MISSOULA — In sports, particularly wrestling, there's not a lot of glory associated with being No. 2. That's where Missoula Big Sky sophomore Trevin Welzien finds himself ranked in Class AA, though.

He's the No. 2-ranked wrestler at 113 pounds in the state's coaches poll, and while it's not ideal (who doesn't want to be No. 1?), it does have its perks.

Mainly, you know exactly who your target is — he's right ahead of you.

"My sights are always set on him. He’s always the big one to worry about," Welzien said of his state rival, top-ranked Isaac Romero of Helena High. "I don’t worry about the rankings, I just got out and wrestle and do what I do... (But) ever since I entered freshman year he’s been the kid to beat.

"And he’s beaten me every time, but I just keep getting closer and closer. So we’ll get him eventually."

"Eventually" could be this weekend if everything shakes out just right at the 41st annual Jug Beck Rocky Mountain Classic on Friday and Saturday at Missoula Sentinel. 

It's a long road, with 32 teams from Montana, Idaho, Washington and Wyoming attending, according to Sentinel coach Jeremy LaPorte.

But it could end with redemption for a handful of wrestlers, including Welzien, who fell to Romero last year in the state championship.

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Big Sky's state runner-up was strong his freshman season at 103 pounds, tallying a 26-6 record headed into state, according to trackwrestling.com. But before Welzien could face Romero in the title match, he had to beat then-top-seeded Hunter Rush of Kalispell Flathead. 

That opportunity came for the then-freshman Eagle in the semifinals.

"(Welzien) had the kid from Flathead and it was kind of the same pattern (as with Romero)," Big Sky's first-year head coach and then assistant coach Rick Moreno said. "First time (Welzien) wrestled (Rush), (Rush) pinned him. Second time (they wrestled) the match got closer and closer and closer."

Welzien won with an ultimate tiebreaker against the upperclassman. 

That win set up this season's rivalry, however. Romero awaited Welzien in the title match and the Bengal grappler won by a 4-0 decision.

Most recently, Romero edged Welzien by a slim 6-4 margin at last week's Tom LeProwse Invitational in Bozeman.

"During the match it was near the edge; he got two seconds' worth of near-fall and that was the difference in the match," Welzien explained.

But Moreno said he liked what he saw from his sophomore, who is emerging as a young leader on the Eagles.

"Now it's just building on that," Moreno said. "We’ve known each other, we’ve kind of grown up at the same time.

"He’s a year older than Trevin but Trev’s done club with me and Romero’s been in another club across the state, so we’ve seen each other, shadowed each other through our careers, so it’s just kind of that long going rivalry."

Helena coach John Burke added that the boys' experience wrestling each other has added to the competitiveness of the matchup.

"They both seem to really love the sport of wrestling," Burke said. "It makes it special that they both really live and breathe wrestling."

And Welzien does. When asked what the Big Sky student athlete likes to do off the mat, the sure-spoken sophomore stumbled a bit. 

"Just school and wrestling; that’s what I stick to," he said.

It's that focus that had Moreno call Welzien "one of his top leaders" in the wrestling room at Big Sky High School. 

"I don’t worry about his school. He’s a straight-A student (and) he works out really hard all the time. He puts in the extra time," Moreno said.

Welzien is focused on taking the next step.

Which means taking down No. 1.

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For the teams at the Jug Beck, taking down No. 1 means toppling defending champ Kalispell Flathead, which has been an absolute buzzsaw in the early goings of the wrestling season. The defending Class AA champion is missing a returning state champ in Trae Vasquez, who suffered a knee injury during football season, but the Braves have a handful of ranked wrestlers.

They're also coming off a win at the Pacific Northwest Classic in Spokane, which featured a handful of schools slated to set up shop at Sentinel's weekend tournament. Two of those teams — University and Mead — finished second and third, respectively, at the meet in Spokane.

"It’ll be a dogfight," Sentinel's LaPorte said. "This one, there’s enough teams in this one where the points are distributed a little different than some of the smaller tournaments. It'll be interesting."

LaPorte also mentioned Bozeman and reigning Class A champion Havre as two other teams to watch along with the Missoula schools.

"(From) what I’ve seen so far, there’s going to be some weight classes that are going to be pretty fun to watch," LaPorte said.

In particular, he pointed out the 138-pound bracket, which could feature the likes of Frenchtown's Riley Gurr and Havre's Martin Wilkie. Both were state champs last year in Class A. Both were Tri-State champs in December, too — Gurr at 132, Wilkie at 138.

And you can't forget the prospective battle at 113 — a potential rematch of last year's 103-pound state title match between Welzien and Romero.

Matches are set to start at 10 a.m. Friday and 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

The Prep Notebook is a weekly collection of stories about area high school athletics. If you have a story idea or suggestion, please contact Missoulian prep sports reporter Kyle Houghtaling by email. He can be reached at kyle.houghtaling@missoulian.com or on Twitter @khotel.

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