Flathead wrestling team repeats as state champions
For the second year in a row, the Flathead Braves outscored the Bozeman Hawks to win the Class AA team state championship in wrestling.
Last season, Flathead took home the team title despite not having a single individual champion. This time around, 15 wrestlers placed and three seniors brought home state championships.
"We knew for us to repeat to be state champions again it was going to take a lot of guys, a lot of wrestlers," coach Jeff Thompson said. "So many of them just stepped up."
Payton Hume, Tucker Nadeau and Michael Lee did their part to lead Flathead to the top of the podium.
At 170 pounds, Hume put together a wire-to-wire performance to win a state title on an 11 to 1 major decision.
"It was amazing," he said. "It is the best experience I have had in a long time. I just knew what my game plan was going into this match and I followed through with it."
Tucker Nadeau left no doubt at 182 pounds. He pinned Sentinel's Dylan Goforth just over three minutes in to lock up his own state championship.
"It feels incredible," Nadeau said. "I got third last year. I lost a really close semifinals match. Just to win an individual state championship and then combine with the team state championship, it is amazing."
In the heavyweight division, a pair of Braves seniors went toe-to-toe. Michael Lee and Alex Paul slugged it out in a battle where Lee went down with an ankle injury.
"It was a struggle, but it was either go out there and finish my senior year and my last match or just call it good," Lee said.
He would finish as the third state champion for the Braves. When it was time to raise the hand of the winner, he shared the experience with Paul.
"It has been our goal since day one, since the first wrestling practice," Lee said. "We were like we are going to be in the state finals together and we are going to push each other until we make it there. We did it and no matter who won, we were going to support each other."
That moment summed up this season for the Braves.
"They were a family," Thomspon said. "They put a lot of blood sweat and tears on the mats together."
"It has just been a great last four years," said Nadeau. We just have been working so hard together. We won one last year and then went through a little adversity this year and to come back and win it, it is just great."
The championship is the 9th team title in program history.