Bulldogs go 3-0 on first day

Butte High decided to celebrate the silver anniversary of the Mining City Duals Friday, winning all three of its duals to claim top honors in Pool 3.

It wasn’t all that easy, however, as the first two duals came down to the last match. Butte wrestled past defending Class A state champion Corvallis 48-36, then edged Missoula Big Sky 42-37. The Bulldogs had a bit more breathing room in their final matchup of the day, running past Huntley Project 74-12.

“The kids were ready to go,” first-year head coach Jim Bob Humphrey said after the Project finale. “They got after it today.”

It was the best first day at the Duals for the hosts in some time. Though Butte high is the most successful team in the history of the tourney – Butte has won five times and placed in the top four another 10 times – the Bulldogs haven’t placed in the event since 2004 when they took fourth.

Butte is in the championship pool, but the Bulldogs have some sharp competition awaiting them Saturday. The Bulldogs resume wrestling at 9 a.m. in the Richardson Memorial gym, as Butte takes on Kalispell Flathead, the runner up in Pool 2.  The Bulldogs will then face Class A power Havre at noon. The Blue Ponies emerged from Friday’s action as the Pool 6 champion.

Billings West came out on top of a tightly contested Pool 1, ahead of runner up Missoula Sentinel, third place Kalispell Glacier and Belgrade. Glacier is the defending Mining City Duals champion, but won’t get a chance to repeat, as the Wolfpack will be in the consolation division Saturday.

Other Pool winners include Great Falls High in Pool 2, Billings Skyview in Pool 4 and Billings Senior in Pool 5. Runners-up, who will also compete for the title Saturday, include Helena High, Sidney, Corvallis, Bozeman, Sentinel and Flathead.

The Bulldogs got off to a slow start Friday morning, losing four of the first five weight classes to a strong contingent from Corvallis, as the Blue Devils shot ahead 24-3 in the team score. Butte claimed the next seven weights to take a 42-24 advantage, but Corvallis claimed two of the final three matches by pin, and had a chance for a tie with a win by pin at heavyweight.

Butte heavyweight Billy Robinson has had some experience with pressure this fall, and was up to the task Friday morning. Robinson, who spearheaded the final game-saving tackle in Butte High’s semifinal football overtime win against Great Falls Russell, got the pin to cement the win for the ’Dogs. Robinson slipped a throw attempt by Corvallis heavyweight Cole Schmitt and brought the big boy to his back, scoring the pin 1:33 into the match.

Butte High had another stern test with Missoula Big Sky, as the Eagles were coming off a big win over Kalispell Flathead the night before. The Bulldogs pulled to a 36-6 advantage after seven weight classes, but Big Sky answered with six wins in the next seven matches, three coming by pin. With only the 105-pound bout left to be contested, Butte High led by a slim 39-37 margin.

Butte freshman Kelly Merrick didn’t seem too worried, though he had a tough matchup with Big Sky’s Ryan Rowe. The pair battled to a 0-0 draw after the first period, though Merrick launched a number of unsuccessful takedown shots. His persistence was rewarded in the second period, as Rowe was docked a point for stalling. Merrick earned a takedown seconds later and led 3-0 after four minutes. Merrick scored his final point on an escape and cleared the third period for the 4-0 win, giving Butte a 42-37 final mark.

The Bulldogs didn’t need any heroics to take the third dual Friday afternoon, as they led 32-0 before the Red Devils got on the board. That loss and a forfeit were the only points scored by Project in the 74-12 rout. Butte High registered eight pins – all in the first period and four in less than a minute – as well as a technical fall and a decision.

“I thought Corvallis and Big Sky wrestled us extremely well,” Humphrey said. “Huntley Project has a lot of young guys, but I thought today was a really good test for us.”

Butte High had five undefeated wrestlers Friday, including Jarret Rowling and Lee Cannon, each of whom wrestled to three victories. Merrick, Levi Renz and Tommy Challeen each won two contested matches and claimed a win by forfeit.

Rowling, checking in at 140 pounds, won all three of his matches Friday by pin, and all three in the first period. Utilizing an aggressive approach, Rowling ran arm bars for his first two pins and secured a cradle to finish the third.

Cannon had to spend a bit more time on the mat to gather his three victories, as he won two narrow decisions against Corvallis and Big Sky before rallying for a first period pin against Project. Cannon posted a pair of takedowns and gave up a late escape to down Corvallis 160-pounder Sam Burdette 4-1. Cannon gave up an early takedown to Big Sky’s Jason Riekena, but earned an escape and takedown of his own in the second period to take a one-point lead. An excellent defensive ride from the top position through the third period earned Cannon the 3-2 win.

In addition to his win in the Big Sky dual, Merrick opened the contested matches in the Corvallis tilt with a convincing 8-2 win over Paul Allsop. Merrick led throughout, giving up but a pair of third-period escapes in the win.

Butte 135-pound sophomore Levi Renz collected a pair of pins in addition to his forfeit win over Huntley Project. Renz cradled Baylee Burt of Corvallis in the first period, then opened with a textbook double-leg takedown of Big Sky’s Ryan Glenn, whom he pinned early in the second period.

Completing the unbeaten threesome in the heart of Butte’s lineup was 145-pound senior Tommy Challeen, who got a forfeit win against Corvallis followed by pins in his next two bouts. Challeen shot to a 5-0 lead after his first two minutes with Big Sky’s Keon Gallager, then crossfaced his opponent to his back in the second, when he earned the pin. Challeen took advantage of the crossface again against Project’s Skylar Conklin, as the move led to a head-and-arm hold, which resulted in the first-period pin.

