Friday night wrestling is ‘Bad To The Bone’

Friday night wrestling is ‘Bad To The Bone’

The best part of the movie “Major League” is when Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn comes strutting in from the bullpen to face Heywood.

More than 30 years and about 2,700 viewings later, the hair on the back of my neck still stands up when the first long, drawn-out note of the song “Wild Thing” by the Troggs kicks in.

Even though it was only in the movies, that is easily the best walk-up music ever played. Until now, that is.

As Butte High took on Missoula Big Sky in a wrestling dual Friday night, Bulldog 138-pounder Scout Allen entered Butte High’s old gym to “Bad To The Bone” by George Thorogood and the Destroyers.

While “Wild Thing” is a more catchy song, the Thorogood song was much more fitting to the athlete it was introducing.

Ricky Vaughn was not always wild. Scout Allen is always bad to the bone.

At least he is when he steps into the sports arena.

How else could one of the smallest players on the field lead the 11-1 Butte High football team in tackles?

On the football field, Allen is like the little dog who does not know he is little. The only difference is his bite backs up his bark.

That is quite the bark, too, for the self-described king of trash talk. Allen is the Dustin Pedroia of the Bulldogs.

If Mother Theresa was playing for the opposition, she would want to take a swing at Allen before halftime of a football game.

That attitude, which spreads through Allen’s teammates, was a big part of Butte High’s success on the football field.

While Butte High quarterback Tommy Mellott was the best player in the state and the clear leader of the Bulldogs, the signature play of the season might have been Allen racing all the way across the field to force a Billings West fumble inside the 1-yard line during the semifinals of the playoffs.

Who can forget Allen doing the “McGregor walk” after the play that all but cemented Butte High’s victory?

That same “McGregor walk” ignited the crowd again Friday when Allen pulled out a thrilling 8-6 victory over Big Sky’s Carter Johnson.

Sure, that might not have been the best example of sportsmanship following a match that featured some less-than-ideal sportsmanship, but that boldness is what gives Allen his edge.

Allen is not just one of those little wrestlers who thinks he is tough. Nobody likes those guys.

His brashness is likable and fun.

It is exactly that kind of fun that shows that we need more nights like Friday night, preferably on Friday nights.

Butte High and Big Sky battled in what was the first primetime Friday home dual for the Bulldogs in recent memory. It was also the most exciting dual for the Bulldogs since their historic dual winning streak at the height of the Jim Street era.

A large part of that was the wrestling itself. The match was contentious throughout, and the decision came down to some great strategy by Butte High coach Cory Johnston over the last two matches.

Trailing 30-21, Butte High needed two pins with just the 205-pound and heavyweight matches left. So, Johnston switched things up, figuring Kobe Moreno was his best chance of sticking Big Sky heavyweight Tommy Leonard, despite Leonard’s 70-pound (or so) weight advantage.

So, Johnston inserted Myles McClernan, who recovered that fumble Allen forced against West, into 205 and bumped Moreno to heavyweight, even though he weighs about 100 pounds below the heavyweight maximum weight.

McClernan responded with a pin of Vito Moriana Sigel in 1 minute, 29 seconds, sending the entire gym into delirium.

When Moreno pinned Leonard in the second period, the place went bonkers.

With the possible exception of Cade Holter’s buzzer-beating shot from three quarters court to send last February’s Butte High-Butte Central game to overtime, the match was much more exciting than any basketball game we have seen in recent years.

Without question, the atmosphere of the Butte High old gym played into the excitement.

Johnston and Chuck Merrifield, Butte High’s activities director, decided to move the Butte High’s duals to the old gym this year.

“It’s going to be a wrestling mecca, kind of our own Naranche,” Johnson said, referring to the football stadium next to the old gym, before the start of the season.

Butte High’s football team moved back into Naranche for the first time since 1973 late in the 2011 football season. The Bulldog wrestlers moved back to their old gym for the first time in about 30 years when they opened this season with duals against the Kalispell schools.

The old gym puts the fans right on top of the action — just like Naranche. The gym, which was built in 1938, is almost straight out of the movie “Hoosiers.”

Entering the gym is almost like going back in time.

The only difference between now, 1950 and 1980 — other than the cell phones and iPads — is now the gym is dark during the wrestling matches.

The newest addition to the gym is a single spot light that hangs down directly above the wrestling mat.

That light goes out when the Bulldogs are introduced through the smoke and purple glare oozing in from the hallway, and each wrestler has his own walk-up song. They are mostly pretty good. Allen’s is off the charts.

Over the last few decades, high school wrestling has gone away from duals. Butte High has only had two or three — if that — home duals on the season.

Coaches like the tournaments and mixers better because they can get their wrestlers more mat time, and that makes perfect sense.

From a fans point of view, though, duals are light years better. Johnston is one coach who agrees with that.

This year will see the Bulldogs compete in 10 duals that are not part of a tournament. Five of those duals are at home, including Tuesday’s battle with Helena and the Jan. 28 Senior Night battle with Bozeman.

Friday’s dual was the only weekend primetime dual for the Bulldogs, and that is too bad.

We need more of those. Way more.

Not one wrestler or fan from either side would tell you Friday night was not an absolute blast. They would sign up to do it again this Friday in a heartbeat.

Some would even admit that the hair on the back of their necks rose to attention when George Thorogood kicked in.

— Bill Foley, who leads the league in most offensive categories, including nose hair, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74.



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