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Libby's Leir, Corvallis' Davis draw inspiration from family on way to state wrestling titles

February 2, 2012
Northwest Montana A Conference


Libby's Leir, Corvallis' Davis draw inspiration from family on way to state wrestling titles

 TOM BAUER/Missoulian

Libby's Kyle Leir is the top-ranked wrestler at 145 pounds in Class A.

  • 020212 kyle leir
  • Travis Davis

Corvallis' Travis Davis and Libby's Kyle Leir don't have a ton in common, but they do share a single thought.

Neither wrestler wants to ever feel like they did 19 days ago - the last time they each lost a match.

It happened in the finals of the Jug Beck Rocky Mountain Classic, a monster tournament that brings in talented wrestlers from all over the region. Davis lost to four-time meet champion Cole Mendenhall of Great Falls High, while Leir lost to a three-time meet champ from out of state.

"There's one match I'm still not too happy about," said Davis, who never did win a Rocky title. "But that's about it."

"This year, it was a hellavu lot tougher," said Leir, who won an RMC title as a junior. "It's a humbling experience, but it's a motivator at the same time. I'm definitely going out there to beat everybody else this year."

Davis (33-1) and Leir (33-3) have won a combined 12 matches in a row since Jan. 14. It's a streak the two seniors hope to continue through the rest of the season, starting Saturday at their respective divisional tourneys in Anaconda and Columbia Falls.

Davis is the top-ranked wrestler in Class A at 140 pounds. He became a two-time state champion last year after beating Sidney's Brennan Gorder, 4-2, at the Butte Civic Center. However, that's not the state final that sticks out the most in Davis' mind.

The one he lost does.

As a freshman, Davis fell to Miles City's Kylan Zumpf in front of a packed house at the Billings Metra.

"Just walking into that place for the finals scared the crap out of me," Davis says. "Oh my gosh. I did not know what to do."

He came back the next year and beat Gorder at the Metra to win his first state title, then followed it up with last year's win in Butte. Davis, it seems, was destined to be a multiple state champion.

His father, Michael, was a state champion wrestler and even made the Junior World team.

"He just knows so much about wrestling, it's crazy," says the younger Davis. "He's been my main coach since I was walking."

But the family influence doesn't end there. Here's Travis Davis describing his uncles: "Justin was a three-time state champ, Matt's a two-time state champ, Jason's a two-time state champ, Rex was a state champ and Brandon, he got hurt every year right before state, but he was also on the Junior World team like my dad."

Only one of his uncles still lives in the Bitterroot, but Davis said they'll all be in Billings next week.

"They've all been there my entire life, helping me, teaching me, supporting me," he said.

Davis also gives a nod to his teammates, including fellow senior Riley Nagel. Davis and Nagel are on the verge of becoming the first wrestlers in Corvallis history to win four individual divisional titles.

"I credit everybody in our room. They all give me a different look," Davis says. "Every match, I have to give credit to the other guy for making me better. That's just the way it works."

Even if it's a loss?

"They help drive me even more," he says. "I definitely want to meet (Mendenhall) again."

Leir, the top-ranked wrestler at 145 pounds, says he'll never forget what it was like to be crowned a state champ. He edged Laurel's Tommy Cooper, 6-4, in the finals last season after being runner-up the year before.

"It doesn't get any better than that," Leir says. "You finally know that's why you put in all that hard work. It's pretty emotional. All kinds of things pour through you after you get your hand raised."

Leir remembers that Cooper had a considerable height advantage in that match.

"I'm pretty short," says Leir, "five-foot-4, maybe 5-5 on a good day."

It's probably more accurate to say Cooper's length was the problem. His gangily build, aside from being a contrast to Leir's stockiness, meant there were a lot of limbs flying around.

"I had to adjust to that, because not everything I like to hit was open," Leir says. "I had to use a different strategy. Plus, I was bleeding a lot, which gave him time to rest."

But Leir continued to do what he does best - push the action physically.

"If you watch the tape, (Cooper's) facial expression totally changes after I got that second take down," Leir says. "I know it's going to be tougher this year - I have a lot of tough kids in my weight group - but if I keep wrestling the way I can, I'll be fine. ... I'm just going to try and break every one of them."

Leir credits his coaches, especially assistant Jason Harrington, for instilling that attitude.

"He's the one who told me I needed to start breaking people mentally," Leir says. "I want to impress him. I want him to know that his hard work with coaching me is paying off."

Leir also looks to his immediate family for inspiration, especially his father Randy, who works at the Genesis Mine in Troy. Before that Randy was a member of the greenchain at the Libby sawmill, he logged cedars and did whatever he could, Kyle says, to support himself as a youngster.

"He's always proud of me, no matter what happens. But he lets me know what I need to work on, too," Kyle says. "He never got to be a wrestler, but he knows what hard work is all about."

Leir, who turns 18 on Friday, also has a soft spot for his two older sisters. Ashley, 24, lives in Kansas City, where she helps fight human trafficking as part of the International House of Prayer. Katie, 22, lives in Richland, Wash., and is new mom.

"I'm proud to have the sisters that I have. They're pretty awesome," Leir says. "They give me a lot of good advice."

Read more: http://missoulian.com/sports/high-school/wrestling/libby-s-leir-corvallis-davis-draw-inspiration-from-family-on/article_4c2c41b8-4d67-11e1-9720-0019bb2963f4.html#ixzz1lFChodcH

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