BILLING — “Mars Matness” is upon us.

We’ve all heard of “March Madness” and the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.

Well, the Montana State AAU Folk Wrestling Tournament at First Interstate Arena in MetraPark Friday through Sunday is part of what is informally known as the “March Matness.”

Shane Gorder and his wife Lisa Gorder, both of the Sidney Wrestling club and AAU officials from Montana, explained the reasoning for the nickname, saying they remembered the Sidney Eagles wrestling coach for the first time. , Guy Melby, using this phrase.

The first weekend in March is the College Boys and Girls State Tournament in Lewistown, next is the Brodie Gorder Memorial in Sidney, followed by the AAU State Folkstyle this weekend in Metra. The Montana Open wrestling tournament takes place next weekend at the First Interstate Arena.

In addition to the NCAA Hoops Tournaments, the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships are taking place this weekend in Detroit.

“That’s why Coach Melby calls it March Matness,” explained Shane Gorder. “It kind of goes with basketball and the NCAA Finals. Mars is crazy.

Sidney’s Aden Graves, who joined the four-time state high school champions club in February at the Metra, said he’s been competing in the AAU state folk style tournament since he started wrestling. This will be his last participation in the event.

“It’s a good tournament that we’ve been attending since we were little,” he said. “I’m looking forward to this. It’s a good competition from Montana.

More than 1,500 wrestlers were registered for the AAU folk-style tournament this weekend. There were 71 clubs which will have boys competing and 72 with girls from Thursday. Online registration was still available until 10 a.m. Friday at There is also on-site registration until 10 a.m. Friday at the Metra.

Wrestlers from Montana and bordering states — like Wyoming, North Dakota and Idaho — that don’t offer a state AAU tournament can compete. Wrestlers from Canada are also eligible.

The competition begins Friday at 5:30 p.m. for those in the schoolboy to elite categories. The fight will end at 9 p.m. Friday.

On Saturday, the tot and bantam divisions will be contested from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; midget to novice from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.; and college student to elite from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. On Sunday, wrestlers in brackets that were not concluded on Saturday will begin wrestling at 9am.

Host teams are Project Wrestling Club and Sidney Wrestling Club.

This is the first time the AAU Folk Style State Tournament has been held in the Magic City in many years.

Last year the event was in Kalispell and it was canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus. The Gorders said the tournament was held “at least” 10 years at Great Falls High before that. A May 2008 Gazette article stated that the Darkhorse Wrestling Club had hosted the AAU Folk Tournament for the past six years at Billings Senior and that the tournament had featured 1,200 wrestlers the previous year at the school.

“Great Falls had hosted I can’t remember how many years in a row and it got too big for their facility, especially with the growth of women’s wrestling,” said Project Wrestling Club’s Tim Kaczmarek, who is co- tournament director. with Shane Gorder. “It’s an exciting place to wrestle and in Billings there are many more hotels, motels and restaurant choices.”

Kaczmarek noted that 1,300 to 1,400 wrestlers is the average number of participants, but he was hoping for between 1,600 and 1,700 wrestlers competing. The age of those struggling is around 5 to 18, Kaczmarek said.

Going forward, Kaczmarek said he would also like to host the event at the Metra. To that end, representatives of the two host clubs, along with at least 100 volunteers, said they will work their best to ensure that AAU members want to return to the facility in the years to come.

“We want it to go well and be a good experience for everyone and to stay at the Metra and keep it running and people to have a good experience with it,” Kaczmarek said.

Lisa Gorder said the Billings community has been very receptive to the tournament.

“It’s an honor to bring it to Billings,” she said.

“The location is great and the community has been great to work with. We have great sponsors and Visit Billings has been a huge help.

Shane Gorder said one of the highlights of the tournament is that the event is a qualifier for the AAU National Duels for Team Montana for college, freshman/sophomore doubles teams. year, junior/senior, girls K-8 and girls 9-12. The AAU National Duals tournament takes place in Des Moines, Iowa, from April 8-10.