Mason Christian wins 2nd state title

Mason Christian wins 2nd state title
Mason Christian captures his 2nd State Title. (Photo Logan Parvinen of Butte Sports.)

By: Logan Parvinen

And on the second day, God gave us more wrestling.

Day two of the All-Class State Wrestling tournament marked the end of the 2022-2023 high school wrestling season. Day two thins the herd, with the six top wrestlers earning spots on the podium.

“Wins and losses don’t matter.” said head coach Cory Johnston when asked about placement matches. “It’s all about which wrestler wants it more.”

Ten Butte High wrestlers entered the day with a chance to stand on the podium, with six of those wrestlers succeeding.

Kip Pumnea and Mason Christian both won their semifinal matches to qualify them for the parade of champions and a chance to become a state champion.

The tournament ended grandly as 2022 182 lb champion Mason Christian was set up to face the 2022 285 lb champion Talon Marsh.

Mason began his day by defeating Maxx Lee of Billings Senior by a score of 12-0 in the semis to advance to the finals. After Talon’s pinfall win over Hudson Weins of Bozeman in the semis, the final stage was set for a western divisional rematch.

At the western divisionals, Mason moved up from 205 to 285 after teammate Zach Tierney went down with a shoulder injury. Mason would clear the competition and defeat Talon Marsh by a score of 6-5 to enter Billings as the number-one seed.

The championship match started with Talon Marsh trying to get Mason out of position for a takedown. A new style compared to last week from Talon. In his attack, Mason waited for the right moment when Talon became overaggressive. Mason would get a quick takedown and turn it into near-fall points. Talon was able to get an escape before the round ended.

Mason started the 2nd period on the bottom. Mason would use his quickness for a reversal which made the score 7-1. Then in an odd turn of events, Mason tilted Talon for near-fall points. Instead of picking up near-fall points, he picked up a pin. Mason would hand Talon his first pin in more than two years. Mason would end his high school career as a two-time state champion.

“I’m really happy I was able to leave on a good note,” said Mason. “I have wonderful coaches that have helped me throughout the season.”

“Butte pride, man, it is hard to explain,” Mason said when asked what he will miss most about wrestling for Butte. “You can take the boy out of Butte, but you can’t take the Butte out of the boy.”

Mason has committed to wrestle for Division II school West Liberty in West Virginia. West Liberty is currently ranked 4th in the lasted D2 rankings.

Kip Pumnea started his day against Jace Komac of Great Falls. After being down 4-0 midway through the first period, Kip was able to out-utilize the younger Komac. Kip bounced back and gained a 7-4 lead after two periods. After starting on top and giving up a reversal midway through the period, Kip was determined to remain the leader. Kip got the escape and takedown until the final whistle blew, with Kip taking the 10-6 win.

Kip was set to set Teegan Vasquez of Glacier High in the finals. Teegan would end up getting the win in the championship round, but that didn’t hinder Kips’ spirit.

“I was happy with how I performed,” Kip stated. “I was able to beat some kids who I knew were going to give me a tough fight.”

“This team is like a family. We’re all brothers who care and look out for each other,” Kip said when asked what he loves the most about Butte High wrestling.

Kip Pumnea hugs his coach after his match to reach the finals. (Photo Logan Parvinen of Butte Sports.)

205 lb Cohen Grunhuvd started his day with a pinfall win in the consolation quarterfinals against Conor Leduc of Flathead. Conor would then face the 3rd seed in the east Ben Rodgers of Belgrade. Cohen and Ben would go back and forth with reversals and near-falls. Ben would get the last reversal to put him ahead 11-10 at the final whistle. After the heartbreaking defeat, Cohen took 5th after a 5th/6th round forfeit. Cohen finished his Butte High career as an all-state wrestler and a 5th-place finish.

“I’m going to miss the Butte crowd,” Cohen said when asked what he’ll miss about Butte High wrestling. “The crowd has always been my favorite part of these tournaments, and the Butte crowd is unlike any other.”

103 lb Keegan Hunt started his day with a quick pinfall victory over Eli Frisino of Bozeman High. With the podium spot already locked, Keegan would hope to move his way up the podium. Paydon De La Garza of Great Falls High would stand between Keegan and that higher podium spot. Keegan would fall to Paydon by a score of 8-2. Keegan would finish his first year against Logan Shores from Billings West in the 5th/6th place match. Keegan would defeat Logan by a score the 12-2 to finish 5th at state.

113 lb Ryder McEwen had a very clutch day, with two victories coming in the match’s final minute. Ryder would open against Jayden Simons of Helena Capital, where a reversal with 35 seconds left in the match would excel Ryder past Jayden. Ryder would face Diesel Thompson of Flathead High, who Ryder lost to at the western divisional finals 9-2. Ryder remained in the fight after two periods by a score of 3-2. Yet again, Easy Ryder would get a reversal, putting him in the lead. A three-point near-fall would cushion the lead until the final whistle blew and the ref raised Ryders’ hand. For the 3rd/4th place match, Ryder would face the 3rd seed in the east, Logan Younkin of CMR. Ryder would give Logan a good fight but would lose 5-2. Ryder would take 4th in his first state tournament.

145 lb Will Stepan had a gladiatorial-like day in his quest for a podium spot. Will started his day against Dash Nugent of Billings West. After a final second escape to tie the score 8-8, Will would get a takedown which led to two near-fall points. Will battled and clawed just for the podium spot. The 5th seed from the west, Will, would battle the 2nd seed in the East, Kyle Ard of Billings Senior. Will would end up losing in the consolation semis to make it to the 5th/6th place match, where he would face Logan Stansberry of Flathead High. Logan, who beat Will at divisionals by pinfall, was winning 12-3 after two periods. Will would call upon the wrestling deities to help him get a takedown. The takedown would lead to a pin and a 5th-place finish for the sophomore.

“In our eyes, it’s not about whether or not you finish on the podium. It’s about whether or not you competed at your highest possible level.” stated coach Johnston.

132 lb senior Reid Whitlock, 138 lb senior Bryton Hardesty, 160 lb junior Trey Hansen, and 285 lb junior Kade Schleeman wrestled their best against tough competition but could not escape the blood round.

Butte High finished with six total place-winners. Three were seniors, and the other three were first- and second-year students who we will likely see compete next year.

The Bulldogs finished in 6th place for class AA with 141 total points. Just ahead of them was Helena Capital, with a score of 145.5. Billings West would end Flathead High’s hopes of a threepeat by winning the team competition with 220.5 points. Flathead High would finish second with 211 points.

Go to Trackwrestling.com for details, stats, results, and more.

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