Hundreds attend annual ‘Little Guy’ wrestling event in Libby

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  • Libby’s Lexie Davis faces Sandpoint’s Axel Jones during the Kootenai Klassic, March 3. (Ben Kibbey/The Western News)

  • 1

    Libby’s Talen Nordwick looks back to his coaches while wrestling Columbia Falls’ Derek Juntunen during the Kootenai Klassic, March 3.

  • 2

    Rocky Gibson and Levi Nick take a break on the sidelines during the Kootenai Klassic, March 3. (Ben Kibbey/The Western News)

  • 3

    Libby’s Braydun Barnes grapples with Wolf Pack wrestler Wyatt Olson during the Kootenai Klassic, March 3.

  • 4

    Gaven Miles and Braden Nick wrestle during the Kootenai Klassic, March 3.

  • 5

    Gaven Miles and Braden Nick wrestle during the Kootenai Klassic, March 3.

  • 6

    Charles Arnold II walks away with his ribbon after a Pee Wee match during the Kootenai Klassic, March 3. (Ben Kibbey photos/The Western News)

  • 7

    Eli Rayome attempts to pin his opponent during the Kootenai Klassic, March 3.

  • 8

    Coach Brian Barnes and referee Tucker Masters talk with Orion Roberts after a match, during the Kootenai Klassic, March 3.

  • 9

    Justice Benjamin and James Masters grapple during the Kootenai Klassic, March 3. (Ben Kibbey/The Western News)

  • 10

    Referee Tim Carvey shows helps Waylon Edwards with the ankle band that indicates a wrestler’s color during the Kootenai Klassic, March 3.

  • Libby’s Lexie Davis faces Sandpoint’s Axel Jones during the Kootenai Klassic, March 3. (Ben Kibbey/The Western News)

  • 1

    Libby’s Talen Nordwick looks back to his coaches while wrestling Columbia Falls’ Derek Juntunen during the Kootenai Klassic, March 3.

  • 2

    Rocky Gibson and Levi Nick take a break on the sidelines during the Kootenai Klassic, March 3. (Ben Kibbey/The Western News)

  • 3

    Libby’s Braydun Barnes grapples with Wolf Pack wrestler Wyatt Olson during the Kootenai Klassic, March 3.

  • 4

    Gaven Miles and Braden Nick wrestle during the Kootenai Klassic, March 3.

  • 5

    Gaven Miles and Braden Nick wrestle during the Kootenai Klassic, March 3.

  • 6

    Charles Arnold II walks away with his ribbon after a Pee Wee match during the Kootenai Klassic, March 3. (Ben Kibbey photos/The Western News)

  • 7

    Eli Rayome attempts to pin his opponent during the Kootenai Klassic, March 3.

  • 8

    Coach Brian Barnes and referee Tucker Masters talk with Orion Roberts after a match, during the Kootenai Klassic, March 3.

  • 9

    Justice Benjamin and James Masters grapple during the Kootenai Klassic, March 3. (Ben Kibbey/The Western News)

  • 10

    Referee Tim Carvey shows helps Waylon Edwards with the ankle band that indicates a wrestler’s color during the Kootenai Klassic, March 3.

Over 700 wrestlers, their coaches and families poured into the Ralph Tate Gymnasium March 3 for the annual Kootenai Klassic Little Guy Invitational Wrestling Tournament.

Vic Crace, a former president of the Libby Greenchain Wrestling Club and father of two wrestlers, said that in past years the tournament has drawn close to 1,000 wrestlers.

The tournament is so popular with other teams in part because of the level of competition, he said.

“A lot of people have said this is tougher than our state Little Guy, to come to the Kootenai, because we get those teams from out of state,” he said. “It’s a heck of a test. A lot of times if you’ve won the Kootenai, it’s a lot tougher than pretty much any other Little Guy tournament you’re going to go to — in the state of Montana, anyhow.”

