With a deep roster and a wealth of talent, Frenchtown looks to be the favorite at the Northwestern A divisional wrestling tournament today in Frenchtown. That doesn’t mean the other four teams are laying out the red carpet.
“We like to think if we wrestled our best we can challenge them,” Libby coach Kelly Morford said. “We’ll definitely have to put it all together to keep it close.”
Libby, Columbia Falls and Polson, which has won the last three divisional tournaments, are all poised to take a shot at the Broncs, who have dominated during the dual season.
Frenchtown, ranked fifth in the most recent Class A poll, has eight wrestlers ranked individually.
The top four wrestlers in each weight class will advance to the state tournament in Billings Feb. 8-9.
“It’s always a battle for divisional,” Polson coach Bob Owen said. “I think Frenchtown is the favorite, but out of the rest of us it could be anybody.”
Polson enters the tournament with 16 wrestlers, including Craig Feistner at 140 pounds, who will be going for his fourth divisional title. Along with Feistner, Thunder Morales at 98 pounds and Carlos Quinones at 119 come into the tournament ranked among the best in their classes. The Pirates are ranked seventh as a team.
“Our kids keep improving every week, we like where were at,” Owen said. “We have a very young team. There’s 6-7 freshmen in the group. Their progress has been amazing through the season.”
Libby, which enters the tournament with five ranked wrestlers, has 16 wrestlers entered. The Greenchain is focusing on perfecting the little things to get ready.
“We went over everything physically that we can go over,” Morford said. “At this point in time they have to get themselves in the right frame of mind to produce on the mat.”
Morford said he would rely on his seniors, like Mitch Haugen and Ricky Roach, to lead the team through the high-pressure tournament. Haugen, at 135 pounds, and 125-pounder Zach Crace will be looking to defend their divisional titles.
“Hopefully they can lead the charge for us,” Morford said.
Columbia Falls sophomore Shonn Roberts enters as the favorite at 112 pounds while Mat Cat teammate Josiah Osbourne is the highest-ranked 130-pounder in the conference.
Whitefish’s Wolf Zinke enters the weekend as the top ranked heavyweight in Class A, but will likely have a showdown against Frenchtown’s Jordan Zuraff, the only wrestler to beat him all season.
“Divisional is the smallest tournament any of these teams go to, but the intensity is cranked up to the max because everybody’s fighting for that spot (at state),” Whitefish coach Ryan Boyle said.
“From here on out, it’s a new season. You have to put everything on the line.”
The tournament begins at 10 a.m. at Frenchtown High School.