Butte vs. Kalispell (copy)

Butte's Kyler Riaha gets tends to a nose bleed during the Mining City Duals in Butte on Dec. 11. With the return of tournaments, wrestlers are getting plenty of mat time this season to better prepare them for state.

BUTTE — Boys and girls wrestling teams are getting their money’s worth now that tournaments are back in rotation as COVID restrictions have been lifted for the 2021-22 season.

Butte’s boys varsity team traveled to Gillette, Wyoming, for the Pat Weede Memorial Tournament, which took place across Friday and Saturday.

After 10 duals against a loaded field, the Bulldogs (8-2) took second place. En route to doing so, they beat eventual-champion Scottsbluff, Nebraska, 39-34, and Sidney which finished in third place, 42-37.

“Mason Christian at 182 ended up going undefeated on the weekend, which is awesome,” said Butte coach Cory Johnston. “He had a great weekend. As a team, everybody on the team won at least two matches or three matches. Every dual we won was kind of a team effort, which was fun, and they were all close duals. There was great competition; that's the main highlight.”

Scottsbluff took first because its loss to the Bulldogs was its only loss of the weekend, and placing was based on a school’s record after completing 10 duals.

Butte’s first loss came at the hands of host Thunder Basin 37-35 on Day 1 of the tournament. The Bulldogs’ second defeat was to Natrona County High School on Day 2, 40-34.

High schools that remained in Montana also had the chance to compete at an extremely high level at the CMR Holiday Classic in Great Falls.

In addition to Class AA powerhouses like Billings Senior, which took second in the boys division and first in the girls division, plenty of Class A and B-C schools were able to see how their wrestlers stacked up against Montana’s best.

“We had a total of 84 matches for the weekend,” said Jefferson coach Troy Humphrey. “And so we got a lot of good wrestling in against a lot of good competition, the best in the state”

For the boys, Billings West (231.5), Senior (209.5), Great Falls (154.5) and Belgrade (148.5) rounded out the top four.

On the girls’ side, Senior (209.5), Billings Skyview (127), Kalispell Glacier (114) and Belgrade (95) finished No. 1 through No. 4 in that order.

Butte girls finish 6th at Holiday Classic

The Bulldogs finished with 64 points as a team, six points ahead of seventh-place Billings West and five points behind fifth-place Poplar. In the second year of MHSA-sanctioned girls wrestling, Johnston estimated about two-thirds of the schools in attendance were able to send a girls team to Great Falls.

“As far as big tournaments go, this is the first kind of non-mixer tournament that any of the girls have really competed in since state last year,” Johnston said.

Bulldogs who made their way to the podium after the dust cleared were Aydin Gonzalez, who finished fourth at 113, and Hayla Hoffman, who finished second at 170.

With the popularity of girls wrestling on the rise, girls around the state will see more opportunities in the form of tournaments and duals, as oppose to the mix-and-match makeshift schedule they saw during the 2020-21 season.

“I think for them, they just need as many times they can get on the mat as possible, trying to get away from some of the simple mistakes and just learn every time they go out there. Then when we get to February, they're ready to roll,” Johnston said.

Butte’s JV team also competed at the Holiday Classic and finished with 46 points, one behind Poplar and two better than Townsend.

Anaconda puts pair of boys, girls on the podium in Great Falls

Before the CMR Holiday Classic, the Copperheads also wrestled in the Fairfield mixer last week. In addition to maximizing mat time, the hectic schedule has given Joe Casey’s squad a needed “wake-up call.”

“Some of our kids are wrestling in eight, nine or 10 matches,” the Anaconda coach said. “So at the end of the day, it was good. I think we probably were a little bit more successful this year than the past couple years before COVID.” There's a lot of things we’ve got to clean up. I mean, the kids are still a little green, and they need to learn and need to stop with some of the mental mistakes.

The Copperheads had two boys and two girls place. Nate Blodnick took third at 103 behind Zach Morse, of Billings West, and Laurel’s Elijah Nose.

Tommy Sawyer also managed a sixth-place finish at 138.

“(Sawyer) had not placed there before,” Casey said. “Two years ago when we were there, he was close. So it's good to see him on the podium at 138. It's a tough tournament. It's good competition.”

Cora Pesanti took fifth at 113 and Emilie Williams was sixth at 152. Pesanti battled through eight matches Saturday to earn her spot on the podium.

“That's the kind of grind that you'll get on a day at the CMR where you just keep going and going, going and keep wrestling,” Casey said.

Anaconda’s boys tallied 65 points, two behind Missoula Big Sky and one point ahead of Three Forks. Anaconda’s girls managed 32 points, four behind Great Falls and two better than Dillon.

Jefferson boasts two placers at CMR

“Anyone that places in that tournament is an animal,” Humphrey said of his Panthers and the CMR Holiday Classic. “You definitely have to have a lot of skills as an athlete. The number of wrestlers that we have that didn't place that were super great wrestlers, you know, it’s just the kind of a level of competition.”

Jefferson had two such animals who got the podium. Leo Anderson finished fifth at 113 and John Armstrong was sixth at 145.

“We had super competitive and tough kids that didn't make it to the second day or, or they made it and didn't get a place,” Humphrey said. “I'm super excited that we had two place up at that tournament, and we did real well as a team.”

The Panthers finished with 84 points as a team, five behind Columbia Falls and two-and-a-half in front of Kalispell Glacier.

Notes: Whitehall’s Miles Hoerauf placed fifth at 160 and Leo Scafani took sixth at 285. As a team, the Trojans’ boys racked up 74 points, one-and-a-half behind Dillon and three-and-a-half in front of Thompson Falls-Noxon. Whitehall coach Mark Nelson was unavailable to comment.

Matthew Kiewiet is the sports editor for the Montana Standard and sports betting columnist for 406MTSports. Email him at matthew.kiewiet@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter @mattkiewiet406.

Load comments