BILLINGS — It all came down to the final match.
And that was fitting as the No. 2 Billings West Golden Bears hosted the No. 4 Billings Senior Broncs under the lights in an Eastern AA wrestling dual at the Golden Dome on Tuesday.
The fans were in for a treat all night long and responded in that final match with loud cheers.
And it wasn’t just the fans cheering while heavyweight wrestlers Max Murphy of Billings West and Maxx Lee of Billings Senior battled. Their teammates were on their feet, offering encouragement with cheers and applause.
Senior led by four entering the final match and while a couple times it looked like Murphy may achieve the pin for the dual victory, Lee fought back.
Trailing 2-1, Lee started the third period down and the Senior faithful chanted, “Let’s go Maxx!” — to which the West fans responded, “Let’s go Max!”
It soon turned to, “Let’s go Lee!” and “Let’s go Murph!” and both wrestlers were giving their max.
Murphy ended up winning the hard-fought contest 4-3, but the Broncs were the dual victors, 33-32.
“Oh yeah, that was fun,” said Senior’s Idren Peak of cheering on his teammate during the final match. “We don’t have too much hype like that. It was fun.
“It should be like that when we wrestle anybody.”
Peak, who won by pin in 1:07 at 145 pounds earlier in the night, said his teammate “showed out” by avoiding losing by technical fall or pin, which would have given the Bears the victory.
The Broncs improved to 7-1 with the win. It was Senior’s second straight win over the Bears as the Broncs downed their crosstown rivals in the third-place match at the Mining City Duals in Butte on Saturday.
“That’s good for the sport of wrestling right there,” Broncs coach Josh Beeman said of the tight dual and the exciting final match that had the fans on the edge of their seats. “That was as intense as you’ll get in a wrestling gym — two kids who have nothing left hearing their names. The entire gym was roaring.”
The Bears (6-3) started the show with a pin by Zach Morse (103), a major decision by Keyan Hernandez (113) and a decision by Jase Van Pelt (120) to go up 13-0.
Senior’s Demetri Saliaris (126) followed with a pin, and West’s Dash Nugent answered with a fall of his own at 132 and West led 19-6.
The Broncs then ran off four consecutive wins as Jalen Vladic (138) won by decision, followed by pins by Peak (145), Jake Barnhill (152) and James Roan (160). Senior led 27-19 at that point.
West’s Drake Rhodes (170) notched a major decision and Cooper Freitag (182) scored a pin to give the Golden Bears a 29-27 lead.
Senior’s Charlie Desmarais prevailed by fall at 205 and the Broncs were up 33-29 entering the heavyweight showdown.
Peak said his teammates believed in themselves despite the early deficit.
“We just knew after the first losses we had to pick it up,” he said. “We got in each other’s heads and got everyone hyped up to come out with the W.”
West coach Jeremy Hernandez always welcomes the challenge the Broncs provide his team. While Hernandez acknowledged the Bears “have some work to do,” it was hard to be down after such a dramatic, back-and-forth dual.
“It's fireworks,” said Hernandez when the Bears and Broncs tussle. “We would dual those guys every week. That’s what we are in this sport for. … It was two powerhouse teams going at it and it was good for the sport.”
Hernandez also thought that last match was fun to be a part of and was proud of the way Murphy fought.
“Max Murphy is a football player slash wrestler,” Hernandez said. “He is a monster and we are fortunate to have him. It takes heart and he did his job.”
And while the Broncs head to the CMR Holiday Classic with the victory, Beeman said there is a lot of season left.
“In the long run, it’s another day in December,” he said. “We had some rough matches and the kids got caught by good wrestlers and we roared back together.”