John Mears, Peyton Morton highlight 4 Montana all-Americans 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. — John Mears and Peyton Morton earned fourth-place finishes in their respective weight classes to highlight four all-American finishes by Montana wrestlers at the prestigious National High School Coaches Association (NHSCA) national wrestling tournament over the weekend. Eleven Montanans competed in the 30th annual tournament, one of the most competitive in the nation, at the Virginia Beach Convention Center.

Mears, who captured his third Class A state title in February for Belgrade High School, bounced back from a Junior 138-pound semifinal loss with a 3-1 decision in the consolation semifinals, pitting him in the third-place bout. Mears fell 10-7 to Georgia’s Nicholas Stonecheck, but secured all-American honors with his fourth-place effort.

Mears will attempt to win a fourth Montana high school championship next February, though Belgrade will compete in the Class AA ranks next year.

Morton, who earned a fourth-place finish for Billings Senior in the 170-pound bracket at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark in February, doubled down with a fourth-place effort on Sunday. The former Montana middle school champion also lost in the semifinals, but a 5-1 decision in the Freshman 170-pound consolation semis advanced him to the third-place bout, where he dropped a 7-1 decision to Martin Cosgrove of New Jersey.

It was the first high school all-American accolade for Morton, according to his TrackWrestling.com profile.

Montana also added a pair of sixth-place finishes, with state champions Michael Weber of Forsyth and Cooper Birdwell of Lewistown adding all-American honors to their decorated careers.

Weber, a four-time state champion for the Dogies, competed in the 152-pound Senior division, falling in the semifinals before bowing out in the consolation semis via default, and forfeiting the fifth-place match against Garrett Starks of South Carolina.

Birdwell, who won his second straight State A title for the Eagles in February, competed in the Sophomore 126-pound division, also advanced to the semifinals, but lost to fall to the consolation semis. A 4-2 defeat sent him to the fifth-place match, where River Wardle of Utah edged Birdwell 4-2.

Montana was also represented by seven other wrestlers: Jahzriel and Idren Peak (Billings Senior), Levi Malcolm (Billings West), Matthew DeWitt (Billings Senior), R.J. Lowdog (Billings West), as well as Tanner and Cooper Cook (Columbus-Absarokee).

Richie Melby

Richie Melby

A Hi-line native, Richie Melby enjoys telling the stories of Montana athletes, coaches and teams. Richie got his start in TV at KTVQ in Billings and worked as the Sports Director at KRTV. After a couple of years in Tucson, Ariz., Richie returned to his home state as the Sports Director at KTVH.
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