TOWNSEND — Townsend, Montana, is a blue-collar town where wrestling is continuing to grow. Broadwater High School started its wrestling program in 1974. Former head coach John O’Dell recently handed over the reins to first-year head man Eli Hohn, who has already hit the ground running.
“My dad put me in wrestling when we lived in Columbia falls when I was like 4 years old, and then we moved here. (Townsend) had a little guy program and I wrestled in Townsend from second grade all the way through my senior year of high school,” said Hohn.
Coach Hohn graduated from Townsend when O'Dell, who is now the Broadwater High School athletic director, was still at the helm.
“He was my head wrestling coach, texted me, and asked me if I would be up for this position," Hohn said. "And it’s some big shoes to fill, but hopefully I can bring them back where they need to be.”
MTN Sports caught up with all three seniors on this year’s Townsend squad to discuss the new lead man and his current staff.
“They’re both really good, they're very patient with me," said first-year wrestler Jacob Pesicka. "They’ve always taken the time to show me the moves. It’s super good to have them."
All 10 warriors on the 2024 Bulldogs wrestling team remember what it was like having Hohn dominate at the same school where they grew up.
“I was a lot younger then, I think I was in like third grade when he was in high school, so we didn’t really see him much," said senior Blake Wellenstein, who has been on the mats since he was a toddler. "I mean, we all looked up to all them because they were the state champions for football. He’s definitely a good coach, but it’s definitely a big change. He teaches us a lot."
Fellow senior Cael Owens started wrestling in elementary school before taking a break from the sport when he first got to high school. Owens decided to pick it back up during his senior year partly due to Hohn, O’Dell and the rest of the Bulldog organization.
“It’s fun to be back, but Coach Hohn, you can definitely tell that he’s still trying to figure things out," Owens said. "But he’s been a good coach for this year, and I’m sure he’ll only get better, especially with these new kids, the younger ones. It’ll be nice to have them go through it with them, too."
The 27-year-old head coach graduated from Montana Western in 2019 where Hohn excelled in football. Now, he’s committed to the growth and development of each and every one of his wrestlers.
“Townsend is definitely somewhere I thought I would end up, and I just never thought it would be this soon," Hohn said. "And when I was going to college, (O’Dell) joked with me that I was going to come back and be the next Bulldog wrestling coach, and I thought it was just a joke but, little did we know, we’re living in reality now."
Hohn and the Bulldogs will be gearing up for their next meet in Ronan this weekend for the 2024 Western Montana Duals.