HELENA  As the All-Class State Wrestling tournament in February approaches, Cory Johnston and the Butte Bulldogs are looking for one thing  matches.

And Tuesday in Helena, with both the Bulldogs and Missoula Sentinel in the Capital City, there were plenty of matches to go around. Butte wrestled both Helena schools and notched two victories, knocking off Helena High 63-9, before crossing town and besting the Capital Bruins 45-30.

"It was a good day," Bulldogs head coach Cory Johnston said. "It was a good warmup for the weekend. We have the Tom LeProwse coming up and that's about the best competition that you can get and it was good for all these teams to get a match under our belt before we walk into that one."

Trey Whitlock and Kyler Raiha set the tone for the Bulldogs against Capital with back-to-back pins in the opening matches at 113 and 120. Kip Pumnea added another pin for Butte, while the Bruins scored wins by fall from Carson DesRosier and Hunter Rahn to keep CHS in the mix down 18-12.

Yet, another pin from Butte's Maverick McEwen extended the lead to 24-12 and then, Connor Konda was able to get three more points for the Bulldogs, following a 3-1 overtime win over Cole Graham. The match was 1-1 after three periods, but early in the extra frame, Konda scored a two-point takedown to get the win, which helped Butte grab a 27-12 lead in exactly the kind of match the Bulldogs are hoping to get leading into the postseason. 

"It's about mat time right now," Johnston said. "The more mat time we get, the better we will be. We are just looking for matches. We don't care who they are against, we just want our kids on the mat as much as possible. Last year, we weren't on the mat as much as we would have liked, so this year, the idea is to get the kids back to knowing it's not just practice, practice, practice and then compete once. It's practice and then: compete, compete, compete."

Even in defeat, Capital won five matches by pin. Joining DesRosier and Rahn in the winner's circle were Talon Marsh (285), Conner Kovick (160) and Cashton Spolar (103). They each won by fall.

In the first dual of the day for Capital, the Bruins and Missoula Sentinel opened up at 12-12, before pins by DesRosier, Boston Lay and Rahn helped CHS build a 24-12 advantage. Nick Flies (145) and Graham added to it with pins of their own and the Bruins eventually won 50-24. Kovick finished 2-0 on the day day after a 9-1 victory against Sentinel, while Tucker Zanto also won a major decision thanks to a 10-2 win. Marsh also won his first match of the day by forfeit. 

"We have some guys that are wrestling really well," Capital head coach Shawn Graham said. "And we have some guys that need some more work. We are inexperienced at a few spots but we are getting better."

Helena High struggled in its dual against Butte, in part, because it was giving up open weights at a few spots. But in the second dual, the Bengals put forth a strong effort and fell to Missoula Sentinel by just three points thanks to pins by Zane Gehring (103), JT Gehring (138), Ian Mehrens (145), Dhestin McKinnis (152), Ruger Young (205) and David Luby (285) in a 39-36 defeat. 

Zane Gehring capped a stellar day as he also scored a pin against Butte. Mehrens was the other Bengal to go 2-0 on Tuesday as he won his match at 152 pounds by way of a 3-1 decision. 

All four teams will be in action Friday and Saturday at the Tom LeProwse in Bozeman. 

Chris is the sports editor and lead preps reporter for the Independent Record and 406mtsports.com. Follow him on Twitter @cmpetey406

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