Cover shot by Steel Brooks of tackle Dan Kistler Jr. for 2/25/11 Montana Kaimin.
Living larger than life with Montana's offensive line

The seat creaks as Dan Kistler Jr. settles in for class. The desk is a one-piece, a wooden chair connected to a wooden desktop, the kind Kistler hates. His body isn't made for them, he says. It's tough to cram a 6-foot-8, 325-pound body into something made for average-sized people.

His legs, clad in XXL-tall sweatpants, bend awkwardly and his knees press against the chair in front of him. His stomach rubs on the desk.

At the front of the class, the professor is recalling an anecdote of a former boyfriend who had size 14 shoes. He had trouble walking down stairs, she says. They used to laugh, she says.

Kistler laughs, too. It's more of a light snicker really. He shakes his head and puts his face in his huge hands.

His shoe size is 16.

Kistler is a student at The University of Montana and plays offensive tackle for the Montana Grizzlies football team. The concept of his position is built on being larger than life, the biggest on the field. He is part of the protective wall around the quarterback and the stronger the wall, the better the protection.

"Ever since I was in high school, the coaches have always said ‘You're the bodyguards on the field,'" said Kistler, now preparing for his sophomore season at Montana. "But we don't look at ourselves as 300-pound linemen. We look at ourselves as athletes."

But what happens when a machine, created and fine-tuned for football, leaves the field?

Will Cherry scored  24 points in a game devoid of defense as the Montana men's basketball team edged Portland State 85-84 Thursday night in a crucial Big Sky Conference game at PSU's Stott Center.

The win moves Montana to 12-3 in conference (20-8 overall) and keeps the team in first place in the Big Sky with a game left to play Saturday at Eastern Washington (5-9, 8-19). A win in Washington likely clinches the conference for the Griz over Northern Colorado (10-3) which still has three Big Sky games left.

The Grizzlies and Bears split two games this season, each winning at home, and have lost to the same opponents. If the teams' seasons end with identical conference records, Montana holds a slight edge in the third tie breaker of RPI (113 to 121).

Against Portland State, Cherry netted two crucial free throws with eight seconds left to put the Griz up 85-81. The guard added 10 assists. Center Brian Qvale recorded his ninth double-double of the season with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Portland State forward Chehales Tapscott scored 28 points on 12-of-16 shooting for the Vikings.
Griz Art Steward (left) and Shawn Stockton (right). (Photo by Greg Lindstrom)
Wayne Tinkle knows home games are usually easier to win than games on the road, but rarely are road triumphs as uncommon as they have been this season — for an entire conference.

For men's basketball in the Big Sky Conference, for each team ranging from first-place Montana to last-place Sacramento State, the disparity between home and away may never have been so great. Each team in the conference boasts an overall winning record when playing in its resident gym. Each one of those same teams also has a losing record away from home.

Those totals come to 79 wins and 24 losses at home and a near-opposite 26 wins and 94 loses on the road.

AJ Versus Hockey
Click on photo above to watch AJ Versus hockey.
This week in AJ Versus, the Kaimin strapped on its skates and hit the ice for some hockey with The University of Montana's men's club hockey team.

As someone who's never played ice hockey and has skated as many times as Crazy Town has topped the Billboard charts (that would be one time), I found myself with one burning question concerning the sport: Is it harder to play hockey or to wake up at the ass-crack of dawn to play hockey?

Turns out, neither is easy.

I arrived at the rink with the clock boasting 6:45 a.m. and laughing at me. The team was completing one of its two weekly practices. Those poor guys had been gamin' it up for an hour before I even arrived. I quickly strapped on a rather smelly borrowed set of pads and laced up the skates (shout out to my buddy Drew for being nearly the same size as me) and glided out onto the slippery surface of death.

Unbalanced and unsure of myself, I quickly fell on my face. Seriously, ice is dangerous. Why else would people sprinkle salt on their sidewalks every winter? Because they want it gone, that's why.

But not John Melendez. The UM senior has been a skating fool for more than a decade. He passed me a puck, which very nearly toppled me from my precariously balanced position. This guy could skate circles around me and he proved it — by skating circles around me.

Senior Brian Qvale (photo by Ben Coulter)
Brian Qvale: Rim Protector
Senior big man blocks foes as Griz eye March

The Portland State forward saw his break from the top of the key. The middle was open, or nearly open, with just one man to beat. Phil Nelson drove down the lane toward the basket, attacking the only man in his way head on.

That last line of defense, Montana Grizzly Brian Qvale, had no intention of letting Nelson get to the basket easily. In fact, he loved situations just like this: a chance to protect his rim and his teammates.

