Kilman to wrestle at 152.

It was just one of those tournaments where the boys rose to the occasion.

“Every one of those kids wrestled above their seeds,” Schaeffer said. “… We had some momentum and kids just started feeding off the energy.”

Schaeffer also made note of freshman Jaylynn Nace, she was the first girl in Columbia Falls wrestling history to place at the state tournament, taking fourth at 100 pounds.

“She represented our program well,” Schaeffer said. She told the coaches she was “going places.”

“It was cool,” he said. All told, four Columbia Falls girls qualified for the state tournament.

For Windauer, going undefeated was a fantastic way to cap off a senior year. His last match was his hardest as it came down to the closing seconds.

“I knew I needed to score,” he said. “I just gave it one last push and came out of top.”

He set a new school record for going undefeated with the most wins in a season.

“It feels pretty good,” he said.

About midway through the season he went up to 160, opening up the 152 weight class for others on the squad.

“I just wanted to do what was best for the team,” he said.

He ended up about 3 pounds shy of being 160 at state, he said. Windauer will continue his wrestling career at Montana State University-Northern in Havre as he studies civil engineering.

He noted there’s also a family connection to the last time Columbia Falls won a state wrestling title. In 1990, his father, Dave, was the lone champion for that team when they won the crown. Dave Windauer won at 171 pounds.

Team scores — Columbia Falls 201, Miles City 152, Laurel 146, Sidney/Fairview 144.5, Frenchtown 131, Havre 124.

103: Semifinal - Gordon Knapp (Sidney/Fairview) dec. Traic Fainter (Columbia Falls), 6-0; Isaac Stewart (Frenchtown) dec. August Courville (Ronan), 4-0. Cons. Semi - Fainter p. Philip Westrick (Lockwood), 0:28; Kona Fandrich (Lockwood) dec. Courville, 11-9. 5th Place Match - Westrick p. Courville, 2:53). 3rd Place - Fainter p. Fandrich, 2:32.

120: Semifinal - Ridge Cote (Ronan) dec. Brody Keysor (Sidney/Fairview), 10-3. Championship - Brody Ketterling (Lockwood) dec. Cote, 7-2.

126: Semifinal - Tyler Gilfry (Columbia Falls) dec. Dalton Hinbauch (Lockwood), 6-1. Championship - Cole Krutzfeldt (Lockwood) dec. Gilfry, 13-6.

132: Cons. Semi - Trae DeSaveur (Livingston) p. Blake Hoerner (Columbia Falls, 1:15. 5th Place Match - Matthew Reske (Glendive) p. Hoerner, 3:51.

138: Semifinal - Chris Rathjen (Columbia Falls) dec. Winslow Peters (Columbia Falls), 7-0. Cons. Semi - Owen Lonski (Sidney/Fairview) dec. Peters, 7-2. 5th Place - Gage McGillvray (Livingston) p. Peters, 4:02. Championship - Tristan Stygles (Havre) p. Rathjen, 1:00.

145: Semifinal - Tahj Wells (Browning) dec. Billy Gustafson (Columbia Falls), 5-4. Cons. Semi - Koda King (Ronan) p. Gustafson, 2:44. 5th Place - Aden Winder (Laurel) p. Gustafson, 2:26. Championship - Zander Dean (Sidney/Fairview) dec. Wells, 8-3.

152: Semifinal - Reinhard Bold (Havre) maj. dec. Josiah Kilman (Columbia Falls), 10-1. Cons. Semi - Kilman p. Kade Wersland (Laurel), 2:27; Blaise Cronk (Columbia Falls) p. Deegan Tvedt (Miles City), 2:45. 3rd Place - Cronk p. Kilman, 2:41.

160: Semifinal - Justin Windauer (Columbia Falls) p. Espyn Hostetler (Glendive), 4:40; Miles Wells (Hardin) dec. Landon Bishop (Ronan), 10-6. Cons. Semi - Bishop maj. dec. Beau Mares (Laurel), 15-7. 3rd Place - Hostetler dec. Bishop, 10-9) Championship - Windauer dec. Miles Wells (Hardin), 7-6).

170: Cons. Semi - Rowdy Crump (Columbia Falls) maj. dec. Andrew Frederick (Hamilton), 20-9; Kadin Wise (Sidney/Fairview) dec. James Warner (Libby/Troy), 7-5. 5th Place - Andrew Frederick (Hamilton) inj. def. Warner, 1:49. 3rd Place - Crump won in sudden victory over Kadin Wise (Sidney/Fairview), 4-2.

182: Semifinal - Kale VanCampen (Havre) dec. Brandon Role (Columbia Falls), 8-3. Cons. Semi - Role dec. Nathan Hansen (Frenchtown), 8-1. 3rd Place - Role dec. Easton DeJong (Miles City), 4-3.

205: Semifinal - Jace DeShazer (Libby/Troy) p. Bryce Weidow (Corvallis), 0:28. Cons. Semi - Derrick Saltzman (Hamilton) dec. Kai Nash (Whitefish), 7-3. 5th Place - Bryce Weidow (Corvallis) p. Nash (Whitefish), 2:25. Championship - DeShazer p. Jett Boyce (Lewistown), 0:53.

285: Semifinal - Brendyn Whiteman (Browning) p. Jackson Miller (Miles City), 0:54. 1st Place Match - Holden Meged (Miles City) maj. dec. Whiteman, 11-3.

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Freshman Jaylynn Nace represented the girls well, taking fourth at 100 pounds. (Bob Windauer photo)

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Josiah Kilman wrestles in the state A tourney. (Bob Windauer photo)

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Rowdy Crump, top, wrestles in the state A tournament. (Bob Windauer photo)

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Chris Rathjen, top, wrestles in the state A tournament. (Bob Windauer photo)

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Brandon Role, top, wrestles in the state A tournament. (Bob Windauer photo)

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Justin Windauer celebrates his second career state championship. (Bob Windauer photo)