Maverick McEwen and his family (Photo credit: Mine Yard Dogs Facebook page)
That’s all, folks! Another state wrestling tournament is in the books, with kids representing Butte High and Butte Central as they accept their state medals. The boys’ team of Butte High finished 5th in the team scores, while the girls’ team finished 8th overall and 4th in class AA. Butte Highs Maverick McEwen stood atop the podium, winning the state title at 160 lbs. Including Mav, ten total Bulldogs placed at state. Seven boys and three girls.
Girls: Three star-studded sophomores lead the way
The Bulldogs girls finished 4th in Class AA, just three points behind Flathead High for 3rd in Class AA. Billings Senior won the overall score, followed by Ronan in second and Custer County in third. Billings Skyview finished in 4th place overall and 2nd for class AA.
The Bulldogs had run out of luck in the consolation quarterfinals and semifinals, with none of the four girls getting their hands raised. That didn’t mean their day was over; three sophomore superstars still had chances to fight back.
126-lb sophomore Sophie Grunhuvd finished 4th place to become a two-time state placer. Sophie began her day with a hard-fought battle against freshman phenom Meadow Mahlmeister out of Lockwood. After being up 6-1 at the end of two periods, Mahlmeister utilized her defense and stopped any attack Sophie was willing to throw. Two stalling calls gave Sophie two points, but Mahleister was willing to give up those points. Mahlmeister took the 6-3 victory into the championship round.
Sophie bounced back in the consolation by pinning Lucia Schlapfer of Missoula Big Sky/Loyola. In a defensive battle, Sophie lost her final placing match to Emma Klingamen of Chinook by a score of 2-1. Sophie defeated Klingaman in the quarterfinals yesterday but could not overcome Klingaman’s adjustments.
132-lb Neveah Grunhuvd took 3rd after storming back from a semifinal loss. She faced her familiar foe, Makenzee Neal of Billings Senior, and stood her ground until she succumbed to Neal’s stout offense. Neal would win by pinfall to move into the championship round. Nevaeh rebounded by pinning Rebel Montanez in the first round. She used an inside-leg trip to take down Montanez and followed it up with a quick half-nelson to pick up the pin.
Nevaeh would put her stamp on the season by defeating Faye Holland of Beaverhead/Twin Bridges/Sheridan by a score of 7-2 to take home a 3rd-place finish. A quick reversal by Holland would find Nevaeh in a 2-0 hole in the second period. Neveah found a head and arm after Holland got out of position and sent Holland straight to her back as the clock ticked to zero. The reversal and near-fall gave Nevaeh a 5-2 lead in the third period. Both girls didn’t want to risk anything that would force either opportunity seeker to strike if they made a mistake. A desperate move by Holland at the end gave Nevaeh two more takedown points to cap off a fantastic show of determination and grit with a 7-2 3rd place victory.
Maddie Stepan finished 6th in the 152-lb class and began her second day of competition against Hailey Sutton of Florence/Carlton. After a hard-fought defensive battle through three periods, Sutton would come away with the pinfall victory. The score was a close 2-1 in favor of Sutton, but a powerful half-nelson would send Maddie to her back for the pin.
Maddie would fall to Leona Dodson Howe of Ronan by a score of 8-4. After being down 8-0 with less than 30 seconds on the clock, Maddie would get a two-point reversal and send Dodson Howe to her back. The effort was stopped by the clock reaching triple zeroes, however, which meant Maddie would try for 5th place. She would run into a familiar foe in Haven Ferguson of Billings Skyview. Like Sophie’s run, the opponent would find a way to get revenge. Ferguson pinned Maddie in the second period. Maddie would finish her season with a 6th place and another state placing.
Peyton Liva was the only Bulldog to start her day on the consolation side of the bracket. Her day was cut short after she lost her blood round to Serina Catt, who took third place at the state tournament.
The bright spot of this team is what is ahead of them. The girls who took their talents into the second day have two more years to polish their skills and find a way to take an extra step on the podium. Nine of the ten girls who competed in the state tournament this year will be back next year, and eight of those nine will be back the year after that. The best is yet to come; head coach Geno Liva has a lot cooking for him.
Congrats to the following girls for competing in one of the most treasured high school sporting event that Montana has to offer: Berkli Salusso, Peyton Liva, Jessie LaPier, Aydin Gonzales, Sophie Grunhuvd, Nevaeh Grunhuvd, Baely Norris, Mattie Stepan, Rylee Radcliffe, and McKenna LeCoure.
Go to trackwrestling.com for more scores, stats, and results.
Boys: Maverick is the top gun in two states
I know I’m not the first to reference Maverick McEwen and the movie Top Gun, and I’m sure I won’t be the last. Maverick McEwen is now a two-time state champion. McEwen won last year’s state title in Washington before returning to his hometown to don the purple singlet one last time.
