Bryar Newbary arose from the mat at the state wrestling tournament last Saturday and pointed both hands in the air at Billings’ Rimrock Auto Arena. Moments later, the referee raised the Missoula Sentinel junior’s arm, signifying Newbary’s standing as the Class AA 205-pound champion.
Not even eight months earlier, the image of Newbary standing mid-mat at Montana’s premier prep sports spectacle in front of thousands of fans would have seemed unlikely.
The Spartan could hardly raise his left arm, let alone wrestle.
Sentinel wrestling coach Jeremy LaPorte didn’t expect to see his wrestler compete in a match this year. Newbary, a two-time third-place finisher as a freshman and sophomore, suffered a freak shoulder dislocation at last summer’s Western Regional wrestling tournament in Pocatello, Idaho.
As both he and his opponent tried for a takedown in late June, Newbary landed awkwardly on the mat.
“We were scrambling; we were on our feet and we sort of tossed each other,” Newbary said. “I just landed on it. My arm was tucked and it popped out through the front.”
It wasn’t just a dislocation, though. Newbary had a severe tear in his labrum and he needed surgery to repair the damage. The doctors put seven pins into the wrestler's left shoulder.
“It’s one of those injuries where it either sticks or it doesn’t,” LaPorte said. “…I wasn’t sure if we’d see Bryar and that was a bummer.
“I always held it in the back of my head that hopefully he’d get there.”
Newbary was determined to return. He went to physical therapy three days a week until Christmas, when he was able to cut back a day. The Sentinel wrestler added his own regimen of lifting in the morning before school to provide additional strength and stability, and the 4.0 student still attended wrestling practice each night.
Still, there was no guarantee he’d make it back for his junior season. In January, Newbary’s father called coach LaPorte to say they were going to try and come back for the end of the season.
It was just in time. Montana High School Association rules dictate that a wrestler must have at least one competition under his belt before he can compete in postseason matches. All that remained on Sentinel’s regular-season schedule was the Garden City Duals.
“It was pretty exciting but I sort of had to keep it a secret,” Bryar said. “We didn’t want to tell people and have people know about it and then have a setback and not come back.
“There wasn’t a guarantee until that week of Garden City that I knew pretty well that I was going to be back once I got the clearance from the doctor.”
Newbary won both his matches at the Missoula wrestling meet. One by forfeit. One with a 54-second pin.
From there it was a sprint to make sure his conditioning was in order.
“Once we decided that he was actually going to wrestle, we cranked it up a bit and started going live and tried to get his lungs back,” LaPorte said. “The hardest part of wrestling is getting in shape.”
For Newbary, the labor needed to get back into form was no sweat. Hard work is second nature for him – he comes from a family of fighters.
Bryar’s sister, Macey, was an all-state softball player and currently attends the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, notoriously one of the toughest colleges in the country. She’s a pitcher for the Golden Knights when she’s not studying or engaged in military training.
Yet it’s a wrestling champion and Army cadet’s mom who may very well take the cake for toughest Newbary. Karis Newbary, Bryar and Macey’s mother, was diagnosed with breast cancer on Sept. 11, 2015, just a few weeks into Bryar’s sophomore year and Macey’s senior year of high school. In the past 15 months, Karis has had four surgeries and full bouts of chemo and radiation treatments.
Through it all, Bryar – and Karis’s family – was there.
“He grew up pretty quick,” Karis said of Bryar. “He was always by my side during the treatments and during the tired and sick times. He just learned a lot watching the battles that I’ve gone through and I think it really put in perspective what he needed to do for his future.
“He’s a strong kid, mentally and physically.”
No doubt it’s something he picked up from his mom, who’s set for her final treatment this week.
In fact her fight partially drove his desire to return to the mat – one where he stood as Montana's best less than a week ago.
“It’s pretty inspiring to see her when she battled through it and got past it,” said Bryar, who added all signs toward his mom’s recovery look good.
“It just showed that there’s a lot of fight in a person and you can keep on fighting no matter the situation whether it’s a match or just in life.”
Western Montana wrestlers bring home hardware
Newbary wasn't Western Montana's only wrestler to bring home a title. In Class AA, Kalispell Glacier's Justin Gibson brought home the 138-pound bracket, and the Wolfpack's crosstown rival won the whole thing.
Kalispell Flathead, operating under re-installed head coach Jeff Thompson, picked up where the team left off in 2008. Then, the Braves were in the midst of a five-year run as state champions. The dynasty carried on for two years after Thompson's departure and seemed to pick right back up when the head coach came back this season.
Western Montana's success wasn't strictly confined to Class AA either. The Eureka wrestlers dethroned Colstrip, winners of two of the last three Class B-C tournaments. The Lions finished with one individual champion – Garrett Graves at 182 pounds. If the name sounds familiar, he was also the quarterback who threw the game-winning Hail Mary touchdown to upset Loyola Sacred Heart in the Class B state football game.
Ronan's Noah Cheff (132 pounds), Libby's Buddy Doolin (103) and Plains-Hot Springs' James Detienne (152) also earned individual titles in the B-C ranks.
In Class A, Havre may be the overlying story with their fifth straight team title, but the West showed they had some tough individuals, too.
Hamilton's Manny Rivera, who was honored at halftime of Wednesday's Corvallis-Hamilton basketball game, took home the 182-pound title after moving up a weight class from 170 late in the season. He won by a 6-4 decision in the title match.
Sticking in the Bitterroot, Corvallis-Darby's Garrett Hunt was crowned heavyweight champion of Montana after an overtime pin against Browning's Wacey Zuback.
Frenchtown brought home two champions from Billings – Jake Bibler (113) and Riley Gurr (132).
School board approves Big Sky co-ops
The Missoula County Public School board unanimously approved Missoula Big Sky's cooperative sponsorship of activities renewal agreement with Florence for cross country and Loyola Sacred Heart for swimming. The agreement allows students from Florence and Loyola to participate on Big Sky's respective teams under the Eagles' banner.
Florence and Loyola had been operating as such last season and the MHSA requires a renewal every three years.
“We’re going for another three years. Big Sky is in favor, and the boards at Florence Carlton and Loyola will be making the same decisions,” MCPS executive regional director Karen Allen said.
“Florence doesn’t have the capacity to have a cross country team. Big Sky is closest. They practice and compete with Big Sky. The same is true with swimming for Loyola.”
Missoulian reporter Chelsea Davis contributed to this brief.