Stillwagon claims state title

7:35 p.m. update ==============

Butte Central’s Clay Stillwagon is bringing home the hardware.

The 98-pound sophomore pinned Havre’s Keegan Kenelly 23 seconds into the third period to win the Class A State title, headlining a solid performance by the two contingents of Butte wrestlers.

Butte High senior 152-pounder Bryce Armstrong didn’t fare as well in his title match, falling 4-3 to Luke Entzel of Missoula Big Sky. It was Armstrong’s second runner-up appearance at State.

The Bulldogs finished with five placewinners, including a third-place finishes for senior Tommy Challeen at 145 pounds and sophomore Levi Renz at 135 pounds. Sophomore Lee Cannon was fourth at 171, while Jarret Rowling took sixth at 135. Butte Central’s Zach Hart came away with a fifth-place finish.

Stillwagon walked on the mat confidently and ready to wrestle. The level-headed athlete scored the first takedown early in the match, successfully countering a shot by Kenelly, and showed good control from the top. Stillwagon chose the bottom position for the second period and had a brief scare when Kenelly had him briefly trapped in a rare leg cradle.

“We weren’t expecting that,” said Butte Central head coach Robin Moodry. “I think it was one of those things that happen when you’re scrambling out there.”

As quick as the cradle was applied was about as quick as Sillwagon was out of it, and the two near-fall points were quickly canceled by his reversal, and Stillwagon led 4-2 after two full periods. Kenelly opted to start the third period with both wrestlers up, and that was the beginning of his end. Stillwagon saw an opportunity and took the Havre wrestler straight to his back, where he quickly heard the referee’s slap of the mat, signaling the end of the match.

“That first takedown set the pace, and then Clay took advantage of a mistake,” Moodry said. “That’s what you need to do at State.”

Then, as calmly as he took the mat, Stillwagon walked off and hugged Moodry and the assistant coaches – also known as his family.

“You should walk off the mat the same way you walk on,” Stillwagon said, adding that he prepares for each match the same way.

Still, though his calm demeanor, Stillwagon said he was very happy with the way the tournament unfolded.

“It feels like a weight’s been lifted off my shoulders,” he said.

Both Stillwagon and Moodry said the win could mean great things for the Maroon wrestling program.

“This shows everyone what you can accomplish when you work hard,” Moodry said.

Armstrong’s title match with Entzel was a defensive struggle through the first period, as both wrestlers showed heavy hands with plenty of pushing and shoving to boot. Armstrong notched the first points with a reversal from his starting bottom position in the second period.

Entzel countered quickly with a reversal of his own, and though Armstrong gave a valiant effort toward escaping, he had no such luck. Entzel got another reversal from the bottom in the third period, and held the top for most of the rest of the match. Armstrong’s late escape came with two seconds left to wrestle and his last-gasp attempt at a takedown fell short.

“Ending with a loss like that is a bitter pill to swallow,” Butte High coach Jim Bob Humphrey said. “Bryce is such a great kid and a hard worker. I hate to see it end like that for him, but it’s not the end of the
world for him. He’ll move on and get a chance to play football.”

Following Butte High’s final match of the season, Humphrey was already talking about next year.

“We’ll go back to work on Monday,” he said. “Some of that ‘iron vitamin’ will help us immensely.”

3 p.m. update ==============

With only the final round remaining to be wrestled Saturday afternoon at the Montana All-Class State Wrestling meet at MetraPark, Butte High and Butte Central picked up some consolation places.

Wrestling for fifth place, Butte Central’s Zach Hart scored a late escape to secure a 3-2 victory over Havre’s Gilbert Bara. Hart dropped a tough 5-3 decision to Cody Lemons of Frenchtown in the consolation semifinals.

Butte High got third-place finishes from Levi Renz at 135 pounds and Tommy Challeen at 145 pounds.

Renz, who reached the consolation finals thanks to a hard-fought 6-1 win over teammate Jarret Rowling in the consolation semifinals, showcased his considerable takedown skills in tallying a 15-4 major decision over Lucas Mantel of Kalispell Glacier.

