by Tommy Wells
Bethel’s connection to the college wrestling ranks will grow by one this year – former Bethel Wrestling Club and Bethel Regional Junior High School standout Kaden Westlake inked a deal to continue his career on the mat. Westlake, on Nov. 20, signed a letter-of-intent to wrestle next season at Montana State University-Northern.
A three-time qualifier for the Kids National wrestling tournament while a member of the Bethel Wrestling Club, Westlake is a senior at Bozeman High School in Montana.
“I’m excited about going (to MSU-Northern),” said Westlake, the son of former Bethel residents Jeremy and Janet Westlake. The signing caps a wrestling career that has seen the former Alaska standout’s career span more than 1,000 miles, two states and several state wrestling tournaments.
“They were willing to take me for wrestling, and they had the classes I wanted to take,” he said.
Westlake said he planned to take welding and diesel technician classes at the NAIA institution in Havre, Montana.
At MSU-Northern Westlake will be joining a Northern Lights wrestling program that sent seven wrestlers to the 2019 NAIA national championships and finished the season ranked No. 17 in the country. The Lights compete in the Cascade Conference.
Westlake began his wrestling career as a standout with Darren Lieb’s Bethel Wrestling Club. After being introduced to the sport as a youth by Rick Hanson, he quickly rose to the top, placing three times at the kids’ national tournament. He continued to shine when he joined the BRJHS junior high program. As a seventh-grader, he turned in an impressive 17-3 record. The following season, he turned more than a few heads by completing an unbeaten season.
As a freshman, Westlake moved to Bozeman, where he joined the team’s wrestling program. As a freshman, he competed on the Hawks’ junior varsity squad. He made his varsity debut in 2016 as a sophomore. That season, he fell just short of qualifying for the state tournament.
Westlake made up for the near miss this past year. As a junior, he helped lead the Hawks to the Class 2A state wrestling title by wrestling his way to a 38-8 record. He advanced to the state wrestling tournament and finished fifth overall.
Westlake contributes part of his success to living in Bethel for 14 years.
“It helped me develop a mental toughness,” he said. “I enjoyed my time there.”