The Matcats are ready to pick up where they left off last season as they open the year in Polson this weekend.
The Cats had one state champion (Ben Windauer) and finished eighth at state last season, but are looking for more this year.
Four of the six Wildcat wrestlers that made it to state last year were seniors, but Jakob Freeman and Taylor Gladeau will be looking to make a return trip in 2019.
“I’m hoping for a little better from those guys this year,” head coach Jessie Schaeffer said. “They had some pretty high goals, like making the finals this year. I think that is a realistic goal. Glaudeau had a mishap in the quarter finals at state on a questionable call, but he is definitely a kid that can make the finals.”
While the Cats will be young overall this year, there are several talented wrestlers returning from last year’s squad, including Jason Dobson, who was one match away from state last year, Colten McPhee, who spent most of last season battling a sinus infection, and Sam Depain, who is back after spending last season wrestling in Belgrade.
Along with their upper classmen, Schaeffer says the team has several younger wrestlers that should do well this year.
“We are loaded with sophomores and it is a class we are really excited about. If we can keep them together, they could do great things,” he said.
The Cats will also be under the leadership of two new assistant coaches this season, Michael Hader and Bryan Shaffer, both former Matcat wrestlers.
Shaffer wrestled for the Cats in 2013 while Hader was a standout wrestler for Columbia Falls before becoming an All-American wrestler at the University of Great Falls as a freshman there. After a successful battle against brain cancer, Hader is back to help lead his alma mater.
The Cats will be shorthanded in Polson this week, taking only about half of their normal team.
“Ten practices can be tough to get in during that Thanksgiving break because there is just so much missed school with hunting trips and such,” Schaeffer said. “We should have about half our normal squad there this weekend.”