Jason Harrington coaches wrestlers from fifth to eighth grade with the Greenchain Club, and assists with the Libby High School team.

A wrestler since third grade, Harrington has lived in and out of the area, but always involved in local wrestling when he was here.

“The Kootenai Klassic is what we can consider probably one of the craziest tournaments that these kids will see locally,” Harrington said.

When several hundred wrestlers, their coaches and their families crowd into the gym, there isn’t much room left to move, he said.

Yet, the tournament is still very well run, despite all the work involved, he said.

“There’s a lot of support in the community, and people like to bring their teams to our tournament,” he said. “We get a lot of wrestling in, a lot of good competition, and it’s just a fun atmosphere for these kids.”

Crace’s oldest son, Zach Crace, is still at the top of the Century club list outside the Ralph Tate Gymnasium with his 154 career wins. His other son, Cody Crace, is a Libby High School wrestler.

With two sons who were wrestling since not long after they could walk, Crace said there were times along the way when they butted heads and he wondered if his sons would have regrets.

“They said, ‘All in all, absolutely, our kids will wrestle too,’” he said.

In addition to the work ethic and other life lessons his sons took from wrestling, there was also just the experience, he said. Between tournaments and camps, the club wrestlers are able to travel all over the country, and sometimes even out of the country.

“We’d go to a tournament in Iowa, and all of sudden some kid would walk by from New Jersey and start talking to Zach,” he said. “It’s just amazing the kids they got to know all over the country.”

Crace and his sons made many memories with one another and with their fellow club members over long road trips and around hotel pools during the club wrestling seasons, he said. There was also the support of shared travel expenses to help keep costs down.

But the club doesn’t just support each other by sharing rides, Crace said. The Kootenai Klassic is the only fundraiser for the Greenchain Club each year, and proceeds will help wrestlers traveling to tournaments.

“It’s our big fundraiser every year, and it has sent kids all over the country — and even all over the world,” he said.

“We have one boy planning on going to the Disney Duels in Orlando this summer, the club will pay a third of that,” he said. “Our current president, RJ Masters, he went to Paris, France, when he was a junior in high school, and the wrestling club helped fund that.”

“That’s basically our whole mission, is to create funds to help these kids to get out and wrestle more,” he said.

The club also feeds the high school wrestling program and keeps the older boys active in wrestling during the offseason, Crace said.

“‘Summer wrestlers make winter champions,’ is our saying in wrestling,” Crace said.

“It’s obviously important for a high school program to have a strong wrestling club,” said Libby High School Head Coach Kelly Morford.

The club and school system coaches work together and stay on the same page, he said. The club also helps cover the cost of competing in events such as USA Wrestling tournaments.

The high schoolers give back, from spending their Friday night setting up for the Kootenai Klassic, to coaching the younger kids throughout their season.

But that dedication to the program is not only evident among the older wrestlers.

Crace said that some of the people helping out with the Klassic are former wrestlers who don’t yet have kids of their own to participate. Yet, they still want to contribute.

Harrington said that high expectations start early with the wrestling club, and that young men with high standards are the result.

“It’s not just in the wrestling room and on the competition mat. We have a high expectation of our kids being students first, they need to be polite — basically they need to be good citizens,” Harrington said.

“The goal is that when they come out of here they have good work ethic, they have good life skills, they’re polite people — it’s somebody that you would want to hire,” he said.

Crace said that coaches like to see their wrestlers keep wrestling, but the main thing is just getting the kids up off their couch and active during the winter months.

“We just want to see kids out doing something. If they wind up being basketball players, great, at least they were doing something,” he said.

Even though he stepped down as club president two years ago after 15 years, Crace said he wants to stay involved after his youngest has finished wrestling.

“I love Libby. I love the Greenchain,” Crace said. “It made me insane proud to sit up there and watch Zach wrestle for all those years.

“I hope someday to watch my grandkids wrestle here.”

Those interested in Little Guy Wrestling can contact club president RJ Masters at 406-334-0741.

