BILLINGS — When Billings West and Billings Senior meet up, it is usually a special night for the athletes, coaches and fans.
The crosstown rivalry is intense, and Tuesday was no different.
What was different was the atmosphere as the Golden Bears visited the Broncs, but instead of competing in the main gym at Senior, the two met in the smaller auxiliary gym.
While the wrestlers carried passion into their matches contested under the spotlight, the fans were loud and enthusiastic and the gym was hot. The fans, some of which were youth wrestlers from the Darkhorse or Team Champs club teams, were treated to some good matches, including a bout pitting State AA champions from a year ago.
In the end, the Broncs rebounded from a 20-9 deficit to win the last six matches and claim a 39-20 victory over the Bears.
One of the goals for Tuesday was to promote the sport of wrestling and showcase a high school varsity match to youth wrestlers, and that goal was met.
Jayden Ramirez, one of five Broncs seniors honored prior to the dual, started the comeback with a 17-8 major decision victory at 132 pounds. Ramirez said he was inspired by the vocal crowd. Many of the fans filled the gymnasium’s floor as the bleachers, which seat approximately 300, were full.
“It was awesome to have the crowd here. The place was packed,” Ramirez said. “I love our team’s energy. We were all positive coming in and did what we needed to get done. That’s all that matters.”
Idren Peak (138), Alex Charette (145), Luke Brewer (160), and Thomas Klepps (170) followed with victories for the Broncs, and Isaiah Murch (160) won by forfeit.
The match started at 182 and Peyton Morton won by pin to give Senior a 6-0 advantage. However, the Golden Bears Hunter Morse followed with his own pin at 205 and Zac Malcolm notched a 1-0 decision as the Bears gained a 9-6 lead.
The Bears’ Jase Van Pelt (103) and the Broncs’ Jaylen Vladic (113) followed with victories before West’s Jesse Aarness (120) won a technical fall and Drake Rhodes won by an 8-2 decision over Matthew DeWitt in a match pitting returning state champions against each other.
That’s when Ramirez started Senior’s run of six victories. Brewer, another Broncs senior honored before the match, said the wrestlers had to phase out all the hoopla surrounding the dual.
“Oh, this is a dual and it means something,” Brewer said the Broncs realized. “You don’t get many nights like this; you make the most of it.”
DeWitt was last year’s 126 pound State AA champion and Rhodes won the 113-pound crown. West coach Jeremy Hernandez said it was a fun match to watch.
“Drake is just Drake,” Hernandez said. “He just likes to wrestle. DeWitt is a monster and so is Drake. It’s always fun to watch two state champions go at it regardless of the outcome.”
Broncs coach Josh Beeman credited Rhodes for his win, but said his wrestler will learn from the match.
“It was a great match,” Beeman said. “Drake pushed the pace and gave us something to work for and strive for the last part of the season.”
Beeman enjoyed the match and said all three Class AA teams in Billings are tough this season.
“A couple different matches went the other way and a couple went our way,” he said. “The scoreboard said 19 points, but it was closer than that.”
Hernandez said the unique match lived up to the hype.
“It was a fun dual, regardless of the outcome,” he said. “You saw a lot of fireworks tonight. It was a great time.
“I’d like to dual them every week if we could. It brings our level of competition up.”
Before the match, the West wrestlers ran laps around the mat with the Team Champs club team and the Senior wrestlers took a turn with the Darkhorse team.
Ramirez and Brewer said that was a rewarding experience.
“It was fun having them around. My little brother (Reece) is involved now,” Brewer said. “It was fun running around the mat with him.”
Ramirez said it was fun to “show the younger guys what Broncs wrestling is all about.”
“Running out with the little kids was a blast,” Ramirez said, noting he wrestled for the Darkhorse club as a youth. “That was awesome.”