Even though Gallatin Raptors’ Coaches Mike Claxton and Wes Holmquist are in their first year of coaching Gallatin Boys and Girls Basketball, the two have known each other since they were in elementary school.
"I remember meeting him on the baseball diamond in little league, he stood out as one of the top athletes in Big Sandy Montana at the time,” Gallatin Boys Basketball Head Coach, Mike Claxton said.
"He was a lefty pitcher, he was a big, strong kid, one of the better athletes. We just naturally gravitated towards each other,” Gallatin Girls Basketball Head Coach, Wes Holmquist said.
That gravitational pull between the two grew stronger as time went on. Holmquist at Big Sandy High School and Claxton at Chester High, they both excelled at football, basketball and track. The three-sport athletes thrived playing college basketball as well, Holmquist played for The University of Montana Western while Claxton shared time between Montana Tech, MSU Billings and MSU Northern going head-to-head for decades.
"He tends to say Chester beat Big Sandy all the time…I kinda remember Big Sandy always beat Chester,” Holmquist said.
"It didn't matter who we were up against we were going to bring it and bring our best foot to the table every time,” Claxton said.
After college ball, the two embarked on different paths but still kept something in common - coaching. Just to name a few of their accomplishments over the years, Holmquist coached Bozeman Boys’ Basketball for 12 years where he won two state titles. Claxton played professionally overseas and then transitioned into coaching, where he eventually earned a spot coaching at the pro level for six years before coming to Bozeman.
The Gallatin High coaching positions brought them back together in 2019, but they remain just as competitive as they were when they were in little league.
“[on who would win in a one-on-one matchup] Me hands down every time...no he's probably in a little better shape than I am,” Holmquist said.
"Wes would try to back me under the rim, I don't know we haven't had this matchup so I don't know,” Claxton said.
Though they don’t have the answer to who would win in a one-on-one matchup, one thing remains certain - having their paths come full circle and going from competitors to coworkers has been special.
"For 30 some years we've known who each other were and now we're literally sharing an office and sitting by each other everyday during P.E. We both teach P.E. together all day and then coach basketball, it's been a really unique and fun experience."
"It's been great just sharing ideas with each other. We both are experienced as players and as coaches, but I know there's always something to learn. He's putting me in contact with coaches throughout the state where I can connect and get my feet on the ground back in Montana."
Raptors Boys and Girls Basketball are scheduled to tip off their season against Billings Skyview next week on Thursday, January 7.