Kootenai Klassic Results

1 Kalispell 363, 2 Columbia Falls 351, 3 Libby 325, 4 Eureka 293, 5 Wolfpack Wrestling Club 282.5, 6 Bonners Ferry 248.5, 7 Whitefish 245, 8 Evergreen 220, 9 Lakeland Wrestling Club 218, 10 Bigfork 199.5, 11 Thompson Falls 186.5, 12 Mission/Charlo 141.0, 13 Plains 84.5, 14 Hot Springs 65.0, 15 Sandpoint Top Dog Wrestling 20.5

Beginner - 45A

1st Place - Noah Sprecher of Thompson Falls

2nd Place - Kingston Nyomo of Plains

3rd Place - Forfeit Forfeit of Unattached

4th Place - Pyper Murphy of Libby

1st Place Match

Beginner - 45B

1st Place - Dalton Regehr of Bonners Ferry

2nd Place - Silas Davis of Eureka

3rd Place - Taven Roetcisoender of Lakeland Wrestling Club

4th Place - Paxton Elm of Whitefish

Beginner - 50A

1st Place - James Cox of Kalispell

2nd Place - Aiden Harris of Libby

3rd Place - Riott Crump of Columbia Falls

4th Place - Audrey Love of Libby

Beginner - 50B

1st Place - Hudson Hannah of Libby

2nd Place - Nash Galey of Kalispell

3rd Place - Levi Nick of Libby

4th Place - Trent Shay of Eureka

Beginner - 50C

1st Place - Blake Michalkiewicz of Libby

2nd Place - Trigan Ereaux of Evergreen

3rd Place - Mason Hickman of Eureka

4th Place - Gabe Bassett of Libby

Beginner - 55A

1st Place - Caleb Poe-Hatten of Kalispell

2nd Place - Kellen Jones of Whitefish

3rd Place - Kade Knopp of Lakeland Wrestling Club

4th Place - Silas Stimac of Wolfpack Wrestling Club

Beginner - 55B

1st Place - Zach Teal of Lakeland Wrestling Club

2nd Place - Tristan Caudill of Libby

3rd Place - Greyson Brubaker of Kalispell

4th Place - Hudson Leck of Wolfpack Wrestling Club

Beginner - 55C

1st Place - Tyler Ereaux of Evergreen

2nd Place - Tristan Kelly of Thompson Falls

3rd Place - Brody Swift of Bonners Ferry

4th Place - Wyatt Henderson of Wolfpack Wrestling Club

Beginner - 60A

1st Place - Ryne Gillette of Wolfpack Wrestling Club

2nd Place - Olivia O`Leary of Whitefish

3rd Place - Scout Love of Columbia Falls

4th Place - Blake Hoffman of Libby

Beginner - 60B

1st Place - Benjamin Forman of Columbia Falls

2nd Place - Logan Nitti of Lakeland Wrestling Club

3rd Place - Tristen Cheff of Kalispell

4th Place - Gabriel Tappen of Bigfork

Beginner - 60C

1st Place - Cooper Denys of Wolfpack Wrestling Club

2nd Place - Axel Jones of Sandpoint Top Dog Wrestling

3rd Place - Indigo Hunter of Eureka

4th Place - Naomi Elwell of Bigfork

Beginner - 65A

1st Place - Sheldon Letcher of Eureka

2nd Place - Hunter Nelson of Kalispell

3rd Place - Hayden Strandberg of Columbia Falls

4th Place - Brylon Van Elswyk of Thompson Falls

Beginner - 65B

1st Place - Iain Edwards of Lakeland Wrestling Club

2nd Place - John England of Kalispell

3rd Place - Levi Dawson of Bigfork

4th Place - Dylan Owens of Columbia Falls

Beginner - 70A

1st Place - Kevin Letcher of Eureka

2nd Place - Hunter Strandberg of Columbia Falls

3rd Place - Logan Dutton of Libby

4th Place - Reiley Love of Libby

Beginner - 70B

1st Place - Trenton Moskalov of Columbia Falls

