Butte wrestlers attack state tourney

BILLINGS – An even dozen mats are out, the brackets have been set, and all that remains between now and Saturday evening is roughly 1,300 wrestling matches as the annual Montana All-Class State Wrestling tourney begins Friday morning at MetraPark Arena in Billings.

Mining City wrestlers – 15 from Butte High and another five from Butte Central – arrived at the venue Thursday afternoon and held their final practices of the season. Weigh-ins are slated for 8 a.m. Friday, with the parade of athletes at 9:40. The first matches of the tournament begin at 10 a.m. sharp.

“The kids are excited,” said first-year Butte High head coach Jim Bob Humphrey. “They’ve worked hard to get here and now it’s time to go out and see what we can do.”

Butte Central head coach Robin Moodry said earlier that he likes his wrestlers’ chances this weekend.

“We just need to take it one match at a time,” Moodry said.

Here’s a look at the wrestlers from Butte High and Butte Central by weight class.

98 – Clay Stillwagon, sophomore, Butte Central: Stillwagon comes in as the two-time Southwestern A Divisional champion. A fourth-place finisher at the Class A meet last year, Stillwagon’s first-round match pits him against Peyton Negethon of Miles City.

105 – Bryce Noctor, sophomore, Butte Central: Noctor hasn’t wrestled long, but has made great progress, thanks in large part to his partner in the wrestling room, Clay Stillwagon. Making his second appearance at State, Noctor was third at the Southwestern A tourney and will face Eddy Day of Laurel in the opening round.

119 – Ax Henningsen, freshman, Butte High: Henningsen, whom Humphrey calls the most consistent of the many freshman Bulldog wrestlers, was seventh at the Eastern AA seeding tourney last weekend. Henningsen will face Logan McGreevey of Missoula Sentinel in his opening match.

119 – Sean Cooney, freshman, Butte Central: Cooney took fourth at the Southwestern A Divisional meet last weekend in Dillon, and will have his hands full with a first-round battle against Gresh Jones of Sidney, the top seed from the Eastern A.

125 – Joey Blunt, senior, Butte High: The scrappy senior has been frustrated with a shoulder injury, but is regaining top form just in time for his opening match against Josh Brunner of Missoula Big Sky. Blunt finished fifth at the Eastern AA meet last weekend, going 4-2 on the day.

130 – Willy Shea, senior, Butte High: Shea has shown great promise this season, despite regularly wrestling on a pair of sprained ankles. Starting with one of the toughest draws in the event, Shea took eighth at the Eastern AA seeding meet last Saturday in Bozeman, and is slated to face off against top-seeded Jake Marr of Missoula Sentinel.

135 – Levi Renz, sophomore, Butte High: One of the best takedown artists in the state, Renz comes in unranked after a third-place finish at the Eastern AA meet in Bozeman. Renz, whose only loss in the seeding meet was in overtime to the eventual winner, will take on Ryan Glenn of Missoula Big Sky in the first round.

135 – Jarret Rowling, senior, Butte High: The No. 2 entry for Butte High behind Renz in the Eastern AA, Rowling went on to take second in the meet, falling in the finals to the same wrestler who defeated Renz in the semifinals. Rowling comes in looking for a strong tourney, beginning with Flathead’s Cody Wood.

135 – Zach Hart, sophomore, Butte Central: A state placewinner last season, Hart comes in as the Southwestern A Divisional champion and one of the wrestlers to beat this weekend. Wyatt Price of Whitefish is Hart’s first-round opponent.

140 – Kaleb Ferriter, freshman, Butte High: Getting some varsity experience late in the season has been a boost for Ferriter, who took eighth at the Eastern AA seeding meet last weekend. Ferriter will be busy right off the bat with top-ranked Kaleb Mitchell of Glacier.

140 – Keighton Svejkovsky, sophomore, Butte Central: Svejkovsky took second place at the Southwestern A Divisional meet and will face Matthew Sampson of Whitefish in the first round. Svejkovsky, who has ample experience with the Butte USA wrestling club, is a two-time divisional placewinner.

145 – Tommy Challeen, senior, Butte High: Butte High’s lone top-ranked wrestler is also the top seed out of the Eastern AA. Challeen took second at State last season at 140 pounds with his only tournament loss coming to four-time state champion Cole Mendenhall. Challeen’s first round draw this weekend is Jake Barstow of Glacier.

145 – Andre Vialpando, senior, Butte High: A talented wrestler who is 40 pounds heavier than his successful freshman season, Vialpando was eighth at the seeding tourney and will face the Western AA No. 1 seed, Suny Cheff of Flathead. This is a match Humphrey said he believes Butte High can win.

152 – Bryce Armstrong, senior, Butte High: Butte High’s only returning placewinner other than Challeen, Armstrong was second last season at 145 pounds. Armstrong, who will play football for MSU-Northern next fall, won the Eastern AA seeding meet and will take on Jeremy VanDyke of Helena in the opening round.

160 – Wyatt Merkel, junior, Butte High: Merkel has gained extensive varsity experience the past two seasons and is becoming a more technically proficient wrestler. Merkel took sixth at the Eastern AA meet and will wrestle Jackson Barber of Glacier in the opening round.

160 – Cian Randall, freshman, Butte High: Randall is coming off a nice showing in Bozeman where he saw his first varsity win come at the right time. Randall will now be looking for his first state meet win, as his opening match pits him against Michael Cloud of Missoula Sentinel.

171 – Lee Cannon, sophomore, Butte High: Cannon’s long experience as a wrestler is catching up with his growth, and he could be a dangerous player in the 171-pound ranks this weekend. A sixth-place finisher at the Eastern AA meet, Cannon will face Tanner Price of Missoula Sentinel.

215 – Johnny Walker, junior, Butte High: Walker has seen limited success in the weeks leading up to the Divisional tourney, but has come on very strong of late. The big junior seems to have found his balance on the mat, and could surprise some opponents. His first of the tourney will be Darby Maier of Missoula Big Sky.

285 – Billy Robinson, senior, Butte High: Robinson gained significant confidence last weekend after a couple convincing wins in Bozeman earned him a fifth place finish. Robinson will try to combine his tough approach with a host of quick moves on his feet. Robinson opens the tourney with Ryan Stemple of Missoula Big Sky.

285 – Cameron Huston, sophomore, Butte High: Huston, who dropped a significant amount of weight to compete at 285, will use his size to his advantage as he gains experience. Huston’s first-round opponent Friday morning will be Jaydn Wilson of Missoula Sentinel.