From the Fringe...
At the end of this weekend’s Class B-C state wrestling tournament in Billings, the Harlem Wildcats might not be walking out of the Rimrock Auto Arena at Metra Park with a team trophy.
The fact is, Harlem, which has become a stalwart in B-C wrestling under head coach Lyle Faulkinberry, just might not have the depth to keep pace with the likes of Choteau, Forsyth, Colstrip and a few others. But then again, the Wildcats could. You just never know when it comes to wrestling.
Nevertheless, Harlem and, in particular, a senior trio of outstanding young men have a dream of walking out of that arena Saturday night with plenty of hardware.
That trio, Shay Snider, Teague Jones and Seth Adams is chasing a dream which almost became a reality one year ago.
Then juniors, all three Wildcats were part of the amazing Parade of Champions at the 2013 state tournament. It’s a proud moment for any school to get one wrestler into finals night in Billings, but there they were, three Harlem grapplers, on the biggest stage of high school wrestling in Montana. There they stood, all three of them together, among all of the other elite wrestlers in the state, and proudly in front of 8,000-plus rabid wrestling fans.
Just being a part of the Parade of Champions at the state tournament is special. It means all your hard work, all the dieting, all the blood, sweat and tears has gotten you to the moment you’ve been working for all your life. If you’re in the Parade of Champions, you are now just one win away from a state championship, and to any prep wrestler, that’s the ultimate prize.
For a moment, all three Harlem wrestlers were within reach of that prize last February in Billings. However, it’s wrestling and dreams can be shattered as quickly as they’re realized.
Snider, a state placer as a freshman lost a 6-2 decision to Cut Bank’s Kylan Berkram in the 112-pound championship, while Jones was beaten 11-0 by Forsyth’s Matt Weber in the 125-pound title match. Adams’ dream also came crashing down on that night in Billings, as he was pinned by Choteau’s Owen DeBruckyer in the 215-pound finale.
It was still a prideful night for Harlem wrestling, and a moment no one associated with the program will ever forget. Yet, the dream wasn’t complete.
Fast forward one year, and all three Wildcats are headed back to Billings with their dreams still in front them.
Snider, who missed the state tournament as a sophomore because of an injury, has had a fabulous season at 126 pounds and will enter this weekend’s B-C state tournament as a divisional champion and on a collision course with Weber.
Jones has been nearly unbeatable all season long, winning five different titles on his way to a monster season at the new 132-pound weight class. He’ll enter the state tournament ranked No. 1 and the heavy favorite to get a state title.
Adams, too, has been a brute force all season. If not for a couple of losses to Havre’s Tyler Adams, no relation, he might be the elite 220-pounder in the state right now.
And from the moment the season started, it was obvious this Harlem trio was on a mission, and it’s a mission that won’t stop until they are above all their peers on the top of their respective podiums Saturday night at the Metra.
The mission that won’t end with anything less than state championships for all three actually began the moment all three of them didn’t realize their dreams last February.
But, no matter what happens to Snider, Jones and Adams this weekend in Billings, they’ve already completed a mission, and they may not yet even realize it yet. Make no mistake, Harlem has been good for a while now. In recent times, Trent Jones set the bar in Harlem with back-to-back individual titles for the Wildcats, while grapplers like Chase Dirden, who wrestled at MSU-Northern were standouts as well.
However, never at one time has Harlem had three dominant wrestlers on one team, such as the trio about to embark on their final state tournament, and that’s helped make Harlem the special program that it is. Now, young wrestling hopefuls in Harlem will look at the current senior trio and want to be like them. Harlem has a great wrestling foundation and the senior trio headed to Billings is part of that.
Snider, Jones and Adams’ legacy is already one of greatness and accomplishment no matter what transpires in Billings this weekend. But, they are all three wrestlers, they all three have big dreams, and they’ve already been excruciatingly close to achieving those dreams.
Now, the trio with a special legacy gets one last shot at that dream. Now, they are so close again. The first goal will be to get back to that Parade of Champions, just like they all did a year ago. But now, with their last shot at glory, all three of these special Wildcat wrestlers are ready to write a completely different ending to what is already a pretty amazing tale.