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Spring snow complicates travel for thousands in Billings for wrestling tournament

Spring snow
Posted at 5:46 PM, Mar 26, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-26 19:46:06-04

It's been an unpredictable start to spring in Montana, and for the thousands of wrestlers that competed in the Montana Open this weekend, that weather has complicated their trips back home.

Wrestlers from all over the country were in Billings this weekend for the Montana Open. The tournament kicked off Friday afternoon at MetraPark and featured over two thousand athletes from 16 different states.

"It's awesome," Ronan wrestler Koda King said Sunday morning. "It's cool to be here. It's bigger than state I think."

King made the usual 6-hour drive from Ronan to Billings with his parents on Thursday, but as the tournament finished up Sunday, they were bracing for a much longer trip on the way home.

"I think we're probably looking at 8 to ten hours to get home today," Koda's mom, Jennifer King said. "It is what it is. It's out of our control."

Even with the weather, the Kings had every intention of making it all the way back home Sunday night for the start of a new week.

"We've got a long drive obviously," Koda said. "But just to get back for school and work and everything, it's important."

And Jennifer said that traveling far in unwelcome conditions is just a part of the sport, and that the level of competition makes it worth it.

"When you wrestle, you take those chances and we would drive across the state of Montana to come to the Montana Open," King said.


But the Kings weren't the only ones that have some serious traveling to do before they return back home. Tournament director Jason Wiers said that this year has been a record in terms of out of state participation.

"This year, we had the most attendants from out of state," Wiers said. "We had 16 different states attend. It's been awesome to see the excitement surrounding the event grow each year."

While many have traveled from other states to compete, Wiers lives in Bozeman and he knows just how unpredictable Montana's weather can be.

"You roll with the punches in Montana," Wiers said. "You know the old adage is, 'If you don't like the weather, wait fifteen minutes.' And that kind of seemed to play true here this weekend."

And as a tournament director, Wiers has a lot of responsibility. This weekend, that included preparing for the weather by making sure that people could be on the road at a reasonable hour.

"There's been some changes in the weather forecast this past week that has created some concern and a buzz in the arena," Wiers said. "We're excited to be able to get people out the door and on their way home in a timely manner this year."


For Koda, the long drive was worth it. He earned first place after going undefeated during the weekend. Still, he has bigger fish to fry come Monday.

"I've got to present my project in English tomorrow, so I've probably got to get back pretty soon," Koda said.

And his mom hopes the additional weight of his trophy might help ease some of the road conditions.

"The drive is probably going to be longer on the way back than it was getting here," Jennifer said. "But I think the road is going to be pretty good with a bison skull in the back seat."