Five southwest Montana wrestlers reflect on winning state titles

BOZEMAN – The state wrestling tournaments concluded Saturday in Billings and a handful of wrestlers were crowned from southwest Montana.

For the Bozeman Hawks, this was a redemption tour. After placing second last year, it was state title or bust. And Lief Schroeder started things off in style with a backflip after winning at the Class AA 132-pound division for his third consecutive state championship.

“Last year, we obviously didn’t win the team title and I didn’t pin my way through and I kind of felt like some of the blame was on me, even though we were so far behind. But I just wanted to go out and do it for all my teammates and the Bozeman fans,” Schroeder said.

And his teammate Chance McLane finished off his second straight, taking down Great Falls High’s Caden Hilliard in the Class AA 152-pound title match.

“It’s a good feeling to be the last one out there and everybody’s watching you. It feels good to win. I like watching my whole team perform, I think we had a really good weekend,” said McLane after the win.

The Bozeman Hawks crushed the state meet, taking home the team title by 63 points. But Butte’s Kameron Moreno shined as well, after finishing sixth last year at state, he won the title at 205-pounds.

“It hasn’t really sunk it yet. I have been dreaming about this my whole life… I just didn’t want to let people down. I felt like I had something to prove,” said Moreno.

For Belgrade’s John Mears, winning a title has sunk in for the third time. Now he’s going for four straight next year. But there will be a new twist.

“We’re going up to (Class AA) next year, so that’s going to be another challenge,” said Mears. “I’m not a guy that tries to avoid anybody to get four, I’m just going to wrestle my weight class.”

And while Mears has three trophies, Whitehall’s Connor Johnson couldn’t have been happier to win his first crown over the weekend.

“It was a big deal for me, winning divisional with a quick pin,” said Johnson. “And coming here and winning this quick pin, it means a lot to me.”

Nick Petraccione

Nick Petraccione

Nick is the Sports Director at KBZK and KXLF in Butte and Bozeman, Montana. He attended Syracuse University and moved to Montana in 2017.
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