MatCats looking to improve on last season’s strong finish

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Head coach Jesse Schaeffer works with one of his wrestlers as wrestling season got underway at Columbia Falls High School Thursday.

The Columbia Falls wrestling team will be looking for another strong season as they open their 2017-18 campaign at Polson and Ronan this weekend.

The MatCats are coming off a second-place showing at the Class A state meet last season and will be looking to keep that momentum going as the varsity wrestles at the Polson tournament Friday and Saturday. The junior varsity will be at Ronan Saturday.

This year’s squad will be looking to fill the spots of four seniors from last year’s team that wrestled at the state tournament, including Storm Keppainen, Hunter Peterson and Windfield West.

This season, the MatCats should be led by the senior foursome of Austin Nelson, Kyler Koski, Nathan Hader and Ben Windauer, who finished second in the 145-pound weight division at state last season.

According to head coach Jesse Schaeffer, it all comes down to hard work.

“It all comes down to how the kids perform and making sure they are competing in the proper weight class. It’s all about work ethic,” he said. “Every year, you come in with a different group and different dynamic. We are going to see how things play out on this first weekend and then move forward from there. We will just keep building from week to week. That’s where we are right now.”

Columbia Falls will also be seeking its sixth straight divisional title this season in a conference with some new faces.

“We have a couple of new teams in our conference this season. We have Ronan coming into our division along with Libby and Browning. When you add that many teams, it means that a lot of meets are going to come down to team depth,” Schaeffer said. “It will really come down to our main kids doing their jobs and some of the younger kids stepping up with some high finishes.”

While the MatCats are hopeful about earning a sixth-straight divisional title, they know it will not be easy.

“Polson is very talented and will have another good squad this year. They will be tough to beat and the same goes for Frenchtown,” Schaeffer said.

According to Schaeffer, success this season may come down to young talent stepping up at the right time.

“Every freshman that we have coming in is going to make a huge impact on this program. They will be the base of our program for the next four years,” he said. “I don’t want to single anyone out, but all of the freshmen coming in should have a big impact on the overall success of our program.”

Also new for the MatCats this season will be two female wrestlers taking the mat.

“Its new to us this year, having some female athletes in our program. Women’s wrestling is becoming more and more popular at the Olympic, collegiate and high school level,” Schaeffer said. “I have a feeling that you are going to be seeing more and more female wrestlers taking the mat.”

The MatCats will be back in action Thursday at the Dillon Mixer before wrestling at the Mining City Duals in Butte Friday and Saturday. The junior varsity will be in action at the Hamilton Invitational Saturday.

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