The C.M. Russell Holiday Classic is a big deal. Sixty schools from all divisions, including many of the top teams in the state, descend on Great Falls for two days each December in a who’s-who wrestling showcase.
Jefferson High brought 10 varsity wrestlers to this year’s Classic, Dec. 20 and 21 – and came away with an exciting medal-podium finish, by Leo Anderson, and thirty-ninth place overall. Not a bad outcome against the best competition out there.
In Friday’s first round, only Christian Davis, Miles Dodge and Eli Reed had matches, and all three Panthers were defeated. In the second round John Armstrong, at 138 pounds, and Anderson, at 103, were the only ones to advance — Armstrong by a pin. But both lost in the third round and joined the consolation bracket with the rest of their teammates.
In the first consolation round, Christian Davis and Braeden Jones advanced via pins. The next round saw Anderson, Davis, Cody St. Clair, Armstrong and Reed all advance by pin. Those wrestlers needed one more win, in the day’s final consolation round, to make it to the second day — but only Anderson and Davis would get their hand raised.
The Jefferson wrestlers finished the first day with 26 team points, good for forty-sixth place out of 60 teams.
In Saturday’s action, Anderson won by pin to start the morning while Davis was eliminated. Anderson won by pin in his next match, as well, moving him into the final eight and guaranteeing him a spot on the awards podium. His next match was a close battle that went to overtime, where Leo lost. In the final match of the day, Anderson once again fought courageously but settled for eighth place.
The wrestlers who were eliminated on Friday joined some Jefferson teammates for a separate tourney on Saturday at Great Falls High School. Wrestling in this tourney were Briana Garcia at 103 pounds, Dominick Davis at 113, St. Clair at 120, Armstrong and Gracie Olds at 138, Reed and Kaden Johnson at 145, Dodge at 152, Jones, Joe Riehl and Jeyden Sullivan at 160 pounds and Matt Riehl at 285 pounds.
No team scores were kept, but several Panthers finished on the awards podium – including St. Clair, first place; Armstrong and Jones, third place; and Reed and Sullivan, fifth place.
For his podium finish — the first by a Panther in several years at the CMR tournament — Anderson was selected by his coaches as JHS Panther Wrestler of the week. Jones, who placed third against some very tough competition, was selected as Wrestler of the week for the Great Falls High Tournament. Jones also had the quick pin of the weekend: 28 seconds.
After the holiday break, Jefferson’s next competition is on Jan. 3, when they travel to a dual meet at Columbus.