2nd Place - Eathon Brandon of Columbia Falls

3rd Place - Olavi Matson of Columbia Falls

4th Place - Colt Hapner of Kalispell

Beginner - 75

1st Place - L.j. Alton of Wolfpack Wrestling Club

2nd Place - Aiden Dodd of Bonners Ferry

3rd Place - Ryker McAnally of Bigfork

4th Place - Karson Wyatt of Columbia Falls

Beginner - 80

1st Place - Gage McWatters of Lakeland Wrestling Club

2nd Place - Sawyer Kaufman of Evergreen

3rd Place - Tiyler Curtiss of Eureka

4th Place - Alex Hensley of Thompson Falls

Beginner - 85

1st Place - Magnus Wisher of Kalispell

2nd Place - Brody Lau of Kalispell

3rd Place - Chase Hoerner of Columbia Falls

4th Place - Barrett Barnes of Kalispell

Beginner - 95

1st Place - Shannon Hughes of Wolfpack Wrestling Club

2nd Place - Jayden Grounds of Thompson Falls

3rd Place - Brycen Potter of Wolfpack Wrestling Club

4th Place - Thomas Airhart of Plains

Beginner - 108-130

1st Place - Bryce Alt of Unattached

Novice - 55

1st Place - Dayton Naldrett of Kalispell

2nd Place - Aiden Sweat of Kalispell

Novice - 60

1st Place - Kellen Downing of Kalispell

2nd Place - Kruger Sipe of Kalispell

3rd Place - Paul Sundstrom of Thompson Falls

4th Place - Gabriel Arensmeyer of Columbia Falls

Novice - 65A

1st Place - Jaxon Sterling of Columbia Falls

2nd Place - Colton Rush of Lakeland Wrestling Club

3rd Place - Carson Orr of Libby

4th Place - Rebel Crump of Columbia Falls

Novice - 65B

1st Place - Teagan Sweeney-Moore of Columbia Falls

2nd Place - Karson Spilis of Columbia Falls

3rd Place - Oliver Buzzell of Wolfpack Wrestling Club

4th Place - Logan Handlen of Lakeland Wrestling Club

Novice - 70A

1st Place - Landree Aurand of Whitefish

2nd Place - Colin Hickman of Eureka

3rd Place - Arne Troy of Columbia Falls

4th Place - Payton Jones of Whitefish

Novice - 70B

1st Place - Mason Fraley of Columbia Falls

2nd Place - Hunter Rooney of Libby

3rd Place - Douglas Letcher of Eureka

4th Place - Cory Tappan of Bigfork

Novice - 75A

1st Place - Gannon Wisher of Kalispell

2nd Place - Elijah Copping of Wolfpack Wrestling Club

3rd Place - Logan Thompson of Evergreen

4th Place - Ayden Helgert of Eureka

Novice - 75B

1st Place - Dominick Young of Evergreen

2nd Place - Jayce Whitten of Wolfpack Wrestling Club

3rd Place - Trystan Toavs of Columbia Falls

4th Place - Ricco Busicchia of Lakeland Wrestling Club

Novice - 80A

1st Place - Gannon Wisher of Kalispell

2nd Place - Tyler Jorgenson of Kalispell

3rd Place - Alexander Reatz of Libby

4th Place - Ian Thom of Libby

Novice - 80B

1st Place - Johnny Felix of Plains

2nd Place - Gideon Dowd of Eureka

3rd Place - Jack Nagle of Libby

4th Place - Arianna Grounds of Thompson Falls

Novice - 85

1st Place - Blake Hoerner of Columbia Falls

2nd Place - Tanner Wolfe of Libby

3rd Place - Torren Murray of Wolfpack Wrestling Club

4th Place - Aiden Forrest of Kalispell

Novice - 90

1st Place - Matthew Ahner of Wolfpack Wrestling Club

2nd Place - Connor LeDuc of Wolfpack Wrestling Club

