BUTTE — Butte High wrestling's season opening duals against Flathead and Glacier was a time to experiment.
The Bulldogs split their contests, losing a tight 39-33 battle to Flathead, but responding to their first dual loss by taking down the Wolfpack 48-18.
While every player and coach is looking for a win, head coach Cory Johnston mentioned that Friday’s matchups were more of a chance to get the Bulldogs warm and to begin figuring out where his team is at.
“We threw a lot of different kids out there,” Johnston said. “That was our plan today… We have a lot of depth and in order to sort some of that depth out we have to put as many different kids out there to compete.”
Butte began with the 2017-18 Class AA champions, taking on the Braves with considerable mix-ups in the lineups, such as 2018-19 205-pound class champion Kameron Moreno lining up in the 182-pound slot, but the experimentation resulted in a close contest.
The Bulldogs won the opening three and lightest weight classes, but Flathead was able to respond by taking wins in the next five matches. After a fall win from Moreno, and a decision win by brother Kobe, who wrestled at 205, Butte and the Braves were tied 33-33, but not before a final fall win from Flathead’s Ayden Prieto.
Johnston mentioned the desire to wrestle was more important than a victory, and that it was a good sign for his team.
“The kids competed well and were excited,” Johnston said. “Everybody wanted to wrestle and that’s the important thing. Sometimes, maybe a few years ago, people hid in corners so you didn’t pick their name, but we had kids fighting, wanting to wrestle.”
The Bulldogs followed up with the Wolfpack, and improved on their loss by winning 10 of the 13 matches, and seeing Kameron Moreno, Dylan Aueryt, Joe Sandoval and Keagan Gransbury earn fall victories.
The experimentation from Johnston was partly due to solving questions of depth, but another factor has been injury, as wrestler like the Moreno twins and Quinn Sullivan are still recovering from their parts in the Butte football team’s run to the state championship.
“We’re going to be dealing with football injuries for a little bit,” Johnston said. “That’s the nature of going right from one sport to the other… Trainers seem to think that we’ll be alright in the end.”
The fifth-year coach also mentioned that, while the atmosphere, enthusiasm and general relief after an offseason of waiting created good feelings, the Bulldogs are locked in on improving and measuring themselves at next weekend’s Mining City Duals.
“We’ve got to get our kids as ready as we can for February,” Johnston said. “We want to get our team in a position to qualify 26 kids for the state tournament… Next week is the meter, these are fun to get going, but we’ll have two varsity teams that we’re putting out there so 26 kids battling. It’ll be nice.”
Before the wrestling extravaganza at the Butte Civic Center, Butte wrestling heads to Helena for the Capital City Duals, which begin Saturday at 10 a.m.