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Forsyth Dogies Dominate Small-town Wrestling

by Dustin Klemann

In a blur of camouflage purple, the fans rose from their seats, some with hands over their lips, others with eyes closed and hands clasped, mouthing prayers. Roughly half the town of Forsyth was in Billings for February’s state wrestling tournament, having traveled about 100 miles.

The Forsyth High School Dogies were on the verge of a three- peat as class B-C State Wrestling Champions, but the Choteau High School Bulldogs still had a chance to snatch the team title away. Choteau’s J.J.Werdal needed either a pin or a major decision over Colstrip’s Seth Currier to swing the title for his team.

At the sound of the whistle, Werdal and Currier tussled. Through his headgear, Currier heard muffled chants from not only Colstrip fans, but also whoops and hollers from Forsyth’s section.

Soon, chants of Currier’s name echoed through the MetraPark Arena.

“We all pulled for him,” said Maddy Klapmeier, Forsyth High School’s valedictorian. “He could have rolled over just to spite us, but he gave it his all.”

Terri Brown, office manager — or as she says, “surrogate mother” — of the 181 students at Forsyth High School, could not attend the tournament, but she still felt the anxiety.

“I received constant updates,” Brown said. “Everyone here at home was just on an edge of awe.”

Forsyth is a blue-collar town of fewer than 2,000 residents, with most livelihoods dependent on the railroads and mines. It’s no coincidence that the town has come to dominate in wrestling, one of the most physically grueling high school sports.

Forsyth coach Scott Weber, whose three sons all won individual championships this year, said the “brotherhood” among the wrestlers extends outside the school. While it’s one-on-one on the mat, the town inspires the entire team during competition.

“They’ve been together since the third grade,” Weber said. “And not only do they know each other, but the town has helped and seen them grow through the years.”

The wrestling program is a great source of pride for Forsyth. The citizens and wrestlers unabashedly gush over each other, but the town’s sense of self-respect extends beyond its borders. The night the Dogies won their third consecutive state title, the team’s championship picture included two athletes from neighboring Colstrip, whose efforts helped Forsyth prevail over Choteau.

“It’s the way they were raised,” Weber said. “They aren’t for themselves.”

Randy Durr, an alumnus of Forsyth High School, has dedicated a scholarship and plaque to the school, inscribed, “Once a Dogie, always a Dogie.”

And when 10 Dogies brought home the state championship for the third straight year, local police and firefighters led the motorcade down Main Street.