Bulldogs sending 20 boys to Billings

Bulldogs sending 20 boys to Billings

By: Logan Parvinen

The big one is upon us.

After the second day of divisional qualifying, the All-Class State Wrestling Tournament is now set. For the Butte High Bulldogs, head coach Cory Johnston will be sending 20 boys to Billings. Matches start Friday Feb. 10th and end on Saturday Feb. 11th.

The second day of divisionals ended with a bang. Returning state champ and 285 pounder Mason Christian ended the day defeating another returning state champ Talon Marsh of Helena Capital. Not only did Mason give Talon his first loss since his sophomore year, but Mason did it in his third ever 285 pound match. Mason, who was originally at 205, moved up to fill in for Zach Tierney who has been battling a shoulder injury.

“Those two are at the top of their game. I have a lot of respect for Talon as a kid and as an athlete” said Butte High coach Cory Johnston. “Those two put on a great show and hopefully we can watch a rematch next week”.

Mason will be the number one seed from the west and Talon will be the number two seed from the west.

Freshman 103 pounder Keegan Hunt came away with the number one seed after defeating his teammate Tyrese LeProwse via pinfall. The 2022 Montana Middle School state champion pinned Dayton Naldrett of Flathead High to move onto the finals. Tyrese Leprowse defeated Aiden Sweat by a score of 14-6 to move on to the finals.

Following Tyrese, four other wrestlers will be representing the 2nd seed in the west. Freshman 113 pounder Ryder McEwen began the day with a pin against teammate Joey Ward. Ryder would end up losing by a score of 9-2 against returning state placer Diesel Thompson of Flathead High.

Senior 132 pounder Kip Pumnea defeated Flatheads Gannon Wisher by a score of 2-1 to qualify for the finals. However, Kip did not end up wrestling in the finals which saw Glacier senior and potential four-time state champion Teegan Vasquez win by forfeit.

138 pound senior Bryton Hardesty would enter the finals after defeating Connor Johnson of Glacier High by a score of 9-1. Bryton would run into Dane Lake of Flathead High in the finals and lose by a score of 12-0.

The last 2nd seed for the Bulldogs belonged to 205 pound senior Cohen Grunhuvd. After an impressive 11-9 victory over Tuff Adams of Helena Capital, another Flathead High wrestler stood in the way of the western one seed. Sawyer Troupe, a returning state placer, got the better of the taller Cohen with a pinfall victory.

In the battle for the 3rd and 4th seeds, Butte High’s Grady Winston (126) and Kade Schleeman both battled their way to the 3rd seed after losing in the semifinals. Reid Whitlock (132) and Kale Schonsberg (205) each battled after losing in the consolation but would lose in the 3rd/4th seed match.

For 5th and 6th place, two Butte wrestlers fought their way for the 5th seed. 145 pounder Will Stepan and 170 pounder Jake Bailey. Will started the day with a tough fought loss to Logan Stansberry of Flathead High and then to Tanner Davis of Missoula Big Sky. Will would win the 5th seed with a forfeit win over teammate Karson Pumnea who was struggling with a shoulder problem.

Sophomore 170 pounder Jake Bailey deserves the wrestler of the day. Jake faced a rough start when he had to face Colin Lerbeck of Missoula Sentinel in a win-or-go-home scenario. Jake would find himself down 10-4 after two periods. However, Jake would come back with a pinfall victory to move on in the consolation. Jake would then beat Landon Byron of Missoula Big Sky. After a pinfall loss to Gunnar Thompson of Flathead High, Jake would then beat Aiden Chamberlain of Glacier High to claim the 5th seed in the west. Jake was the only Butte High wrestler to have four matches on the second day, three of which ended in victory.

Joey Ward (113), Colter Espelin (120), Jaeger Hansen (126), Karson Pumnea (145), and Trey Hansen (160) each acquired the 6th seed from the west. Eighth-grader Jaeger Hansen started his day off with a titan-sized 11-9 victory over Cory Tappen of Flathead High. Colter Espelin would also find the win column with a pinfall victory over returning state-placer Davin Naldrett of Flathead High.

Junior 152 pounder Derek Averyt would claw his way to a 7th seed with a win over Peyton Severson of Helena Capital. To round out the seedings, sophomore 120 pounder Ben Tierney would find the 8th seed.

All in all, Butte High is sending the same amount of kids as the tournament favorite, Flathead High School. One eighth-grader, four freshmen, five sophomores, three juniors, and seven seniors make a diverse cast of characters for state.

“We have a good diverse group with us.” Said coach Johnston. “For a lot of these kids, it’s their first time getting to experience the state tournament.”

When asked if he has any special plans in store for this week of practices, he said “We just need to stay focused and get ‘er goin’.”

Bridger Brancap (152) and Mason Armstrong just missed out on qualifying on the second day. Luckily, they are underclassmen and will have opportunities next year to qualify for state.

Butte Central is headed toward the Holmes-stretch as they see the brothers James and Jack Holmes represent the Maroons in the Class A. James came away with the 6th seed and Jack found the 8th seed.



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