Seldom does a western Montana prep garner the kind of attention Luke Entzel is drawing from NCAA Division I heavyweights.

You may remember the name Entzel. Six weeks ago the Missoula Big Sky senior knocked a hole in the ceiling of Montana high school wrestling, finishing off a perfect season at 170 pounds with a third straight state championship.

His closest match was a 14-1 major decision. Now he’s breathing rarefied air.

Over the past few weeks Luke has tried on for size two mat programs that finished in the top eight of the USA Today/NWCA Coaches’ poll. Then besides being recruited by No. 4 Minnesota and No. 8 Iowa State, nationally-ranked Purdue showed him around town and nationally-ranked Oregon State is wowing him this weekend.

“At first it was kind of like, ‘Wow, is this really happening?’” Entzel said. “Just to get out and take in these D-I programs is an awesome experience. You’re meeting guys that you follow in college wrestling. You meet big-name coaches. To be a part of that shows the hard work I put in pays off.”

In between college visits, Entzel has been wrestling in high school showcase meets. He competed in a Virginia all-star event recently and this week will head to the hallowed wrestling state of Iowa for Saturday’s High School Dream Team Classic Dual Meet.

The event pits Entzel’s Team USA against Team Iowa in front of what promises to be a jam-packed gym in wrestling-hungry Independence. Entzel will battle Jacob Holschlag of La Porte City, Iowa. Holschlag was recruited by second-ranked Iowa but verbally committed to the University of Northern Iowa.

“It’s a great opportunity to be able to wrestle a top-notch guy that’s been recruited by big-name schools,” Entzel said. “It’s going to be a fun experience.”

Whether you like or even understand wrestling, you’d like Luke Entzel. Over the past few weeks he’s met a lot of interesting characters with varying degrees of modesty. He’s holding out for a fit that best suits his down-to-earth Montana personality.

“They all have really nice stuff -- all the resources they have for a student-athlete are really nice,” he said. “For me it’s how I feel around the guys, how I feel around the coaches, the feel of the town and the campus.

“And really a big part of it is seeing what the wrestlers do in their off time and how I feel around them. It’s really interesting how different the personalities of all the guys are.”

Wrestling in college is a way of life. From dietary discipline to off-season workouts focusing on strength, cardio and technique training, it’s a 12-month gig. Some guys are so proud of their wrestling they choose not to treat a preventable condition called cauliflower ear, wearing their disfigured extremity as a badge of honor.

All Entzel knows for sure right now is his limits are about to be tested. Fortunately he heads to college with a work ethic that has served him well on the mat and in the classroom.

“It’s going to take some adjustment to get to the level where I can compete, definitely,” predicted the senior, who will wrestle at either 174 or 184 pounds. “People are spending time year-around, training twice a day.

“You’re not going to get away with pulling moves that you can in the high school room just because you’re a little stronger.”

Lanny Bryant, who has coached prep wrestling on and off for 53 years and mentored Entzel at Big Sky, says Luke is by far the best wrestler he has ever coached. My hunch is we’re going to find out exactly why when Entzel takes the mat in college.

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