Bulldogs stick Eagles for thrilling dual victory

Bulldogs stick Eagles for thrilling dual victory
Butte High's Kobe Moreno (in white) works toward the dual-deciding pin of Missoula Big Sky's Tommy Leonard Friday night at Butte High's old gym. (Bill Foley photo)

By Bruce Sayler

What was good for one was good for the other and the results were good for Butte High.

Kobe Moreno emulated his twin brother, Kameron, in the last bout of the Bulldogs’ dual meet with Missoula Big Sky Friday night. Because of it, Butte High yanked out a 33-30 Western AA Conference win over Missoula Big Sky in the old Butte High gym.

Big Sky held a 30-27 edge over the Bulldogs going into the 285-pound limit finale. Kobe Moreno was originally penciled in for the 205-pound slot, but was bumped to the 285 as a matter of strategy. Head coach Cory Johnston opted to insert senior Myles McClernan into the lineup at 205 with the Eagles leading Butte High 30-21. Freshman heavyweight Zach Tierney gave way to Kobe Moreno’s move up in weight class.

McClernan responded with a 1-minute, 29-second pin of Vito Moriana Sigel, garnering six points for Butte High.

Kobe Moreno gave way probably 70 pounds to the Eagles’ senior heavyweight, Tommy Leonard.

Moreno fashioned a takedown, but the large Big Sky wrestler was too much to hold and Leonard pushed out an escape. The first period ended with Moreno ahead 2-1.

Moreno started from the down position to begin the second period. He sprang out for an escape and a 4-1 lead, then spun Leonard to the mat. The crossface turned him and Moreno gathered his strength to pin Leonard’s shoulders to the mat. The time was 2:49 and the packed house exploded in loud celebration.

“I knew my brother used the cowboy (cradle) to pin him a couple of weeks ago, and so I hit it,” Kobe Moreno said. “But, it was the way the team wrestled tonight that set it up.”

Butte High had built a 12-0 lead on a pin at 103 pounds by Kyler Raiha and a forfeit for Christian Sherman at 113. Isaac Ayers of Big Sky took a 12-4 major decision at 120 pounds over freshman Kip Pumnea to but the Eagles on the scoreboard.

Izzy Moreno won for Big Sky at 126 pounds on a 6-4 decision over Keagan Gransbery. Izzy Moreno had a 2-0 lead through two periods and then whirling third period saw the wrestlers trading points, Israel Moreno scratching out a late escape to cinch the win.

Gavin Vetter received a forfeit for Butte High at 132 pounds and the Bulldogs had an 18-7 lead.

A wild, raucous 138-pound bout followed. It was hotly contested and competed — and marred by penalty points — and the score was 6-4 in favor of Big Sky’s Carter Johnson with only a minute to go. Scout Allen took Johnson down and wrestled him into a two-point near-fall before the buzzer sounded. Allen had the 8-6 decision win.

The Eagles, however, reeled off wins in the next five matches — a 1:46 pin by Travis Welzien at 145 pounds, a 15-0 technical fall in 2:29 by Hunter Meinzen at 152, a major 8-0 decision by Dougie Swanson at 160, a pin in 58 seconds by Bridger Hall at 170 and a 5-3 overtime win by Jeff Rebish over Kameron Moreno at 182.

Rebish worked a takedown 14 seconds into the OT period.

The series of Big Sky wins signaled several positives for Butte High, though, head coach Cory Johnston said.

“Keagan loses to a kid 17-1 the last time he wrestled him and came within a takedown of beating him tonight,” Johnston said. “Kip was pinned by a kid last week he went distance with tonight. Quinn (Sullivan) wrestles tough against the top 160-pounder in the state, and Dylan Averyt wrestles a state champion and doesn’t get pinned.”

The efforts kept the Bulldogs’ chances to win the dual meet alive, Johnston said.

“The Kameron and Rebish match is one we needed and Kameron wanted because he wants the highest competition and Jeff Rebish gives him that,” Johnston said. “And, that would’ve gone either way. Kameron knows he can win that match.

“And with some of the others, well, sometimes you know you’ve overpowered and then you have to wrestle for team scores and that’s what happened. Kobe bumped up and we were able to go senior, senior, senior at the end. That’s exactly the way we drew that up at the end.”

The coaches and wrestlers were happy with their bounce-back from a disappointing loss at Helena Capital on Thursday night.

“Last night, we came out a little bit flat and got caught a couple of times,” Johnston said. “We put it on the leaders tonight (to perform better) and that’s what happened.”

Kobe Moreno said a team meeting followed the loss to Capital.

“And, tonight, every single guy stepped up,” he said.

He said he enjoyed the atmosphere and format with the Big Sky matches, noting that dual meets put more accent on the team element of the competition.

“And, we have the loudest crowd,” he said, proudly and with a smile.

A key to winning his bout against a much bigger opponent, Kobe Moreno said, was to keep from battling him head-on. He said staying to the side and angling on the bigger wrestler lessened the  chances of being caught under the weight.

Big Sky lost a team point because of an exchange Swanson had with Butte High wrestlers sitting on their bench. It took place after the raising of Swanson’s hand.

It was a heat of competition and the competitive fire burned Friday in the gym could’ve set off alarms. It was the third dual meet between the two teams this season and the Bulldogs have won two of them.

“Give a lot of credit to Big Sky,” Johnston said. “They’re a great team and great competitors. Their coach (Rick Moreno) and I talked about it and agreed we should do this more. It makes us better.”

Butte High will be home against Helena High on Tuesday.

Butte High 33, Missoula Big Sky 30
103 pounds — Kyler Raiha, Butte, pinned McKaylah Youngblood 4:37. 113 — Christian Sherman, Butte, won by forfeit. 120 — Isaac Ayers, Big Sky, major dec. Kip Pumnea 15-7. 126 — Izzy Moreno, Big Sky, dec. Keagan Gransbery, 6-4. 132 — Gavin Vetter, Butte, won by forfeit. 138 — Scout Allen, Butte, dec. Carter Johnson 8-6. 145 — Trevin Welzien, Big Sky, pinned Anthony Liva, 1:46. 152 — Hunter Meinzen, Big Sky, tech. Fall Dylan Averyt, 2:29 (15-0). 160 — Dougie Swanson, Big Sky, major dec. Quinn Sullivan, 8-0. 170 — Bridger Hall, Big Sky, pinned Dominick Scown, :58  182 — Jeff Rebish, Big Sky, dec. Kameron Moreno, 5-3 (OT). 205 — Myles McClernan, Butte, pinned Vito Moriana Sigel, 1:29. 285 — Kobe Moreno, Butte, pinned Tommy Leonard, 2:49.

Note — Big Sky penalized one team point for unsportsmanlike conduct.

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