Class A state wrestling moved to Butte


For the first time in over two decades, the three classifications of high school wrestling in Montana won't compete for state championships together. In fact, all three classes will do it in separate venues come February.

On Tuesday, the Montana High School Association announced the three separate sites for the 2010 Montana State Wrestling Championships. The tournament, which has been held as an all-class event for over 20 years in Billings, has been in a state of flux since a devastating tornado destroyed the Billings Metra this summer.

With the extensive tornado damage to Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark still under repair, state officials worried that holding the February tournament there was too much of a risk. The tournament has been held in Billings for the past 22 years.

"We appreciate having the line of communication we've had with MetraPark and Yellowstone County commissioners," said Mark Beckman, executive director of the Montana High School Association. "But ultimately, the board "after long deliberation" decided the MetraPark completion dates provided by the county weren't firm enough for all the planning involved with staging the tournament.

"There may be insufficient time to adjust if there was delays," Beckman said.

So the MHSA awarded three cities the chance to host separate state tournaments Feb. 11-12. Great Falls will host the Class AA event, Butte will have the Class A tournament and Hamilton will host the Class B-C event.

The Class A state tournament will be held at the famed Butte Civic Center, an arena which has hosted plenty of prestigious wrestling events in the past. The Civic Center seats about 6,ooo spectators and the floor is large enough to facilitate the number of mats needed as well as personnel to run the tournament.

Billings is working round the clock to repair and refurbish the Metra, and did have a proposal to host the tournament at Billings Skyview and Billings West high school's, then bring all classes together for the finals at the MetraPark Expo Center. But instead, the city decided there was too much risk involved in not being ready on time. It is estimated that the city of Billings stands to lose over two million dollars this winter by not hosting the event.

And while it has been over 20 years since the state tournament has been split up, it isn't new to the MHSA. Before the event was moved to one location in 1988, it was usually held in separate sites across the state.

Still, in more recent times, the tournament has become one of the largest sporting events in Montana. Attendance totals for the state wrestling tournament are only eclipsed by the annual Cat/Griz football game each year, and no sporting event in Montana is covered by more media outlets.

While the Class A tournament, which Havre High has won the last three will be held in Butte, the Class AA tournament will take place at the CMR Fieldhouse in Great Falls. The Class B-C tournament will be held at Hamilton High School.


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