So when Nelson launched into the air in a dunk attempt, stretching his 6-foot-8 frame to its full height, Qvale did the same. Qvale's bear paw of a hand, at the end of a tree trunk-like arm sprouting from the shoulder of his 6-foot-11 body, met the ball in midair.

"I kind of just pinned him," said Qvale, a junior during his clash with Nelson, now the lone senior for the Grizzly men's basketball team. "I met him at the highest point."

The Griz got the ball and eventually the win in that game in January 2009. Qvale  made just a single block in the game, but it's one he remembers.

Recalling every block in the center's career is becoming more and more difficult with each passing game, though, as Qvale keeps adding victims to a long shot-block hit list. Montana's monster in the middle broke a 19-year-old Big Sky Conference record in January by swatting his 213th shot.

Qvale helps Griz beat Bengals
Senior Night for the Montana men's basketball team might as well have been renamed Brian Qvale night. Qvale, the team's lone senior, helped bury Idaho State with 21 points and nine rebounds as the Griz blew by the Bengals 71–52 in conference play on Wednesday night.

Qvale started the Grizzlies' final regular season home game hot, scoring seven of the Montana's first 15 points despite double and occasionally triple teams under the basket. The early pressure resulted in a few Montana (11–3 in conference, 19–7) turnovers but even more defensive fouls, sending the 6-foot-11 center to the free throw line over and over again. The center made seven of 11 shots from the charity stripe.

Griz set for final regular season home game against ISU

The University of Montana men's basketball team plays its last guaranteed home game tonight at 7 p.m. against Idaho State. Whether they see the hardwood at Dahlberg Arena in postseason play is still up in the air.

With three conference games left to play, the Grizzlies (10–3 in conference, 18–7) and the Northern Colorado Bears (10–3, 14–10) are deadlocked at the top of the Big Sky with matching league records. The winner of the regular-season title garners hosting duties for the conference tournament, and more importantly, home games.

"Road games are so hard to come by in the conference this year," said Montana coach Wayne Tinkle, whose Grizzlies own the conference's best road record — by a lot — at 6–6. "It's almost like a postseason atmosphere right now."

Joe and Nate Montana on UM campus. (Photo by Sally Finneran)
Former Notre Dame QB Nate Montana admitted to UM, will play football

by AJ Mazzolini of the Montana Kaimin

Former Notre Dame quarterback Nate Montana has been admitted to The University of Montana and met with athletic department officials Monday. The meeting came a week after his father, NFL great Joe Montana, met with Grizzly head football coach Robin Pflugrad.

 "I know that he's been admitted to The University of Montana and the expectations are that he will be seeking a spot on the football team," said UM Athletics Director Jim O'Day.

At Notre Dame, Montana, who is listed at 6-foot-4, was enrolled in the business school.

The quarterback, 21, left the Adams Center Monday afternoon accompanied by Jean Gee, the university's senior associate athletic director in charge of academic services. His mother, Jennifer, and his father, a four-time Super Bowl winner with the San Francisco 49ers, met the pair in the parking lot.

When approached, Gee stated that the junior would not speak on his visit to campus.

Montana played behind junior Dayne Crist and freshman Tommy Rees last season for the 8-5 Irish, appearing in three games and completing nine of 18 pass attempts. The quarterback threw one interception to no touchdowns.

He walked on at Notre Dame as a freshman but saw no playing time in his first season with the team. After transferring to Pasadena Community College in 2009, where he completed 31 of 88 passes for two touchdowns and five interceptions, Montana returned to Notre Dame for his junior season.

Under Irish coach Brian Kelly, Montana would be one of at least six quarterbacks fighting for playing time for the 2011 season.

Montana is a junior and still has two years of eligibility left.

Townsend's Rauser finishes prep career unbeaten:175

By A.J. MAZZOLINI For The Great Falls Tribune

HAMILTON — Jade Rauser's senior wrestling campaign ended the same way it has in each of the last three years: on top of the winner's podium at the Montana State B-C wrestling tournament.
The wrestler from Townsend capped off only the third unbeaten career in Montana high school wrestling history Saturday and locked up his fourth state title. Competing at 119 pounds, Rauser dominated Glasgow's Braden Hallock to a 15-3 decision in leading Broadwater to a fifth-place finish.

"This one was definitely my favorite," Rauser said of capping his senior year with another state championship.

Rauser ran his unblemished record to 175-0 with the victory.

"That was always my goal but I never would have thought I could do it," he said.