Butte had four wrestlers finish the day with 2-1 ledgers, including Braxton Henningsen at 119 pounds, Joey Blunt at 125, Willy Shea at 130, Bryce Armstrong at 152 and Robinson at 285. Henningsen’s two wins came via pin in the first period, as did those for Blunt. After suffering a disheartening loss in the opening dual, Blunt rallied and used a total of 79 seconds for his two pins.

Willy Shea rebounded from an early takedown to post a pin against Corvallis, then following a tough loss to Big Sky, the senior 130-pounder rolled to an 8-2 win against the Red Devils. Armstrong, a senior standout, stapled his Corvallis opponent in less than a minute, but couldn’t manage to overcome a third-period reversal by Big Sky’s Luke Entzel in a 2-1 loss. Armstrong had opportunities to pin Project’s Zach Dunning, but had to settle for a technical fall, earned early in the second period.

Following Robinson’s clutch pin against Corvallis, he scored the first points against Colter Miller of Big Sky, but saw his advantage slip away with a reversal that took him to his back. Robinson then fell behind against Project’s Jacob Oblander, but took a lesson from his earlier match and turned a reversal into a pin with less than a second remaining in the first period.

Butte 189-pounder Blake Kraus sat the day out with an injured shoulder, and senior football standout Daniel Kloepfel took his place. The thing is, Kloepfel had never wrestled a match before Friday – not JV or anything. He performed well in his first outing, though he suffered a pin in the third period. Kloepfel lost by pin in his second match as well, but scored the first wrestling victory of his career against Project’s Alfredo Meseuger. Kloepfel shot a nice double and took his opponent straight to his back, where he finished the match in just 41 seconds.

“Daniel battled today,” Humphrey said. “He’s a great kid – the kind of guy you love to have on your team.”

Johnny Walker had just one win on the day, but it was the quickest. Walker twisted Project’s Gage McClanahan to his back and earned the referee’s slap of the mat just 19 seconds after the opening whistle.

Butte 48, Corvallis 36
98 – James Daffin, Corvallis, won by forfeit. 105 – Kelly Merrick, Butte, d. Paul Allsop 8-2. 112 – Chase Conner, Corvallis, p. Bridger Mooney 2:25. 119 – Josh Venema, Corvallis, p. Braxton Hennginsen 3:10. 125 – Tylor Olsen, Corvallis, p. Joey Blunt 3:57. 130 – Willy Shea, Butte, p. Gunnar Fairbrother 1:49. 135 – Levi Renz, Butte, p. Baylee Burt 1:06. 140 – Jarret Rowling, Butte, p. Riley Jessop :52. 145 – Tommy Challeen, Butte, won by forfeit. 152 – Bryce Armstrong, Butte, p. Tucker Jessop :42. 160 – Nick Challeen, Butte, won by forfeit. 171 – Lee Cannon, Butte, d. Sam Burdette 4-1. 189 – Monty Jessop, Corvallis, p. Daniel Kloepfel 4:26. 215 – James Weidow, Corvallis, p. Johnny Walker 1:06. 285 – Billy Robinson, Butte, p. Cole Schmitt 1:33.

 Butte 42, Missoula Big Sky 37
98 – Jon Conklin, Big Sky, won by forfeit. 105 – Kelly Merrick, Butte, d. Ryan Rowe 4-0. 112 – Bridger Mooney, Butte, won by forfeit. 119 – Braxton Henningsen, Butte, p. Dylan Lindsley 1:44. 125 – Joey Blunt, Butte, p. Josh Brunner :46. 130 – Justin Conklin, Big Sky, p. Willy Shea 1:06. 135 – Levi Renz, Butte, p. Ryan Glenn 2:40. 140 – Jarret Rowling, Butte, p. Kade Brenson 1:30. 145 – Tommy Challeen, Butte, p. Keon Gallagher 2:55. 152 – Luke Entzel, Big Sky, d. Bryce Armstrong 2-1. 160 – Scotty Morgan, Big Sky, md. Nick Challeen 18-9. 171 – Lee Cannon, Butte, d. Jason Riekena 3-2. 189 – Aaron Wadde, Big Sky, p. Daniel Kloepfel 1:32. 215 – Darby Maier, Big Sky, p. Johnny Walker 1:36. 285 – Colter Miller, Big Sky, p. Billy Robinson 3:50.

Butte 74, Huntley Project 12
98 – Parker Snyder, HP, won by forfeit. 105 – Kelly Merrick, Butte, won by forfeit. 112 – Bridger Mooney, Butte, won by forfeit. 119 – Braxton Henningsen, Butte, p. Keaton Hofer :37. 125 – Joey Blunt, Butte, p. Stanley Kipp :33. 130 – Willy Shea, Butte, d. Dixon Walker 8-2. 135 – Levi Renz, Butte, won by forfeit. 140 – Jarret Rowling, Butte, p. John Manning 1:08. 145 – Tommy Challeen, Butte, p. Skylar Conklin 1:09. 152 – Bryce Armstrong, Butte, tf. Zach Dunning 16-0. 160 – Michael Middleton, HP, p. Nick Challeen 2:51. 171 – Lee Cannon, Butte, p. Kian Brown 1:28. 189 – Daniel Kloepfel, Butte, p. Alfredo Meseuger :41. 215 – Johnny Walker, Butte, p. Gage McClanahan :19. 285 – Billy Robinson, Butte, p. Jacob Oblander 1:59.