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Grapplers do well at Rocky Mountain Classic

by AVERY HOWE
Photographer | January 17, 2024 2:00 AM

Columbia Falls Wrestling saw four boys in the finals at the Rocky Mountain Classic this weekend, with Blaise Cronk (160) taking home gold. On the girls’ side, six placed.

“It was not quite the Rocky Mountain Classic it’s been in years’ past,” boys coach Jessie Schaeffer said, acknowledging that many teams were unable to make the trip to Missoula due to winter weather conditions. Great Falls, Flathead and Glacier were all unable to attend. Schaeffer thanked administration and transportation for getting the Mat Cats there safely.  However, the boys were able to see new competition in teams from Washington, whose wrestling style Schaeffer described as more aggressive than they had seen. 

Cronk’s first place win and 28 team points led the team, this was the first week Cronk moved down weight classes, from 170 to 160. The coaching staff hopes he will continue to find success there. Other placements included Traic Fainter (113) in second with 24 team points, Dylan Delorme (145) second with 24 team points, Rowdy Crump (182) second with 20 points, Billy Gustafson (152) fourth with 16 points and Cash Byrd (126) seventh with 5 points.  

Of the wrestlers who made it to finals, Schaeffer said, “Those are the matches you want to be wrestling… it’s nice to see those guys compete against that quality of kid.”

The boys also made a trip to Bigfork on Jan. 9, with minimal matches that the Cats mostly came out on top in. A trip to Polson Jan. 11 was cancelled due to weather. 

The girls wrestling team also competed against Washington and Idaho teams in Missoula, and coach Ben Schaeffer noted that while their goal was to compete more than to place, they did still have six on the podium. 

“It was an eye-opener for our girls,” he said, noting that many out-of-state programs had been running for seven or eight seasons, much longer than Columbia Falls’s. “The ones we did battle in, it was good to see that level of competition.”

Kinsey Ward (165) placed second with 12 points, Jaici Watt-Duran (145) third with 20 points, Jaelynn Nace (100) third with 12 team points, Vanessa Nace (100) fourth, Samantha Larsen (152) fourth with 12 points and Seirra Born (120) fifth with 13 points.

In Hamilton on Tuesday, Ben Schaeffer said the team “showed its youth,” with difficulty bouncing back after a long weekend. “We had a couple good wins, but as a team we struggled,” he said. The team will take the setback as a learning opportunity. 

Up next, the Cats travel to Butte for Class A duals Jan. 19-20. 

For the girls, there aren’t enough wrestlers to set up true duals and instead a tournament made up of pools on Friday will seed a bracket for Saturday. Ben Schaeffer hoped to compete in five matches and see how the girls compete against Class A, even if they are in All-Class competition at the end of the season. 

The boys will also get to see where they stand. “This will be a good test to see where we’re at by this time of year,” Jessie Schaeffer said.

Note: Last week’s basketball games and swim meet were canceled due to the weather.

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