Charlie M. Russell High School in Great Falls hosted its 41st annual CMR Holiday Classic this past weekend giving over fifty wrestling teams from around the state a peek at this year’s top competitors.
This 2-day long unique wrestling tournament intertwines Montana’s smallest schools with its largest. In a sense, the tournament is looked at as an early precursor to the state wrestling championships in Billings held in February.
With minimal seeding criteria; only state and past Holiday tournament placing, even the unseeded stand a chance at early round upsets and state championship style pairings. Those that survive day one separate themselves into their most challenging matches to date on their way to the championship ticket. Those that survive day one and remain in the consolation bracket, have a more grueling task at hand. In most cases, these wrestlers will have to wrestle eight or more total matches just to get into consolation placing. None of these matches are cake walks. There are plenty of seeded wrestlers and state place winners in the consolation rounds looking to rebound from tough losses suffered in day one and two.
For the Shelby Coyote team, the challenge of facing bigger and more established programs was accepted. Eight members of the Coyote squad traveled to Great Falls with visions of gold in their eyes. At the end of day one, three members remained. Freshman Harold Miller (126lbs), freshman Cameron Brusven (145lbs) and senior Wyatt Brusven (170lbs) survived the onslaught.
Wyatt was seeded sixth at CMR and started his day with an early round match against Garris Robertson of Whitehall. Brusven handily won the bout by major decision 13-2. His next opponent was Kobi Loch of Great Falls High in which he won by fall in 1:39. Thomas Klepps of Billings Senior was the next wrestler on the slate. The results were in Brusven’s favor winning by decision 3-2 placing him in the quarterfinals against Kameron Rauser of Broadwater (Townsend). Although Wyatt defeated Rauser the week before in Whitehall, a week in the wrestling world can make a big difference mentally and physically. Brusven lost the match by an 11-4 decision. In the consolation bracket, Brusven would face Avery Meinzen of Florence. Wyatt never let up and won the match by decision 6-1. In the consolation quarterfinals, Brusven would square off with Coy Cohenour of Bozeman. Cohenour won the match by decision 6-5 placing Wyatt in the 7th/8th place consolation final against Joshua Macy of Billings Skyview. Wyatt would bring home the 7th place medal by defeating Macy in a 4-3 decision.
Unseeded Harold Miller went to the tournament with nothing to lose but had no intentions on doing that. After receiving a first-round bye, Harold faced his first opponent Kayden Howe of Colstrip. Miller won the bout by decision 9-2. His next opponent was senior and sixth seed Andrew Paradise of CMR. Miller found out very quickly that experienced wrestlers at the varsity level were tough. Harold lost by fall in 1:30. Undeterred, Miller would hit the consolation bracket head-on facing Cody Harrington of Glendive. In one of the most dramatic matches to date, Harold would win the bout by decision 8-7 in triple overtime by reversing Harrington to his back in a five-point move at the very end of the third OT. Little did his opponent know, Miller has never lost an OT match in his wrestling career. Miller was heard saying, “I live for overtime. That is where I feel most comfortable.” Still alive to see day two in the consolation bracket, Miller would have to get through senior Luke Huffaker of Dillon. The dream was short-lived when Huffaker took control of the match and never looked back defeating Miller by technical fall 15-0.
At 145lbs, freshman and unseeded Cameron Brusven was looking to make a statement in his first big stage test of the year. After a first-round bye, Cam would face Brendan Hensley of Great Falls High. Cam would lose the bout by fall in 1:59. With a long road ahead of him, Cam was determined to travel the road one match at a time. His next opponent was Dawson Tuttle also of Great Falls High. Brusven would win the match by decision 3-1. Continuing down the consolation road, Cam would face his first Northern B Division opponent Miguel Perez of Fairfield and defeat him by decision 7-3. The win punched his ticket to day two; quite an accomplishment for a freshman in a very competitive weight class. In the early hours of day two, Cam would have to wrestle Aaron Amador or Billings West. Amador would win the bout by decision 5-3 and would eventually place 8th.
Coach Thad White stated, “I am very pleased by the performance of our team. This is the first time in four years it wasn’t just Wyatt and me in the gym at CMR on day two. Our wrestlers won some close matches against some seeded and ranked kids. We took our share of bumps and bruises but there were a lot of wrestlers that went home talking about ‘those Shelby kids’ after having wrestled them. We don’t go down without a fight.”
In addition to having the CMR Holiday Classic, there is a JV tournament held on Saturday at Great Falls High for wrestlers eliminated from the CMR tournament. The Walt and Trudy Currie JV Tournament is a great place for wrestlers to gain some mat time and much-needed experience. Five Shelby Wrestlers traveled across town to compete in the event. At the end of a long day, sophomore Chase Evans (120lbs) went 1-2, sophomore Tabris Correa (138lbs) went 2-2 and placed 4th, freshman Bryant Mertz (160lbs) went 1-2, sophomore Matthew Riehl (205lbs) went 1-2 and freshman Jacob Kingsolver (HWT) went 3-1 and placed 2nd.
The Coyotes will travel to Browning on Thursday night for a dual meet and then will play host to the Santa Showdown on Friday in the high school gymnasium. Wrestling on Friday will begin at noon.