By Bruce Sayler
Signs were favorable for the building Butte High girls’ wrestling program Saturday even on the less favorable end of the results in matches against early high school girls’ wrestling power Flathead High of Kalispell.
Flathead is the defending state champion in a sport in its second year of Montana High School Association sanction. Butte High launched its program last year, also, then nearly tripled the participation this season.
So, the learning has a way to go to match the yearning.
“The girls are feisty,” Cory Johnston, who serves as head coach of both Bulldog wrestling programs, said after the dual meet in the old gym at Butte High School. “Flathead is the team that won State last year and we were in a lot of highly competitive matches that we won, which we hoped to. I was really happy for that.”
No official team score was kept due to a number of girls wrestling two bouts in the same dual meet. Unofficially, Flathead won 51-36, with wins in four of the last five matches.
Butte High standout Hayla Hoffman, a state runner-up in 2021, moved up a couple of weight classes for a pin win. Her fall in 2 minutes, 44 seconds over 205-pound class entry Lucy Libby moved the Bulldogs to a 30-27 lead. She was behind by 4-1 after one period, then escaped off the bottom in the second before throwing Libby into her pin.
“They didn’t have a 170-pounder,” Johnston commented, “and it was a fantastic match for Hayla. The Flathead girl is a state placer from last year. Hayla followed the game plan to a tee.”
Butte High’s other win in the stretch run was by 285-pound entry Makenna Bazo, whose 34-second pin over Alisa Leimkuehler was her second win by fall of the day. She flattened Paige Hermann in 48 seconds in the third bout of the event.
“Makenna is brand new to wrestling,” Johnston said, “and she won two matches at Cascade (on Thursday) and was 2-and-0 today. She’s a very powerful girl, a very athletic girl and I’m happy to see her out and improving.”
Flathead rallied behind Alliyah Stevens’ 32-second pin for a 33-30 edge and kept the lead. Lily McMaho got a pin before the Bazo narrowed the gap to 39-36 with her win over Leimkuehler. The Bravettes closed the meet out with pins by Mykel Lee and Bella Arriaga.
Butte High’s other winners were Ashlee Wilcox at 205 pounds, Aydin Gonzales at 113 and Teya Edwards at 132 on pins.
“Aydin Gonzales is a pillar of consistency for us,” Johnston said, noting the Butte High girl’s deliberate, disciplined style and focus.
“We have 13 girls out for wrestling and we are improving,” Johnston said. “They all fought today. As a team, last year, if we’d had this, we probably wouldn’t have had more than three or four wins. Ashlee Wilcox had zero wins last year and she came back out this year, and was of the ones to get a win for us today.”
A couple near-misses for Butte High involved Jessie LaPier and Kaylee LaPier. Jessie LaPier appeared to have suffered an injury when she gave up a pin to Reina Koehler ending a bout she had led 12-7. She struggled to leave the mat, but Johnston indicated the injury might not be serious and that the wrestler was recovering from a recent illness.
Kaylee LaPier rallied from an 11-4 deficit through two periods to put Anna Morrison on her back and in a pinning combination when time expired, saving Morrison a 13-11 decision.
The meet ended the regular season for the Butte High girls. They will next compete in the state tournament February 11-12 in Billings.
Kalispell Flathead 51, Butte High 36
205 pounds – Ashlee Wilcox, Butte, pinned Astoria Backstrom, :42. 126 – Payton Walker, Flathead, pinned Maria Hanson, 2:43. 205 – Makenna Bazo, Butte, pinned Paige Hermann, :48. 113 – Aydin Gonzales, Butte, pinned Mykel Lee, :48. 103 – Reina Koehler, Flathead, pinned Jessie LaPier, 3:30. 103 – Anna Morrison, Flathead, dec. Kaylee LaPier, 13-11. 113 – Skye Shelmerdine, Flathead, pinned Bella Real, :27. 120 – Hania Halverson, Flathed, pinned Taylor Burke, :35. 132 –Teya Edwards, Butte, pinned Raimey Hull, 4:28. 205 – Hayla Hoffman, Butte, pinned Lucy Libby, 2:44. 285 – Alliyah Stevens, Flathead, pinned Ashlee Wilcox, :32. 126 – Lily McMahon, Flathead, pinned Maria Hanson, :22. 205 – Makenna Bazo, Butte, pinned Alisa Leimkuehler, :34. 113 – Mykel Lee, Flathead, pinned Madyson LaPier, 2:15. 120 – Bella Arriaga, Flathead, pinned Taylor Burke :27.