Montana Open Wrestling Tournament sets participation record – Billings Gazette


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In judo, competitors wear a gi. In wrestling, uniforms are called singlets.

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The eighth grader at St. Francis Upper in Billings was first attracted to wrestling because it was similar to judo, a sport he has participated in for several years at Park’s Martial Arts Academy in Billings.

“I wanted to do something else other than judo and wrestling and judo are kind of the same thing in some ways,” said May, who was competing at the Montana Open Wrestling Tournament on Saturday at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark. 


The 151-pound Renegades Wrestling Club competitor is a second-year wrestler and participated in the Montana Open last year.

“I liked that it is diverse and more competition and has people I haven’t seen before and people from all around Montana,” May said.

Judo is a martial art that features mostly throws, chokes, arm bars and pins, May explained, saying it is against the rules to shoot the legs in the sport. Judo contests can be won by submission. 

Similarities to judo and wrestling include some pinning combinations. Some of the freestyle throws are the same, too, May said. Scoring in a judo is different than wrestling; in amateur wrestling there are no submissions. 

May said judo has helped him with his wrestling and vice-versa.

“Practicing judo, I wouldn’t be as skilled as a wrestler as I am right now if I didn’t do judo,” he said. “I wouldn’t have a clue in wrestling.

“Wrestling helps in judo with the stance, pinning combinations and technique.”

Upper Valley Aces look to defend title

Rhett Banta said his Upper Valley Aces of St. Anthony, Idaho, were set to defend their team championship Sunday. For the past three years the club has been the medium team champion. 

This year the Aces are in the large team competition because they brought 32 wrestlers. The cutoff from medium to large team is 30, and in the past the Aces had between 20-29 wrestlers. Banta said he has between 10 to 12 prior-year Montana Open champions on this year’s team. 

“All of the kids love coming to Billings,” Banta said. “We win and the kids wrestle really well.”

Riggen Cordingley, 15, is a ninth-grader who competes at 144 pounds for the Aces. He is a former Montana Open champ and said his teammates believe they can defend their trophy.

“We mark it (on our calendars) because we have been coming the past few years and it is good competition for us and we get first every year,” he said. “We want to come away with it every year.”

Banta has fond memories of the Montana Open, which is now in its 12th year. While the Aces have done well, he remembers the first tournament at the Valley Ice Garden in Bozeman. Before they were associated with the Aces, Banta and his oldest son, Brock, traveled to Bozeman, where Brock won his division. Brock, 24, would later wrestle at North Idaho College and is now an assistant with the Aces.

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On this year’s Aces, Banta has two other sons on the team in Easton, 16, and Boden, 9. The Aces have been to two other tournaments in Montana this year: the Hell Town Throwdown in Helena and the Butte Cyclops Tournament. The squad enjoys the Montana Open so much, they don’t mind the approximately five-hour commute to Billings.

“It’s always good competition here and the hospitality around town is good and we love this venue. Inside this arena is really good,” Banta said. “We are just trying to build kids up and have champions for the Upper Valley Aces. They’ll feed our high school in the future. Plus, we want to defend our three titles. I don’t know if we will; it will be nip and tuck. We try to each year win the title for the Upper Valley Aces.”

Tournament sets participation record

Overall, 1,640 wrestlers registered for the tournament, surpassing the previous high mark of 1,625 established in 2015. 

Wrestlers traveled from Wyoming, North Dakota, Idaho, Washington, Nebraska, Utah, Colorado and from across Montana. 

“Honestly, we are really humble about it to think there are that many people who come to support it and feel it is worthwhile to get here,” said Bozeman’s Jason Wiers, who served as the tourney co-director the first five years and has been the director since. 

For the first time, there was a full 64-man bracket. The full field occurred in the 8U, 54-pound division. There were 10 64-wrestler brackets in the field and all had at least 32 wrestlers. There were 18 32-man brackets with 17-32 wrestlers entered. At many youth tourneys, Wiers said 16-person brackets with 6-10 kids entered are the normal.

The stands also had a crowd of about 3,500 gathered to cheer on the wrestlers.

“It seems like this year we are seeing more people as spectators,” said Wiers, who is with the Bozeman Wrestling Club. “I don’t know if it is grandparents or extended family.”

The three host clubs are the Bozeman Wrestling Club, Belgrade Wrestling Club and Butte Wrestling Club. Wiers noted the work of the volunteers who staff the tourney.

“It takes an army to do this,” he said. 














































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