3rd Place - Dylan Delorme of Columbia Falls

4th Place - Isaac Lamere of Libby

Novice - 95

1st Place - Manny Barone of Wolfpack Wrestling Club

2nd Place - Forfeit Forfeit of Unattached

3rd Place - Dawsen Pyles of Columbia Falls

Novice - 100

1st Place - Kaden Kaber of Columbia Falls

2nd Place - Noa Stevens of Thompson Falls

3rd Place - Taylor Dodd of Bonners Ferry

4th Place - Brittany Bigoness of Whitefish

Novice - 110

1st Place - Haiden Johnson of Eureka

2nd Place - Wiatt Hume of Eureka

3rd Place - Quentin Wilson of Eureka

4th Place - Hunter Moskaloff of Columbia Falls

Novice - 124

1st Place - Noah Horn of Whitefish

2nd Place - Kai Aitken of Bonners Ferry

3rd Place - Aiden Tinney of Bigfork

4th Place - Brown Logan of Wolfpack Wrestling Club

Novice - 140

1st Place - Holland Jantzen of Bigfork

2nd Place - Blane Olson of Bigfork

3rd Place - Bye Bye of Whitefish

Novice - 159+

1st Place - Elijah McNeely of Whitefish

Middle - 65

1st Place - Brooke Yeadon of Kalispell

Middle - 70

1st Place - Aiden Downing of Kalispell

2nd Place - Will Barnes of Kalispell

3rd Place - Blake Lancaster of Eureka

4th Place - Cash Byrd of Columbia Falls

Middle - 75

1st Place - Traic Fainter of Whitefish

2nd Place - Davin Naldrett of Kalispell

3rd Place - Henry Troy of Columbia Falls

4th Place - Jaren Knopp of Lakeland Wrestling Club

Middle - 80

1st Place - Marley Erickson of Libby

2nd Place - Johnny Waterbury of Hot Springs

3rd Place - Josiah Kilman of Columbia Falls

4th Place - Angus Anderson of Bigfork

Middle - 85

1st Place - Nolan Cate of Kalispell

2nd Place - Logan Heyne of Kalispell

3rd Place - Billy Gustafson of Columbia Falls

4th Place - Tyler Gilfry of Columbia Falls

Middle - 90

1st Place - Winslow Peters of Columbia Falls

2nd Place - Gunnar Thompson of Kalispell

3rd Place - Rowdy Crump of Columbia Falls

4th Place - Kadin Brown of Whitefish

5th Place - Forfeit Forfeit of Unattached

6th Place - Xavier Reatz of Libby

6th Place - Aj Truman of Eureka

Middle - 95

1st Place - Anders Thompson of Kalispell

2nd Place - Logan Riley of Columbia Falls

3rd Place - Peyton Scofield of Libby

4th Place - Aaron Pfister of Plains

Middle - 100

1st Place - Marcus Regehr of Bonners Ferry

2nd Place - Zekiah Meyer of Libby

3rd Place - James Hubbs of Evergreen

4th Place - Koale Medicine_Bull of Eureka

Middle - 105

1st Place - Jace Deshazer of Libby

2nd Place - Elijah Ratliff of Thompson Falls

3rd Place - Aiden Krause of Kalispell

4th Place - Brady Schrenk of Plains

5th Place - Forfeit Forfeit of Unattached

6th Place - Trystan Vanzant of Kalispell

6th Place - Nic Frost of Mission/Charlo

Middle - 110

1st Place - Barrett Auge of Libby

2nd Place - Rusty Gillespie of Libby

3rd Place - Canyon Sargent of Mission/Charlo

4th Place - Danial Lemer of Eureka

Middle - 120

1st Place - Noah Poe-Hatten of Kalispell

2nd Place - Zarek Lee of Kalispell

3rd Place - Henry Bennetts of Whitefish

4th Place - Tristan Crane of Columbia Falls

