By Bruce Sayler
Senioritis was a good thing for Butte High Tuesday night when the Bulldogs celebrated a 67-6 win over Missoula Sentinel in a Western AA Conference high school wrestling dual meet in Butte High’s old gym.
A large crowd applauded this year’s Bulldog seniors prior to the dual meet, then cheered the team on the rest of the way, including deafening support for Gavin Vetter’s dramatic come-from-behind victory.
“The kids worked hard,” head coach Cory Johnston said. “It was Senior Night, but we still have one more dual meet, which is nice.”
The Bulldogs honored 11 seniors prior to the matches and eight of them competed on the mat in the win over Sentinel. Two others, Taylor Burke and Madyson LaPier, didn’t have bouts because the Spartans don’t field a girls’ team. Manager Haylie Williams was the 11th Butte High senior.
The senior boys who did see action were Riley Downey, Connor Konda, Morgan McClernan, Kyler Raiha, Vetter, Trey Whitlock, Cole Worley and Gunnar Yelenich.
“When you wrestle a divisional opponent, every match counts,” Johnston said. “I like the 100 percent effort from our kids. We moved some weights around and still won. It was nice to guys what to compete no matter where you put them.”
Vetter was the prime example. He was in the lineup at 160 pounds and was in trouble against Trevor Tucker the whole time – except at the very end. He was awarded the first point of the match on a penalty for an illegal hold, but then fell victim to a takedown and ensuing three-point near-fall as the Spartan built a 5-1 lead bound for the second period.
Vetter started from the bottom and gained a quick escape. However, again, Tucker caught him in the takedown and pushed it into a three-point near-fall. Vetter escaped before the buzzer, but trailed 10-3 going into the last period.
The wrestlers started from the neutral position and Tucker again got a takedown. Vetter escaped. They both kept their feet and pushed and pulled one another with Tucker owning a 12-4 advantage and time elapsing fast. Seventeen seconds were all that remained when Vetter threw a head-and-arm that caught Tucker and put the Spartan on his back. Vetter tightened the vise on the half-nelson and squeezed out the pin with seven seconds to spare.
The place, already loud in encouragement for the Butte High wrestler, erupted over the result of the dramatic finish.
“Vetter, he’s a competitor,” Johnston said. “He never ceases to amaze me. “In four years in the program, the number of matches he’s won from behind, I couldn’t count on two hands. He never gives up, never quits competing.”
The Bulldogs also got pin wins from Aden Kleinhenz at 103 pounds, Whitlock at 113, Worley at 120, Raiha at 126, Bryton Hardesty at 138, Maverick McEwen at 145, Connor Konda at 152 and Morgan McClernan at 170.
Seven bouts ended in the first period as the dual meet took less than an hour to complete.
Other winners for Butte High were Yelenich with a major decision at 132 pounds, Cohen Grunhuvd with a decision at 205 pounds and Kade Schleeman on a forfeit. Sentinel’s only winner was Kris Musick with a pin at 182.
The win pushed Butte High’s record in dual meets this season to 24-5. It was Johnston’s 101st win at the helm and he received a plaque commemorating the milestone in a short ceremony before the competition.
“I received a nice award, but only about one-eighth of it has to do with me,” he said. “We have a lot of great coaches and people supporting us. It goes to me, but the award is really for everybody on our staff. Now, we’ll go for 100 more.
“My brother, Marky, came a year late, so I told him he could get his next year.”
He noted the milestone represents a lot of matches “and a lot of stress.”
“I’m proud of the kids,” the coach said.
The Bulldogs are to close out the home part of their schedule on Saturday with dual meets against Glacier High of Kalispell in the old Butte High gym – second teams at noon, boys’ varsity at 1 p.m. and then the girls’ dual meet at 2.
Butte High 67, Missoula Sentinel 6
103 pounds – Aden Kleinhenz, Butte, pinned Cauldin White, :38. 113 – Trey Whitlock, Butte, pinned Bryton Lentz, 1:20. 120 – Cole Worley, Butte, pinned Darren Fuller, :49. 126 – Kyler Raiha, Butte, pinned Joel Vermillion, :44. 132 – Gunnar Yelenich, Butte, major dec. Luke Weidman, 11-3. 138 – Bryton Hardesty, Butte, pinned John Hire, 1:43. 145 – Maverick McEwen, Butte, pinned Bridger Rose, 1:01. 152 – Connor Konda, Butte, pinned Colin Lerback, 1:58. 160 – Gavin Vetter, Butte, pinned Trevor Tucker, 5:53. 170 – Morgan McLemore, Butte, pinned Zander Beck, 2:49. 182 – Kris Musick, Sentinel, pinned Riley Downey, :27. 205 – Cohen Grunhuvd, Butte, dec. Xander Sarbacher, 7-1. 285 – Kade Schleeman, Butte, won by forfeit.