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Libby's Jace DeShazer leaves a legacy of excellence

by SCOTT SHINDLEDECKER
The Western News | March 1, 2024 7:00 AM

The monikers and nick names have accumulated for Libby Greenchain wrestler Jace DeShazer in the way he’s acquired state championship medals.

“The Legend,” “The Man” and “Superhero” have all been attributed to the senior who recently won his third straight Montana High School Association Class A title.

While all are very accurate, the best simply seems to be, “Champion.”

DeShazer put the cherry on top of his Greenchain career Feb. 10 at MetraPark in Billings when he beat Miles City senior Easton DeJong, 12-0, in the 205-pound Class A finals to secure the three-peat. 

DeShazer’s undefeated campaign was the first of his varsity career and he owns a 154-14 record. In Class A, he joined a select group of 126 wrestlers who’ve won three titles. 

DeShazer tied former Greenchain star Zach Crace for the all-time Libby wins mark. Crace wrestled from 2012 to 2015 and was a four-time medalist. He placed third three times and sixth in his freshman season. Crace lost twice to the eventual state champion in that span.

DeShazer was 43-0 this year, 49-3 a year ago, 36-4 as a sophomore and 26-7 in his freshman season of 2020-21. 

“He’s left a great legacy and it’ll carry on for a long time,” said Greenchain head coach Dean Thompson. “We’re really gonna miss his leadership and I’ll miss him a lot because he’s such a fun kid to be around. You can joke with him, but when he needs to be serious, he is.”

DeShazer is only the second Greenchain member to win three titles and the first since J.R. Rebo was a state champion from 2001 to 2003.

DeShazer said in a recent interview with The Western News that, “it’s definitely weird not going to practice.”

He also said winning a third straight championship was starting to sink in.

DeShazer’s senior year was special in many ways. He got to wrestle with his younger brother, Tristen, he completed his career having never missed a practice, and he received a scholarship to play football at the University of Montana Western in Dillon.

“I was really happy to get a year with him (Tristen) on the same team. His goal was to make it to state and he did it, so that was a lot of fun,” Jace said.

While some may wonder about Jace opting for football instead of wrestling, he said he believes the idea of playing in a true team sport is more appealing.

“Wrestling is a team sport in some ways, but football is all about the team,” Jace said. “They said I have a good chance to play at inside linebacker this year and I have friends there who are successful.”

Dillon native Eli Nourse is one of those friends. He was named to the Associated Press NAIA All-American First Team after catching 90 passes, 12 for touchdowns, and averaged 107.8 yards per game.

DeShazer is going to study Kinesiology with the goal of continuing his schooling in physical therapy.

“It gives you a wide variety of areas to go into,” he said.

Greenchain head coach Dean Thompson, a grad of Montana Western, said he is looking forward to watching Jace play football at his alma mater.

DeShazer also shared how he ended up with bright blonde locks for his senior year.

“Ian Thom, Carson Williams and I decided to dye our hair, just a fun thing to do,” he said.

The splash of blue prior to state was an ode to his school’s dominant color.

Jace’s dad, Doug, said it’s a somewhat bittersweet time.

“It’s an end of an era,” Doug said. “We’ve been very close and spent a lot of time together over the years, traveling and working together in football and wrestling.

“But I’m really excited for his future!”

Friends and uncles Adam Orr and Jeff Manson urged Jace to try wrestling. Doug and Jace’s aunt played basketball.

“Our whole family had played basketball,” Doug said in a 2020 interview with The Western News.

When Jace was six years old, Doug and mom, Ashley, gave their blessing for him to wrestle. He was undefeated on his way to a state Little Guy title.

Doug put a mat in the basement of their home and they watched YouTube videos to learn the sport.

Dean Thompson said Jace is a great example for younger wrestlers.

“He was our Iron Man, he never missed a practice and we tell the kids that the hard work they put in during the offseason can lead to the kind of results Jace has enjoyed,” Thompson said.

The influence of former Greenchain greats who helped Jace is something he appreciates.

“Having coach (Justin) Graham beating up on me in practice was invaluable. He never gave me anything,” Jace said.

Graham was a 2006 state champ at 215 pounds and is 11th on the all-time wins list with 114. 

DeShazer also spoke about how he’s handled the pressure.

“At Billings was the most pressure of my career,” Jace said. “I’m good about pressure, but it was the most nervous I’ve ever been. I spend 90% of my time at tourneys asleep.”

Doug said he was impressed to see how his oldest son handled the pressure.

“I’ve never seen anyone handle it better,” Doug said.

DeShazer’s fond memories include watching his best friend, Anders Thompson of Flathead High, win his first title this season, as well as his time wrestling for Montana Elite, which had young wrestlers from all over the state. They made trips to places such as Denver, Salt Lake City and Wyoming to compete.

“When we were really, really young, I wrestled Anders. His dad, Jeff, would invite us over and they’d come to Libby, so it was really great to see him win his first state title at the same time I won,” Jace said.

Jace isn’t just sitting around, waiting to play football in the 77th East-West Shrine football this June in Billings.

While he is training to stay in shape, he’s also spent some time working with the two youth wrestling groups in town - Libby Wrestling Club and Cabinet Mountain Elite.

He’s also going to make his first appearance as a member of the Loggers varsity track and field team. DeShazer said he’ll try his hand in the throwing events and sprints.

And if that weren’t enough, he’ll be wrestling freestyle and Greco-Roman in some tourneys and at state in Great Falls from March to April.

    Libby's Jace DeShazer and Loggers head coach Dean Thompson celebrate the senior's championship at 195 pounds Saturday at North Idaho College in Coeur d'Alene. (Photo courtesy Libby High School)