5th Place - Forfeit Forfeit of Unattached

6th Place - Damian Hoehne of Lakeland Wrestling Club

6th Place - Dayson Brough of Mission/Charlo

Middle - 130

1st Place - Zhane Jenkins of Libby

2nd Place - Trey Torpen of Columbia Falls

3rd Place - Jaxon Hume of Eureka

Middle - 147

1st Place - T.j. Gannon of Kalispell

2nd Place - Garrett O`Connor of Mission/Charlo

3rd Place - Riley Hume of Eureka

4th Place - Mason Miller of Kalispell

Middle - 166

1st Place - Dylan Whitten of Kalispell

2nd Place - Cody Vergeront of Evergreen

Middle - 187

1st Place - Colton Vergeront of Evergreen

2nd Place - Ethan Johnson of Eureka

Junior - 80-85

1st Place - Jake Summerfield of Bonners Ferry

2nd Place - Chris Vigil of Columbia Falls

3rd Place - Kody Dillard of Mission/Charlo

Junior - 90-95

1st Place - Teegan Vasquez of Kalispell

2nd Place - Justin Windauer of Columbia Falls

3rd Place - Ryder Decker of Evergreen

4th Place - Cade Gardner of Kalispell

Junior - 100-105

1st Place - Trae Thilmony of Thompson Falls

2nd Place - Cole Eastwood of Kalispell

3rd Place - Caleb Utter of Eureka

4th Place - Carson Kateley of Libby

Junior - 113

1st Place - Orion Barta of Columbia Falls

2nd Place - Brandon Role of Columbia Falls

3rd Place - Kyle McCollam of Kalispell

4th Place - Colton Hogan of Columbia Falls

Junior - 120

1st Place - Asher Kemmpainen of Columbia Falls

2nd Place - Kyle Lawson of Hot Springs

3rd Place - Benedict Waterbury of Hot Springs

4th Place - Brok Viau of Kalispell

Junior - 126

1st Place - Danny Dunn of Eureka

2nd Place - Hayden Comly of Bigfork

3rd Place - Bryce Umphrey of Mission/Charlo

4th Place - Morgan Pound of Evergreen

Junior - 132

1st Place - Royce Conklin of Evergreen

2nd Place - Sam Resh of Eureka

3rd Place - Noah Cooke of Whitefish

4th Place - Trey Eisenbarth of Whitefish

Junior - 138

1st Place - Eli Richards of Bonners Ferry

2nd Place - Tyler Strouse of Columbia Falls

3rd Place - Tanner Gardner of Bigfork

4th Place - Wyatt Graver of Eureka

Junior - 145

1st Place - Kyle Smith of Bonners Ferry

2nd Place - Hunter Fleming of Whitefish

3rd Place - Hunter Hoover of Libby

4th Place - Shayden Friedlander of Mission/Charlo

Junior - 152

1st Place - Andrew Sandelin of Bonners Ferry

2nd Place - Gavin Pilkington of Eureka

3rd Place - Bridger Flowers of Kalispell

4th Place - Keller Mitchell of Kalispell

Junior - 160

1st Place - Jayden Hoerner of Columbia Falls

2nd Place - Colten Wroble of Bigfork

3rd Place - Johnny Fehr of Eureka

Junior - 170-182

1st Place - Jackson Rickter of Bonners Ferry

2nd Place - Dominic Babcock of Eureka

3rd Place - Brandon Ryan of Columbia Falls

4th Place - Molly Kurkowski of Bigfork

5th Place - Rudy King of Mission/Charlo

Junior - 205

1st Place - Patrick Connors of Mission/Charlo

2nd Place - Conner Gerard of Mission/Charlo

3rd Place - Kemana Larkey of Evergreen

4th Place - Forest Howell of Kalispell

Junior - 215-285

1st Place - Brian Sweeney of Whitefish

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