By Bruce Sayler
The 2018 version of The Mining City Duals Jim Street Classic wrestling tournament had to rank among the top of the 31 that have been held.
Great Falls High emerged from the heap of solid contenders, downing Billings Senior 39-21 Saturday night in the championship meet in the Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gym at Butte High School. Bozeman defeated Flathead of Kalispell 45-28.
There were still more good teams in the tourney, not the least of which was host Butte High. The Bulldogs went 4-2 for the tournament, and wound up in the consolation pool of the championship pool Saturday. They lost a narrow 29-25 battle to Great Falls High Saturday morning, then followed with wins over Kalispell Glacier and Helena Capital for a second straight 2-1 day in The Duals.
“Our kids have got a lot of heart,” Butte High head coach Cory Johnston said. “We like what we get from our kids. But, I think we kind of relied on our third-period wrestling too much. We need to get the early leads and put kids away.”
The overall field was talented. The Bulldogs found themselves staring at deficits too often and seeing their own late rallies fall a tad short. There wasn’t a whole lot of give-up by anyone in the tournament.
Sophomore 103-pounder Keagan Gransbery led Butte High through the tournament with six wins to continue is unbeaten streak to begin the season. Gransbery was named to the all-tournament team along with Alejandro Madrid of Billings Senior at 113 pounds, Walker Dyer of Frenchtown at 120, Matt DeWitt of Billings Senior at 126, Leif Schroeder of Bozeman at 132, Lane Paulson of Havre at 138, Brock Rodrigues of Bozeman at 145, John Mears of Belgrade at 152, Coy Cohenour of Bozeman at 160, Jace Rhodes of Billings West at 170, Elijah Davis of Great Falls High at 182, Levi Downard of Frenchtown at 205 and Levi Malcolm of Billings West in the 285-pound limit class.
Each honoree received a commemorative belt buckle.
“You can’t teach heart,” Johnston said, still lauding his wrestlers’ performances.and providing fitting commentary for the efforts delivered by most contestants.
“Keagan is still undefeated” Johnston said, “and, Quinn (Sullivan) came out of this with just one loss. Carl (Anderson) is Mr. Consistent for us and one of our leaders.
“It was strong competition, but we want our good kids to get pushed early. We have a lot of kids who are doing a lot of good things.”
Class AA looked especially strong, and the Eastern AA, in particular, flexed muscle. Class A power Havre, which came into the tournament as the five-time defending champion and winner of it eight years total, did not reach the championship pool this year.
The Blue Ponies found themselves competing Saturday in the consolation pool while Class AA field vied for trophies in the winners’ side of the bracket.
Eastern AA swept the top three with spots on the performances of Great Falls High, Billings Senior and Bozeman. Butte High is also an Eastern AA member.
“I think Class AA is a really tight division,” Johnston said. “It’s an exciting year for double-A and I like how our team matches up.”
The coach said the six-match weekend against top competition was gueling for the Bulldogs, but helpful experience was gained.
“These long matches wear on you for the weekend,” he said, “but they help you for next weekend. It’ll help our conditioning for six-minute matches.”
The Bulldogs’ chemistry and poise seemed good as last year’s young Butte High wrestlers seemed to have grown into a team.
“Our kids have been together three to four years,” Johnston said. “They know how to respond. And, they know how to respond to each other.
“Our kids are wrestling with confidence and they think, and we think, we are in every match.”
Three more Bulldogs were undefeated on Saturday with 126-pounder Scout Allen, 152-pounder Anderson and 182-pounder Austin Endy all recording three wins.
Butte High will continue its season with another tournament next weekend, entering the CMR Holiday Classic meet in Great Falls.