MISSOULA — Butte High brought only two varsity wrestlers to its Tuesday showdown with Missoula Big Sky as the deep squad tried to get its No. 2 team some live action.
Butte junior Mason Christian was one of those varsity wrestlers who tagged along, and he improved his record to 18-0. He needed 2:24 against Hunter Curtis in the 182-pound match to record one of the Bulldogs’ seven pins as they rolled to a 63-12 win.
“I’ve been able to find a place in my mind where I feel confident in a match, whereas before I got nervous when I was wrestling against good kids,” Christian said. “Now, I’m able to get that sweet spot in my mind where I’m confident enough to hit my moves on the good kids because of my experience and drilling moves.”
Christian developed that mindset in part at Purler Wrestling, a 28-day summer camp he went to in St. Louis, Missouri, where his family is originally from before moving to Butte his freshman year. He also went to multiple out-of-state tournaments after he placed third at the State AA tournament in the 182-pound class last season.
Christian came into the match against Big Sky ranked No. 3 in the state poll at 182 pounds. He's 18-0, including 11-0 against in-state competition, he said. He’s one of seven ranked wrestlers for the Bulldogs, whose JV team earned its third win over a varsity squad after they beat Missoula Sentinel and Helena High at the Mining City Duals.
“Mason can’t get enough wrestling, so it was no problem asking him to come fill in,” Butte coach Cory Johnston said. “He’s been holding his own because of his work ethic. He does everything the right way, loves the sport. He’s reaping the benefits of the summer he put in.”
In Butte’s other wins, Camron LeProwse (113) pinned Gavin Lemmon in the second round, Grady Winston (120) pinned Wyatt McCorkle in 1:45, Cole Worley (132) pinned Ladence Running Crane, a state qualifier last year, in 3:15, Gunnar Yelenich (138) pinned Daniel Petersen, a state qualifier last year, in 2:41, Adien Cuchine (160) pined Jerry Powell in 0:57 and Cohen Grunhuvd (205) pinned Terron Brose in 0:50.
Butte’s Bryton Hardesty (152) scored a 10-5 decision over Shaun Billingsley, a state qualifier last year. Kale Schonsberg (170), Kade Schleeman (285) and Tyrese LeProwse (103) won by forfeit.
Big Sky’s Izzy Moreno (145) pinned Mason Armstrong in 0:40 as he tries to repeat as a state champion. He won the 132-pound title last year and has moved up to 145 pounds.
Big Sky’s Isaac Ayers (126) pinned Will Stepan in 1:28 as he looks to make it back to state his senior season.
Petersen made his season debut after dealing with rib issues, Big Sky coach Rick Moreno said. Cole Sandberg, a state qualifier last year, was supposed to make his debut after getting banged up in the football season but injured his shoulder in warmups, Moreno added.
Big Sky will be off from competition until the Tom LeProwse tournament in Bozeman on Jan. 7.
“We’re young, and the majority of these kids aren’t club kids, so we’re starting to build from the ground up,” Moreno said. “It’s hard to see it tonight, but from where we were two weeks ago, the progression is there.”