February 18, 2009
Champions coming to town for mat meet
By SCOTT MANSCH Tribune Asst. Sports Editor
State wrestling champions from Great Falls and all corners of Montana will be at Swarthout Fieldhouse Saturday for the inaugural Tournament of Champions.
"We've got the Glasgows, the Havres, the Libbys — kids are coming from all over the place," said Zander Blewett, whose family and law firm — Hoyt and Blewett PLLC — is sponsoring the invitational competition. "The kids have been great and the coaches have been great. We expect it to be an exciting event."
Winners at their respective weights in last weekend's All-Class Championships in Billings were invited, along with wild-entries. Blewett and his sons, Drew and Anders, are all former wrestlers who have worked for months to promote the tournament and secure commitments from the state's top grapplers.
The entry list features many current or past state champions, including brothers Cole Mendenhall (98) and Dylan Mendenhall (105) of Great Falls High, and Nash Hallfrisch of C.M. Russell High (145). Hallfrisch is a three-time state champion.
At several weights, including 119, 140, 189 and heavyweight, all three of the recently crowned state champions are entered.
The tournament starts Saturday morning at 10:30 with introductions. The competition is expected to begin at 11, with the championship finals slated to start at 2 p.m.
Among those planning to wrestle are two sets of twins — Jade and Val Rauser of Townsend, and Marshall and Michael Carpenter of Bozeman — and Glasgow stars Luke Zeiger, Myles Kittleson and Chance Rauscher. All have won at least one state championship.
Other stars who have confirmed entry include Luke Schlosser of Conrad, Brice Gretch of Billings Skyview, Shawn Lau of Kalispell Flathead, Myles Mazurkiewicz and Mitch Schnittgen of Havre, Brock Picard of Polson, Brady Anderson of Hamilton, Ethan Tweet of Fort Benton and Toby Erickson of Helena High.
The Blewetts are providing free lodging for coaches and players and compensation for gas mileage. The athletes are coming to town on Friday and staying at the Townhouse Inn, where a reception is planned.
"It was more difficult than we thought, given the logistics of one week between the state tournaments and our event," said Zander Blewett.
He believes the Tournament of Champions will be an annual event in Great Falls.
"I think next year and year after more of the kids will be inclined to come because they'll be a little more alert to the issue," Zander Blewett said. "It's amazing the number who are really looking forward to it and want to be in it ... The kids that took second last weekend can't wait to come to this thing, and that's really refreshing."
He said many members of the Great Falls wrestling community, including Mick Davis, Bob Zadick, Steve Komac, Doug Sexe and Allen Rohrback, have been helpful.