Butte Central standout Clay Stillwagon and the Corvallis wrestlers stamped their impressions on opponents and on the Southwestern A Divisional high school field on Saturday.
Stillwagon finished off two opponents in quick order to win the 113-pound weight class in the tournament held at the Maroon Activities Center. Stillwagon, a junior, is a reigning state Class A champion. This year’s state tourney will be held next weekend at The Metra in Billings and Corvallis will lead Southwestern Montana’s way.
The Blue Devils were dominant, so much that, indeed, the championship round face-off almost looked like a Corvallis-versus-the-rest-of-Southwestern A dual meet. The top four individual place-winners in each weight class clinched berths in the state tournament.
Corvallis scored 274 points to rule the Southwestern A meet while Hamilton was a distant second with 163. Anaconda placed third with 149 ½ points. Dillon was next with 137 1/2, followed by Stevensville with 69 and the six-man Butte Central squad with 54.
The Corvallis victory was led by champion 120-pounder Chase Conner, who pinned three opponents in a total time of 6 minutes, 25 seconds to earn the Jug Beck Quick Fall Award for the tourney. Conner was one of nine Blue Devils who wrestled in the championship round. Josh Venema, at 126 pounds; Gunnar Fairbrother, at 132; Tyler Olsen, at 138; Wyatt Jessop, at 160; and Luke Channer, at 220; all won championships.
Other title-winners were Noah Brown of Stevensville at 98 pounds, Kohltin Starkel of Dillon at 106, Bryan Armstrong of Anaconda at 145, Mason Mavrinac of Anaconda at 152, Ethan Reich of Anaconda at 170, Phil Vial of Dillon at 182, Parker Tezak of Dillon at 195 and Donovan Hucke of Dillon at heavyweight.
Stevensville resurrected its wrestling program this year after dropping the sport several years ago.
Stillwagon, the top seed in his weight class, drew a first-round bye and then pinned Dillon freshman Sam Peterson in 52 seconds, taking Peterson down on the start whistle and then working the pin combination. Stillwagon’s championship match was similar. It lasted just 29 seconds as the Maroon standout shot a double-leg takedown on Sean Galloway of Corvallis and took the Blue Devil grappler straight to his back. Applied pressure brought the win.
Stillwagon’s lightning quickness favored him above all other assets of his ability.
“I set a high pace for the match and make it my pace,” he said. “I feel I’m wrestling better right now than I have all year. Now I have to work hard at practice and get ready for State.”
Stillwagon said about half of his matches end in the first period and about half of those he is able to finish on the first takedown. He said he thought his record is now 31-4.
Stillwagon is one of four Butte Central matmen to advance to State. Zach Hart was the divisional runner-up at 138 pounds while Sean Cooney placed fourth at 152 and Jake Michelotti was fourth at 220.
“I think we did pretty much as expected,” Robin Moodry, head coach of the Maroons, said. “I was hoping we’d do a little better. The ones who got through are ones I thought would make it. You always hope for a little more.
“Divisionals are only the first step toward the state tournament. We qualified two with one or two seeds and two kids with No. 4 seeds. But you’re all 0-and-0 at the state tournament. It’s who comes out at the state tournament and wrestles hard and competes. Hopefully, we’ll get after it in Billings.
Hart trailed Olsen by just 2-1 through two periods of the 138-pound title match. Olsen then escaped from the down position I the third period and then scored a takedown with 37 seconds left in the bout to nail down the win. Hart pinned Brevlin Thompson of Anaconda to get into the championship round.
Cooney lost a tough consolation final to Dillon’s Patrick Griffin. The Dillon wrestler built a 6-0 lead on a first-period takedown, second-period reversal and third-period takedown. Cooney was awarded a penalty point and then gained escape before being taken down late in the match, which Griffin won 8-2.
The fast-improving Michelotti, a first-year wrestler, was tied 2-all with Mic Weatherbee of Dillon before being dinged a penalty point for clasped hands. Michelotti escaped at 1:27 of the third period to re-knot the score, but then fell victim to a Weatherbee cradle that evolved into a pin.