By Bruce Sayler
Butte Central will be chasing individual accomplishments this high school wrestling season with six wrestlers working out on the mats.
Only four of the six are in competitive mode as the BC teams works out daily in the Maroon Activities Center room. The other two are working to overcome injuries and whether either Ryan Moodry or Colter Stillwagon is ready to go by February postseason time is a question to remain unanswered until then.
Head coach Robin Moodry, Ryan’s dad, has been at the Butte Central helm since 2000 and on the coaching staff since 1996. This season, he and Andrew Holmes are the coaching staff.
“We’ll have four participating this weekend,” coach Moodry said, alluding to the Maroons’ season opener in the Havre Invitational tournament set for Friday and Saturday in the Hi-Line home of the Class A mat juggernaut. “We’re taking it a little slow here at the first of the year. We working on technique, body position and just getting our lungs. They seem to be doing pretty good.”
It is a case of knowns and unknowns for Moodry in the MAC wrestling room. Returnees are 2016 Class A place-winners in senior Roy Russell and junior Clay Fisher. The newcomers are both untested freshmen, Joey Mulcahy and Cale Stillwagon.
Fisher was the Class A runner-up at 126 pounds last year and will wrestle at 138 this weekend, with the possibility of dropping to 132 later. He is coming off an outstanding football season and remains a little banged up from his All-State effort in the fall sport. So, coach Moodry said he might hold Fisher out this weekend to heal a little more.
“We’d like to get him as healthy as possible,” the coach said.
Russell placed sixth at 103 pounds in last year’s state A tourney and right now is a go at 113, though he might return to 103 later.
“Going to and placing at divisionals and state the last few years have given both Clay and Roy a good mindset,” Moodry said. “They are working hard and have a pretty good idea of where they want to go.”
Of the newcomers, 113-pounder Mulcahy is the least experienced.
“Joey has never wrestled,” Moodry said, “but he’s working hard and catching on quick.”
Stillwagon has some club experience in his background and comes from a good wrestling family. He will be jumping into the fire pit this weekend as a freshman at 145 pounds, usually one of the most rugged weight classes in the sport at the high school level.
“Cale is a tough kid and wrestling hard,” coach Moodry said. “It will be a little bit of a learning season for him.”
Likely, he’d like to be learning a bit more by taking on his older brother, Colter, who is working back from an ACL tear suffered last summer. The injury already cost him his senior football season.
However, Robin Moodry said Colter Stillwagon signed up for wrestling and plans to start practicing sometime after the first of the year if he can pass medical clearance.
Ryan Moodry, also a senior, was an All-Stater for the Maroons in football and collected some injuries along the way. His dad is having him help work out the other wrestlers at the MAC, but whether he will be healed enough to compete later on remains to be seen. Ryan Moodry is entertaining collegiate football and baseball offers as he ponders his next steps in education and athletics, his dad indicated.
“There are just some things you can control in the room practicing that you can’t control in a match,” Robin Moodry said about the potential for injury aggravation. “But having Ryan in the room working with the other kids is great. And, Colter was just a win away from placing at state last year, so I think he’s still a little hungry to see what he can do at the state tournament.”
Robin Moodry said Class AA contenders Great Falls High and C.M. Russell of Great Falls will in Havre along with the Class A five-time defending state champion Havre Blue Ponies. A number of other good entries are also expected, Moodry said.
“The Havre tournament is a good tournament to find out where the kids are at (in their progress),” the coach said. “It’s good competition and will be a good life lesson to have to wrestle in a good tournament. We can see where everybody is and how hard we have to work.”
Moodry noted the work is season-long and said he spends the early weeks teaching and honing techniques, and the latter sessions on mental toughness.
“It’ll be more about mental strength for divisionals and state,” he said. “The kids all want to win and we all want them to win, but we have to work first on the techniques first and doing them the right way. That’s what page we’re on now.”
The Havre Invitational start times are set for 1 p.m. on Friday and 9:30 a.m. on Saturday. Butte Central will hold two home mixers this season, the first scheduled for Dec. 7 at the MAC. The Western A Divisional tournament is scheduled for February 2-3 in Columbia Falls, followed by the state Class A meet February 9-10 at The Metra in Billings.