Belgrade’s Mears, Billings Senior’s Morton in 3rd-place matches at NHSCA High School Nationals

Belgrade’s John Mears celebrates after winning the Class A state championship at 152 pounds at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark. (SLIM KIMMEL/MTN Sports)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Belgrade junior John Mears and Billings Senior freshman Peyton Morton both lost in the semifinals on Saturday but battled back through the consolation bracket to have a chance at third-place finishes at the National High School Coaches Assocation (NHSCA) national wrestling tournament in Virginia Beach.

Mears, who wrestled at 152 pounds during his high school season in Montana, defeating Polson’s Bridger Wenzel 5-0 in the Class A championship match back in February, won a 3-1 decision in the quarterfinals over New York’s William Mcdougald before falling to Ethan Basile of Florida in the semifinals by decision, 10-5. Mears then defeated West Virginia’s Andrew Shalek 3-1 in the consolation semifinals to advance to the third-place match, where Mears will meet Nicholas Stonecheck of Georgia.

Morton, too, won in the quarterfinals to advance to the semifinals, pinning Steven Marra of Ohio with just seconds remaining in the first period. Morton, though, would be pinned by New Jersey’s Rylan Rogers in the semifinals in just 55 seconds. Morton then defeated Elijah Sellinger of Maryland 5-1 in the consolation semifinals to set up a date with Martin Cosgrove of New Jersey in the third-place match.

Three other Montana wrestlers were in quarterfinal matches on Saturday. Forsyth’s Michael Weber, who joined Montana’s four-time state champion club in February, beat New York’s Zack Lawrence 8-4 to advance to the semifinals. Weber, though, lost 10-2 to Christopher Donathan of Ohio. Weber then lost by default in the consolation semis to Nathan Moore of Washington.

Lewistown’s Cooper Birdwell, who won his second Montana state wrestling title in February, beat River Wardle of Utah 8-3 in the quarterfinals to advance to the semifinals, but Birdwell then lost consecutive matches to bow out in the consolation semifinals.

Idren Peak of Billings Senior lost to M.J. Gaitan of California in the quarterfinals and then lost to Washington’s Darion Johnson in the consolation bracket.

The NHSCA national wrestling tournament continues on Sunday. Fans can follow the action here.

Alec Bofinger

Alec Bofinger

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