MISSOULA — Frenchtown wrestler Walker Dyer got into an early scramble with his opponent as their championship match began to unfold at the Jug Beck Rocky Mountain Classic.
Dyer came close to being taken down for a potential pin, something he felt would’ve happened in that situation last year, but he showed the newfound poise that’s helped him have a breakout season.
The junior took control of the match and dominated on his way to a 14-2 major decision to win the 113-pound weight class, keeping his perfect season intact on Saturday at Missoula Sentinel.
“It means a lot because last year I took eighth here,” Dyer said. “Winning it this year is a big deal to me. And being undefeated while doing it is exciting.”
Dyer, ranked No. 1 among Class A 113-pound wrestlers, improved to 34-0 with the win. He’s even surprised himself with the type of season he’s had, although he did set lofty goals after a disappointing finish last season.
As a sophomore, Dyer made it to the state semifinals but lost to Lewistown’s Cooper Birdwell. He let the loss linger and was down on himself as he went through the motions in the consolation bracket, losing two more matches to finish in sixth place.
“That sucked,” Dyer said. “It’s haunted me ever since then.”
Soon after, Dyer watched film of the first two defeats, but he refused to watch the final loss against Polson’s RJ Pierre. It wasn’t until this season neared that he felt he could watch it.
“I didn’t watch RJ’s match because I was so mad about it that I wrestled that bad,” Dyer said. “Finally, I watched it, and it got to me that I didn’t want to lose this year.”
Dyer scored his biggest victory of the season when he won the Tri-State Tournament in Coeur d’Alene. The December meet is the most competitive regular-season tournament in which the Broncs compete.
The Rocky Mountain Classic was another test, and he beat Pierre on Friday in their first meeting since state. He won all three of his matches by pin to advance to the finals.
“He’s more confident,” Frenchtown head coach Jesse Long said. “He doesn’t get nervous in situations and has good body awareness. He’s fearless with new technique. He’ll try anything and if he’s not getting it, he’ll stop practicing to ask a question.”
The losses to end last season hit Dyer hard because wrestling has been his sole focus since he started in first grade. He stuck with the sport even though he didn’t feel he was a decent wrestler until his freshman season.
Dyer credited former Bronc Riley Gurr, a three-time state champion, with helping him grow. He now practices with Jake Bibler, a 120-pound wrestler who’s a two-time state champion.
“He’s improved a lot,” Bibler said. “He’s better with his moves and pretty technical.”
Bibler won his weight class at the Rocky Mountain Classic, beating Helena High’s Isaac Romero 6-2 to improve to 34-1. He and Dyer work on wrestling smart, which Bibler called a combination of making the correct moves and avoiding mistakes.
“Jake’s a really strong wrestler,” Dyer said. “If I can block his shot, I can block anybody’s shot.”
After winning the Rocky Mountain Classic, Dyer admitted that he didn’t know his own record until last week. He doesn’t keep track of his pin count either.
Dyer did know he’s undefeated, and that’s how he’s hoping to finish the season.
“Hopefully stay undefeated and win state undefeated,” Dyer said. “That’d be pretty cool.”
Helena's Crawford wins thriller
In the most riveting match of the day, Helena High’s Devin Crawford beat Bozeman’s Coy Cohenour in triple overtime of their 160-pound match, 3-2.
Crawford, the No. 1-ranked wrestler in Class AA, scored an escape for the match-winning point over Cohenour, who was the second-ranked wrestler.
“I was gassed, but I could tell he was gassed, too,” Crawford said. “I was thinking I got to get an escape like my life depends on it.”
Crawford was coming off a weekend in which he got injured in a head-to-head collision with an opponent. He was cleared late in the week and was only able to practice once before the start of the tournament on Friday.
“Me and this kid took shots at the same time in the quarterfinals and banged heads,” Crawford said. “I got a little loopy. Hurt my neck too.”
He added: “I’m pretty excited to come back and win. It’s a hard tournament.”
Ten titles for Montana
Wrestlers from Montana won 10 of the 13 championships at the tournament.
Havre’s Mick Chagnon (103) handed Butte’s Keagan Gransbery his first loss of the season, 4-3. Teammate Martin Wilkie (145), a three-time state champ, took down Bozeman’s Brock Rodrigues, 7-3.
Bozeman’s Chance McLane beat Belgrade’s John Mears, 9-4, in a 152-pound battle between two two-time state champions. Teammate Leif Schroeder (132) won 5-3 against an out-of-state opponent.
Great Falls High’s Elijah Davis (182) earned a 5-2 win over Columbia Falls’ Colton McPhee, and teammates Ethan DeRoche scored a 5-2 win against an out-of-state opponent.
Lewistown’s Cooper Birdwell (126) scored a takedown with 13 seconds left to beat Bozeman’s Sterling Quinn, 6-5.