By Pat Ryan
Butte High gave its home crowd some reason to cheer in the season opener for the Bulldog wrestling team, but in the end, the Braves of Kalispell Flathead ran ahead and claimed a 42-25 dual meet victory Friday afternoon at Butte’s Richardson Memorial Gym.
Second-year Butte High head coach Cory Johnston was aware his team was coming up against the preseason favorite, but said he wouldn’t want it any other way.
“Top to bottom, they’re as loaded as anyone,” Johnston noted.
Butte High is a bit thin in the 182-pound weight class, and Johnston did some moving around to cover up the spot and give his team its best chance at the dual win. Basically, everyone between 132 and 170 pounds moved up a class.
And at first, the strategy seemed to work.
Butte High sophomore Carl Anderson shot to an early lead over Hunter Wellcome in the opening match – which happened to be at 182 – and hung on for a dramatic 7-6 decision.
Kyle Harding ran into a buzz saw named Matt Gash-Gilder and suffered a pin at 205 pounds, but Jeff Queer picked up six points for the Bulldogs with a fall over Michael Lee. Queer was second at State last February, while Lee took fifth. The two were the only wrestlers on the podium who weren’t seniors, and come back in as two of the top athletes in the division this season.
Queer scored first when he countered a double-leg effort from Lee, who quickly escaped and brought both wrestlers back to their feet. As often happens in heavyweight matches, a chess match of upper body ties and throws is played, and Lee seemed to be in good position for a throw.
The Butte wrestler has gained plenty of mat time since last season, however, including a second-place finish at Greco-Roman cadet nationals. Queer adjusted to Lee’s hold and came out on top when the wrestlers hit the mat. Seconds later, the match was over.
“Jeff’s shown that he’s one of the best in the state regardless of class,” Johnston said. “He looked like he was in a lot better position that he was at this time last year.”
Back to the slim end of the scale, and Butte High got six more from Wil Queer’s forfeit at 103. The Bulldogs had their work cut out at 113, as Gabe Tierney faced Hunter Rush, the second-place finisher at 103 last February at State.
As usual, Tierney didn’t seem to mind being the underdog. Still at 113 this season, Tierney has the strength to match about anyone at his weight, and a level of intensity coaches crave. Some offseason training helped as he went out and competed head-to-head with Rush, dropping a hard-fought 3-1 decision. A takedown in the first period was the difference for the Brave in his win.
Tyler Casey had a tough go against Cody Devall at 120, losing 5-1, while Butte sophomore Dale Kent got caught in a cradle that prematurely ended his 126-pound match with Tanner Russell. Freshman Bulldog Cory West got a tough draw at 132 pounds, where he faced defending State titlist Trae Vasquez, who registered a pin 69 seconds into the match.
Butte High senior Tyler Vetter got his team back in the win column, battling to a 15-4 major decision over Bo Meyer. Vetter nearly ended the match with second- and third-period cradles, but had to settle for the 11-point victory.
Bryson Henningsen’s return as a senior was marred when he was caught early on in a head-and-arm against Kenyon Fretwell at 145 pounds, while Willie Anderson gambled on a move that brought him to his back in his abbreviated 152-pound match with Payton Hume.
Butte Fans got one more reason to cheer at 160 pounds, as Kadin “Red” Schonsberg got over some early jitters and posted a second-period pin over Garett Reike. The pair traded some athletic shots and counters early on, with Reike finishing two for a 4-1 lead after the first period. Starting from neutral in the second, Schonsberg finished a nice single, taking Reike to his back. Seconds later, Schonsberg ran a bar and ended the match via pin.
“Red puts a lot of pressure on himself,” Johnston observed. “After he got going though, he forgot about it and he was OK. He’s a lot closer now to where he was when we ended last year.”
Freshman Kameron Moreno closed out the dual for Butte, dropping his 170-pound bout via fall to Tucker Nadeau.
Johnston said he was pleased with his team’s effort in the outing, but that his charges still need to build some endurance.
“We need to be in better shape so we can finish some of these matches,” he said. “We might be in the same condition as our opponents, we just need to be better.”
The Bulldogs waste no time jumping back into action, as Butte travels to Helena for the Capital City Duals. The ‘Dogs are slated to face Bozeman, Helena Capital and Missoula Big Sky in the pool round.
“Coming in tomorrow we’ll have a match under our belt,” Johnston said. “We got the first-match jitters out of the way, so that won’t be anything we have to worry about.”
Kalispell Flathead 42, Butte 25
(Dual began at 182 pounds) 103 – Wil Queer, Butte, won by forfeit. 113 – Hunter Rush, Flathead, d. Gabe Tierney 3-1. 120 – Cody Devall, Flathead, d. Tyler Casey 5-1. 126 – Tanner Russell, Flathead, p. Dale Rent 2:42. 132 – Trae Vasquez, Flathead, p. Cory West 1:09. 138 – Tyler Vetter, Butte, md. Bo Meyer 15-4. 145 – Kenyon Fretwell, Flathead, p. Bryson Henningsen :54. 152 – Payton Hume, Flathead, p. Willie Anderson :51. 160 – Kadin Schonsberg, Butte, p. Garett Reike 3:06. 170 – Tucker Nadeau, Flathead, p. Kameron Moreno 2:27. 182 – Carl Anderson, Butte, d. Hunter Wellcome 7-6. 205 – Matt Gash-Gilder, Flathead, p. Kyle Harding 1:51. 285 – Jeff Queer, Butte, p. Michael Lee 1:55.