Butte Central’s wrestling program has been to the edge of the cliff.
Once a Class A power on the mat – the Maroons won the State A title in 1983 – Butte Central saw its numbers drop to just a few.
The Maroons went from a dominant team to a few individuals as numbers declined at the school whose enrollment would make it a small Class B school.
But the Maroons have always been competitive, regardless of the sport. Where the numbers aren’t there for a competitive dual team, Butte Central has seen individual success, especially lately. Head coach Robin Moodry welcomes back five wrestlers from last season, including State Class A 98-pound champion Clay Stillwagon.
Back this season as a 113-pound junior, Stillwagon leads four other Maroons into the 2013-14 season.
He’s joined by fellow juniors Zach Hart (138 pounds) and Bryce Noctor (106), as well as sophomores Sean Cooney (145) and Jake Michelotti (220).
“We’re not huge, but we have some talent,” Moodry said. “They’re hard at it and they have a good work ethic. We’ll find out a lot more in Havre. That should be a good test.”
The Maroons open the season Friday at a tournament in Havre where Friday’s action seeds a 16-slot bracket for each weight on Saturday. Competition should be stiff, as reigning Class AA team champion Great Falls High will be in attendance as well as the host Blue Hawks, the Class A team champions from last February in Billings. Great Falls Russell, Lewistown, Browning and a number of Class B/C schools will also be on the mats.
“It should be a good starting tournament,” Moodry opined.
The Maroons only have five athletes on the mat, but they made a nice pickup in the offseason in the coaching ranks. Former Butte High state champion wrestler and head coach Kevin Parvinen has joined the Butte Central staff.
“He came over to the right side,” Moodry said with a hearty laugh. “Really though, he’s nice to have in the room. He wanted to get back into it and it’s great to have him here. He brings some Jim Street philosophy into the room.”
Moodry said Stillwagon still displays the mental toughness and work ethic that earned him the state title last February.
“Clay looks strong,” Moodry observed. “He did a lot of summer wrestling – again – and he’s always hungry to compete and do well. We expect more big things from him.”
Noctor entered the Maroon wrestling room as a rookie freshman, but a couple of years of experience – paired with Stillwagon as his workout partner – have made him a formidable opponent.
“Bryce has great athletic ability but he took his lumps as a freshman, “ Moodry said. “He had a lot more success last year, and now as a junior he’s wrestling at almost the same weight he did as a freshman. He should have a really great year.”
Hart, who placed sixth at state as a freshman and fifth as a sophomore, has his sights set higher this season.
“Zach wants something more,” Moodry said. “He’s been putting in a lot of extra work trying to strengthen his weaknesses. He’s improving all the time.”
Cooney has some mat experience, and Moodry said he has high hopes for the soph.
“Sean’s the kind of kid who you teach once and he never forgets,” Moodry said. “He’s got a good attitude and he should do well.”
Michelotti was a good pickup for the Maroons, as the big, athletic sophomore will take a crack at his first season on the mats.
“Jake’s got good natural ability and he’s strong as a horse,” Moodry reported. “He’s picking up on things pretty quick and he seems to be enjoying it.”
Though the Maroons didn’t pick up any incoming freshmen this season, Moodry knows of a few eighth graders who will be looking to wear Maroon next season. He knows one particularly well – his son.
“We’ll be tough this year, but next season we might even be tough as a team,” Moodry predicted. “Maybe we’ll even host a dual or two.”