Bulldog grapplers fired up as new season begins

Bulldog grapplers fired up as new season begins
Carl Anderson of Butte High breaks out of a hold from Everest Kline in a 160-pound bout Jan. 9 at the Richardson Gym. (Butte Sports file photo)

By Bruce Sayler

With a good nucleus of experienced returnees and a bumper turnout of promising freshmen, indications are morale has been soaring in the Butte High wrestling room the past couple of weeks as the Bulldogs anticipate the beginning of the prep wrestling season.

Butte High will launch its season this weekend with a pair of bus trips. On Friday, the Bulldogs will wrestle dual meets in Kalispell against Glacier at 2 p.m. and two-time defending state Class AA champion Flathead at 4. Then, on Saturday. Butte High will be entered in the Helena Duals tournament in the Capital City.

“We have a super competitive room,” Cory Johnston, head coach of the Bulldogs, said after sending his 43-member squad through the first varsity wrestle-offs of the season. “So, the wrestle-offs were really good.”

The turnout sports a dozen wrestlers who represented Butte High at the state tournament last year, including place-winners Carl Anderson, Kameron Moreno and Kobe Moreno. Anderson was third at 160 pounds, Kobe Moreno was fourth at 170 and Kameron Moreno placed fifth at 182. Kobe Moreno is still healing a football injury.

“Carl really had a consistent year last year,” Johnston said of the senior standout, who is coming off a football season that saw him lead the Bulldogs in tackles while playing inside linebacker. “We could count on him in any situation. He’s a senior and trying to finish things off in the right way.”

The roster also shows returnees Keagan Gransbery, Wil Queer, Scout Allen, Anthony Liva, Dale Kent, Jerek Rosenleaf, Quinn Sullivan, Kole McGrath, Kyle Harding and Austin Endy from last year’s state tournament team.

Several others out for the Butte High team wrestled in regular-season matches for the Bulldogs last year, plus the freshman class produced 16 members for  this year’s program.

The returnees from the state team have mostly a couple of varsity seasons already under their belts.

“That’s a crew that, when they were freshmen, I leaned on a lot,” Johnston said. “Now, they’re juniors and seniors. They have a lot of expectations for themselves and really know what they want.”

Butte High finished in the middle of the pack with 104 points at last year’s state meet and is seeking to regain championship contention status for the storied program.

Johnston said once the individuals are settled into their weight classes, many of the spots will be loaded with two wrestlers owning state tourney experience.

“We should be two-deep at almost every weight class,” Johnston said. “And, we won’t be just filling spots — we’ll be two-deep with two state qualifiers in those spots. We will have some depth with kids who’ve been to the show before.”

The coach said nine Bulldogs spent most of their summer wrestling and many others honed their skills in summer camps. He said Queer “has been wrestling since the end of last season” (in club programs, etc.), and that Anderson, McGrath, Endy and Liva have dedicated themselves similarly since last winter.

“As for the freshmen, this is the first meet and I like to try not to throw the freshmen into the fire,” Johnston said, “but 14 of our freshmen wrestled in our middle school program. Having experience in wrestling is great.”

The coach said he expects to mix-and-match a bit with his lineup this weekend as the team goes up against the Kalispell opposition, then delves into the dual meet tournament in Helena. So, weight classes aren’t set in stone for any of the contestants.

Probables to see action this weekend for Butte High in the lower weights are Gransbery, Queer, Christian Sherman, Gavin Vetter and Connor Konda in the lighter weight classes; Allen, Kent, Liva, Dylan Averyt, Tucker LeProwse and Rosenleaf in the middle weights; and McGrath, Anderson, Christian Vetter, Billy Cunneen, Endy, Sullivan, Kameron Moreno and Harding in the upper weights, Johnston said.

“It’ll be nice to see how different guys handle different situations,” the coach said about the opening weekend. “Only one team gets to start off with the two-time defending state champion (Flathead, in Butte High’s second dual meet Friday), that’s what I told the kids. I think it’s an advantage. I really like it.”

Geno Liva, Dan Larson, Mark Johnston (brother of the head coach) and Craig Remsen are the assistant coaches.

“The kids are working hard and they’re competitive,” Cory Johnston said. “Everybody’s on the same path. It’s good.”

The Bulldogs will open the home part of their season with the Jim Street Mining City Duals on December 7-8 at Butte High School.

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