MISSOULA — Kalispell Flathead's Payton Hume thought he had won the 170-pound title match of the Jug Beck Rocky Mountain Classic on Saturday.
Instead, Lewistown's Alex Wickens brought home the first-place Montana-shaped plaque while Hume stood a step lower on the podium. With both boys drenched in sweat after the night's most exciting and controversial bout, it was easy to mask the tears in one wrestler's eyes.
"I thought I had the 'W' a few times, they even called it two points, but somehow it came back. ... It was a really big up and down match," the Flathead senior said. "... After you have a loss like that, you have something that burns in you. It's definitely going to help me out for state — get that fire going."
With Bozeman's overall team win all but secured (Bozeman topped Havre, 238-200), anyone not in Hawks red or Pony blue at a packed Missoula Sentinel gym turned their attention to the individual title matches.
And Hume versus Wickens truly was a doozy.
In the match, Hume was called for stalling with one second remaining in the second period to give Wickens a 1-0 lead. A rowdy Flathead contingent disagreed from the stands, while the Braves' coaches pleaded beside the mat.
The challenge fell on deaf ears, though.
Hume got a point back and took a lead 2-1 midway through the third period, but Wickens immediately countered with a reversal of his own to go back on top, 3-2.
With seconds left and Hume needing an escape to force overtime, the Brave wrestler seemed to get it just before the buzzer. No point was awarded, and the crowd again erupted.
After an impassioned appeal by the Flathead coaches and a referee convention, Hume was granted the point and the two wrestlers regrouped for overtime.
"A lot of ups and downs in the match, and I loved every second of it," Wickens said. "My coach always tells me to always score the next point; always (focus on) the next point — that's how you win matches.
"So that's what I was thinking. I wasn't too worried about the outcome of the calls, I was just working my hardest and doing my best to score the next point."
In the sudden victory round Flathead's Hume was awarded what seemed to be the winning takedown, again at short time. This time it was Lewistown's turn to ask for a referee deliberation, as the wrestlers looked like they may have been out of bounds.
Instead of Hume's hand being raised, the refs ruled the two were indeed outside of the circle. It was on to an ultimate tiebreaker.
There, Wickens secured a two-point near-fall and the win. Even that was a close call.
"I personally didn't feel like it was a near fall, but at the same time, I can't really judge because I can't see myself," Hume said.
In all, the competitive match was a microcosm of the massive two-day contest that featured 32 teams from five states. There were simply too many good bouts to cover.
Take a Garden City crosstown semifinal match between Missoula Big Sky's Kyle Gordon and Sentinel's Beau King at 145 pounds. Gordon came away with a 6-0 decision win to get into the title bout.
He lost a 6-5 thriller to Bozeman's Chance McLean in the chipper.
"At the end there, it was right there. He almost turned, but he kept a wide base and kept strong," Gordon said of the match against McLean. "I feel pretty good about it, though, because I've wrestled him in two other tournaments.
"The first time he (won by technical fall); the second he only beat my six, so I'm making massive improvements."
Sentinel's King — who gave up mass all weekend (he wrestled up a weight class) — ultimately placed sixth.
"It breaks me down a little bit, the size (King gives up)," said King, who added it was the first time he's made the second day of the Jug Beck. "I'm going to be eating well tonight."
Frenchtown's Jake Bibler took home the 120-pound title with a slim 5-2 decision over Mead's (Spokane) Chase Tebbets. The Washington state high school placed third overall.
The Braves came home with a fourth-place finish. Flathead's Tucker Nadeau extended his undefeated streak this season to 42-0 in bringing home the 182-pound title. Teammate Michael Lee won the heavyweight championship match with a ferocious pin early in the third period.
"I knew he was pushing into me and I knew if I was able to get the head, arm and leg setup, I would succeed," Lee said of the winning move. "As soon as I felt that little push I knew I was able to hit it so I went for it."
Sentinel's Bryar Newbary, the defending Class AA state champion at 205 pounds, placed fourth at his home tourney. He fell in a sudden victory by Great Falls High's Alan LaRocque.
Still, the Spartans finished a respectable sixth in the 32-team field.
"We had a couple pretty tough kids there, but we're competing. I think we have seven in the top eight," Spartan coach Jeremy LaPorte said. "Overall, pretty happy."
Polson placed ninth overall and put both Parker Adler (152) and Bridger Wenzel (132) into the final round. Both Pirates fell by major decision.
Hamilton's Michael Golden reached the title round at 126 pounds, but he fell to Bozeman's Leif Schroeder. The Broncs finished 20th overall.
Along with Schroeder, the Hawks had four individual champions and nine wrestler reach the podium.
Frenchtown finished 11th overall and Missoula Big Sky took home 12th. Missoula Hellgate scored 24.5 points and beat out Superior, Coeur d'Alene and Lake City (Idaho).
Full results from the top six placing matches are attached.