Bulldogs go 2-1 on first day of Mining City Duals

Bulldogs go 2-1 on first day of Mining City Duals
Butte High's Scout Allen battles Kalispell Flathead's Asher Kemppainen in a 126-pound bout Friday night at Butte High's old gym. (Bill Foley photo)

By Bruce Sayler

A visit from pre-Christmases past filled the old Butte High School gym Friday when a Kalispell Flathead-Butte High wrestling dual filled the stands and strained the decibel meters.

The Bulldogs and Braves went at it in a throwback of 30 years ago rivalry in existence as intensity mounted and cheers were bellowed. Flathead won, the now two-time defending state Class AA champion, won 25-24 to cap an entertaining first day of the 31st annual Mining City Dual Jim Street Classic wrestling tournament at Butte High.

So, Flathead won Pool 6 and Butte High was the runner-up. The Bulldogs will square off against Class AA toughie Great Falls High at 9 a.m. Saturday in the winners’ bracket of the Montana’s premiere dual-meet wrestling tournament. (Saturday schedule)

The Bulldogs went 3-1 in pool action with decisive wins over Missoula Hellgate and Belgrade before the rematch with Flathead. The Braves won 42-26 over Butte High last week on opening weekend of the prep wrestling season in Montana.

The Bulldogs made up a lot of slack in a short amount of time to come within 25-24 of Flathead on Saturday.

“The kids performed well all day,” Butte High head coach Cory Johnston said, and then couldn’t help but give into a haunt from the late-night bouts with the braves.

“You never want to lose,” he said, “but, they say the test of courage is bear disappointment without losing heart. (The Braves) outgamesmanshipped us a little bit with their shifting of their lineup, but we’ll be ready (Saturday).

In last-minute changes, Flathead head coach Jeff Thompson gave up forfeits to avoid wrestling Butte High’s Kameron Moreno and Keagan Gransbery for what he thought to be more favorable matchups.

Flathead came out of it with the one-point win.

“This tournament is great,” Johnston said. “That’s what we like about it. It’s not like a two-loss tournament. If you win six bouts or lose six bouts, we’re going to throw you out there every time. So, you might as well win six.”

Butte High and Flathead both advanced to championship pools, as did Bozeman, Frenchtown, Polson, Helena Capital,Billings West, Great Falls High, Kalispell Glacier, Billings Skyview, Billings Senior and Missoula Big Sky.

There will be a new Mining City Duals Jim Street Classic wrestling tournament champion this year. Havre, the five-time defending champion, went 1-2 in the pools Friday and did not advance to the championship pools.

Johnston alluded to stars for the Butte High team on Friday, a difficult task with so many Bulldogs performing so well.

“Quinn Sullivan and Kyle Harding,” the coach said. “Quinn was undefeated on the day (including an overtime win in the dual against Flathead). We’ve always had confidence as a coaching staff in Quinn and we’ve been waiting for him to have confidence in himself. He’s a phenomenal athlete.”

Sullivan’s capper for the day was the 5-3 win over athletic and physical Zaybin Stewart of Flathead. Stewart forced the overtime and Sullivan threw in the extra frame for the two-point takedown that ended the sudden death.

Harding, bulked up to a solid heavyweight, won at 285 against the Braves by grinding out a 6-2 decision against Sebastian Koch.

“Dale Kent’s win was a big win,” Johnston said of the Bulldog 138-pounder’s 5-3 edging of Braves star Dominic Bottello. “It was one we mentioned to the team in the locker room tonight. Dale beat a kid who was a state placer last year and I’m excited for Dale.”

It was the win that cut the margin to the final 25-24 difference.

Sullivan’s bout was not the only one to go to OT. Butte High 113-pounder Christian Sherman rallied from a 13-7 deficit to tie Cole Eastwood with an escape, takedown and three-point near-fall. It brought on the extra time, and Sherman appeared to maybe score the winning takedown in overtime, but Eastwood was able to push the momentum of the move into continued momentum and wound up with the winning takedown instead.

“Sherm’s an animal,” Johnston said. “If there is a racehorse named Sherman for sale, I’m buying it because it doesn’t matter what the score is, if Sherm’s on the mat, he’s in the match.”

Gransbery and Moreno were also undefeated for the day for the Bulldogs with Gransbery, at 103 pounds, winning twice on the mat and once by forfeit while Moreno won the only bout he actually wrestled and was also awarded forfeits.

“We have Great Falls in the morning and that’s a huge dual,” Johnston said. “They’re a well-coached team. Our kids have to come ready to wrestle. If we can get past them, then all signs point to wrestling Flathead in the afternoon.”

The Bulldogs are 7-2 for the season in dual meets thus far with both losses coming at the hands of Flathead.

Johnston noticed the crowd for Friday’s rounds and it also seemed the teams were fuller than have been shown in recent years, an indication maybe that wrestling turnout was higher this year than has been the recent norm in the schools.

“Butte has the greatest wrestling fans in the state,” Johnston said. “We had a great student turnout today. And, it’s a $10 ticket to get in. It’s not a part of their activity fee. Students supporting students is what it’s all about, anyway.”

Butte High will wrestle Great Falls High at 9 a.m. and Glacier at 12:45 p.m. with hopes of advancing to the championship rounds, scheduled for 2 p.m. semifinals and 4:30 p.m. finals.

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