Challeen has battled Kalispell Flathead’s Suny Cheff all season, and their consolation final Saturday was but a continuation of the fight. Challeen scored two takedowns – the last in the waning seconds of the match – to secure a 4-1 decision, good for third place.

Rowling saw Skyview’s Brandon Burekley get away with a late escape and take a 3-2 win from the Bulldog. Rowling put together a good season, however, most of which was wrestled at 140 pounds.

Lee Cannon ended up with a fourth-place finish after suffering a quick first-period pin to Dawson Day of Glacier. Cannon advanced to the consolation finals with a third-period pin of Missoula Sentinel’s Tanner Price.

The parade of finalists is slated for 4 p.m., followed by the finals.

Noon update ===============

Two Butte wrestlers will vie for individual state titles Saturday at the Montana All-Class State Wrestling meet at MetraPark Arena in Billings, as the competition concludes with a 4 p.m. finals round.

Butte Central 98 pounder Clay Stillwagon used a key third-period reversal to down Clayton Carter of Laurel 4-3 in the semifinals, earning a title match with Keegan Kenelly of Havre. Stillwagon and Kenelly have wrestled four times previously, with Stillwagon winning the first three. Kenelly won the last meeting December at the CMR tournament.

“Hopefully Clay’s hungry for it,” Maroons coach Robin Moodry said. “I think he’s ready to go.”

Butte High’s Bryce Armstrong will compete for the 152-pound Class AA title, as he powered past Kalispell Glacier’s Grant Tafoya 11-1 in the semifinals. It will be the second straight finals appearance for Armstrong, who will battle Missoula Big Sky’s Luke Entzel for the championship. Armstrong was second at 145 pounds last season.

Bryce Armstrong’s younger brother Bryce, last year’s 105-pound state champion for the Bulldogs, will defend his title in the 130-pound class, but he’ll do it in the Class A ranks, where he wrestles for Anaconda this season.

Butte Central 135-pounder Zach Hart suffered a tough loss in the semifinals, where he fell 3-1 in overtime to Mitch Haugen of Libby. Hart, whose point came from an escape, was docked twice for a point for running his opponent out of the ring. Hart now faces Cody Lemmons of Frenchtown in the consolation semifinals.

The Maroons’ other wrestler still alive on Saturday – sophomore 105-pounder Bryce Noctor – was eliminated Saturday morning after an 8-5 loss to Torrey Watts of Miles City.

Butte High’s two other semifinalists – Jarret Rowling and Lee Cannon – both lost their bids to make the finals. Rowling absorbed an 11-4 loss to Jordan Hegel of Missoula Sentinel, and will now face teammate Levi Renz in the consolation semifinals. Renz, who lost in Friday’s quarterfinals, pinned CMR’s Jeffrey Johnson to earn the match with Rowling.

Lee Cannon’s run to the finals was stopped short by Billings Senior standout Luke Paine, who posted a first-period pin. Cannon, a sophomore 171-pounder, will next wrestle Tanner Price of Missoula Sentinel in the consolation semifinals.

Butte High’s Joey Blunt lost out in the 125-pound consolation bracket Saturday morning, leaving five Bulldogs competing for a place on the podium.

Great Falls leads the Class AA team race with 129 points, while Billings Skyview lurks in second with 120 points. Missoula Sentinel is third with 113.5, while Billings Senior has 113. Butte High is in 10th place with 51.5 points.

In the Class A ranks, Havre enjoys a comfortable lead with 140.5 points, as Sitney is second with 101. Columbia Falls and Miles City are tied for third with 85 each, while Butte Central is 14th with 40 points, five behind Anaconda, which sits in 13th.

Choteau has 168 points to lead the B-C race, though Forsyth is close behind with 153. Colstrip is third at 107.5.

Bryce Armstrong scores near-fall points in his first-round win over Jeremy VanDyke of Helena Friday at the Montana All-Class State Wrestling meet in Billings. (Photo courtesy Mike Challeen)