Flathead Wrestlers Win Jug Beck Rocky Mountain Classic

Braves edge Billings West for team title while chasing third straight Class AA state title

By Frank Gogola for 406mtsports.com
Flathead’s Noah Poe-Hatten wrestles Hunter Meinzen of Izzy Moreno of Missoula Big Sky / Loyola Sacred Heart in the 160 pounds final’s match at the AA state wrestling tournament at Flathead High School Kalispell on March 6, 2021. Meinzen won by decision. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Make it a four-pack of tournament titles for Kalispell Flathead during its quest to win a third consecutive State AA wrestling championship.

The Braves captured the Jug Beck Rocky Mountain Classic team trophy by totaling 233 points across Friday and Saturday at Missoula Sentinel. The tournament featured 33 teams from Montana, Idaho, Washington and Wyoming.

Billings West placed second with 217.5 points. Class A Havre accrued 159.5 points to edge out Great Falls High (152) for third place.

“It’s always fun to win the Rocky Mountain,” Flathead coach Jeff Thompson said. “There’s so much tradition here. And some bragging rights. We try to find other tournaments out of state that can compete with the wrestlers in Montana, but I always say, ‘Man, Montana wrestling is where it’s at.’ It was a lot of fun for us to get closer to home here and have a solid tournament.

“To put five in the finals, it shows the depth of this team. To have two champions and place nine guys, just super proud of this group. We got work to do though. We got a lot of wrestling ahead of us. We took a lot of notes. We got to constantly get better. We can’t take our foot off the gas. It’s go-time. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Flathead had two individual champions. Anders Thompson remained undefeated by pinning Helena Capital’s Conner Kovick in 27 seconds in the 170-pound title match. Noah Poe-Hatten pinned Havre’s Kale VanCampen in 3:01 to repeat as the 182-pound champion.

Thompson won 170-pound titles at Tri-State and the Pacific Northwest Classic and was the 182 champion at the Mining City Duals. Poe-Hatten won the 182 title at the Pacific Northwest Classic, was the 205 champ at the Mining City Duals and was second at 182 at Tri-State.

Flathead won the team title at all three of those tournaments. The Braves beat the Golden Bears for the title at the Mining City Duals, 53-18.

“This team is probably the most powerful I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” Poe-Hatten said. “All these guys are really tough, are always in the room grinding. It’s nice to see us get these team trophies because I know we’ve been working for it all year.

“I know all these guys have a drive to get better and place at state. We used to be pretty deep in certain weights, we used to have one and two in certain weights, but now we have a good guy almost everywhere. Once we get our heavyweight back, he’ll be a powerhouse guy too. We’re winning these tournaments without him.”

Billings West matched Flathead as the only team with two individual champs. In the main event, two-time state champion Keyan Hernandez rallied for a 5-1 decision in the 126-pound title match against Belgrade’s Mason Gutenberger, who won his first state title last year. At 103 pounds, Makael Aguayo posted a 14-0 major decision against Frenchtown’s Isaac Stewart.

Two wrestlers chasing their fourth consecutive state title won their championship bouts. Kalispell Glacier’s Teegan Vasquez pinned Butte’s Kip Pumnea in 1:14 in the 132-pound title match. Bozeman’s Avery Allen tallied an 18-3 technical fall against Great Falls High’s Kale Baumann to win the 145-pound title.

Missoula Big Sky’s Israel Moreno pinned Flathead’s Gabe Lake in 1:01 to win his first title at the tournament, coming at 160 pounds. Defending state champion Brendan Lockart of Great Falls High also won by pin, needing 5:32 to top Flathead’s Sawyer Troupe in the 205 championship match.

Defending state champion Talon Marsh of Helena Capital battled through a left ankle issue to post a 13-2 major decision against Browning’s Brendyn Whiteman for the 285 crown. Belgrade’s Carter Schmidt had a 13-5 major decision against Josh Neiwert of Mead (WA) to win the 138 title.

Two Class A wrestlers left with a title. Columbia Falls’ Justin Windauer doubled up Flathead’s Cade Troupe with an 8-4 decision in the 152 title match. Havre’s Reed Mantle won by injury default against Belgrade’s Colten Gutenberger at 126 pounds.