Mav had to get through Timmy Rodriquez of Billings Senior in the semis before switching to the white championship round singlet. McEwen was out for revenge after suffering his second loss of the season to Rodriquez at the AA duals in January. With Rodriquez being a defensive wrestler, McEwen had to be precise and steady with his offense. A takedown for McEwen in the first period was the only scoring in the first and second periods. McEwen started the third period in the bottom position and got a two-point reversal to make it 4-0. A stalling point for McEwen topped it off as the final whistle sounded, with McEwen winning 5-0 to advance to the championship round.
McEwen’s boss fight was against Dylan Block of Great Falls/MSDB. Block came into the championship round undefeated with a 23-0 record. Block handed McEwen his first season loss at the Tom Leprowse tournament in Bozeman with a 12-3 major decision in the championship round.
After a few blood timeouts, Block caught McEwen in an awkward position and threw him to his back. McEwen was able to save himself from a pinfall, but not before Block was given four points for a takedown and a near-fall. McEwen started the second round on top and used his upper body strength to position Block for a three-point near-fall.
“He lost the first scramble, but he didn’t panic. He (Maverick) is one of the best at keeping his composure,” said head coach Cory Johnston. “He was able to win the scramble in the second period, which was crucial.”
McEwen didn’t allow Block any escape points as the second period ended 4-3 in favor of Block. McEwen started the third period on the bottom and got a two-point reversal midway through the period, which meant McEwen just needed to keep Block on the bottom and not allow an escape or reversal. That’s just what he did. McEwen stood atop the peak in a match filled with scrappiness and scrambling, earning himself a place in the Butte wrestling history books.
Like Mason, who won his state championship last year, Maverick won his title in the tournament’s final match.
“The reason they put him (Maverick) as the last match was to keep the (Butte High) crowd ‘til the very end,” joked coach Johnston. “The crowd traveled very well and was happy to see such a good turnout this year.”
After a tough semifinal round, Six other Bulldogs made their way through the consolations for state placements: 285-lb senior Kade Schleeman finished 3rd, 113-lb freshman Bradey Doyle, and 152-lb junior Will Stepan finished 4th, 132-lb sophomore Ryder McEwen finished 5th, 103-lb sophomore Keegan Hunt, and 138-lb freshman Bode Hazlett finished 6th.
Kade Schleeman began his day with a hard-fought battle against Hudson Weins of Bozeman. With twelve seconds left on the clock, Schleeman was down by one point and tried to throw Weins, but the future Bobcat’s strength proved too much for the future Oredigger. Weins was able to pin Schleeman with nine seconds remaining in the match.
Schlee picked it up in the consolations with a second-period pinfall against Brandon Cole of Billings West. He then found himself in a dogfight against Maxx Lee of Billings Senior. With Lee leading 1-0 to begin the third period, Schlee got an escape point and a penalty point due to Lee locking his hands while on top. Lee got a two-point takedown with a minute left, but Schlee’s tough battle to not give up wrist control was crucial. A perfect leg-lock reversal gave Schleeman a two-point reversal with 22 seconds left. Schleeman could just hang out as the clock worked in his favor as he won 4-3 for a 3rd-place finish.
Bradey Doyle faced off against Nolan Brown of Belgrade in the semis. Nolan proved too experienced for Doyle and could pick up a pinfall over Doyle. Doyle avenged fellow teammate Reveles McEwen by defeating Jayce Kolendich of Missoula Sentinel. Kolendich defeated Rev in the blood round 11-3. Doyle was behind 4-2 going into the third period but was able to catch Kolendich with an under-hook takedown to plant him for the pin. For the 3rd-place round, Doyle faced Paydon De La Garza of CMR. DLG caught Doyle with a power half to pin him in the second period; this meant Doyle would finish his season with a 4th-place finish.
Will Stepan’s semifinal match against Kale Baumann of Great Falls went the distance. Baumann capitalized in the third period and defeated Stepan by a score of 10-1. Stepan went on to face Lane Chivers of Flathead. Stepan flipped Chivers onto his back after being down 4-0 in the third period and locked him up for the pinfall victory. Stepan would lose in the 3rd place match to Demetrios Saliaris of Billings Senior by way of pinfall but would add another state placing to his stat sheet.
Ryder McEwen, brother of champion Maverick, faced Tristan Vladic of Billings Senior in the semis in a low-scoring match that Vladic won by a score of 5-1. McEwen then went on to face, of all people, Sam Elliot of Great Falls/MSDB***. A 3-0 final in favor of Elliot meant McEwen would face Max DeWitt of Billings Senior again for the 5th place spot. The outcome was the same, but on a different day, as McEwen pinned DeWitt for the 5th place spot, which adds another state placing to the McEwen family history tree.
Bode Hazlett faced Jacob Hahner of Belgrade in the blood rounds for a chance to stand on the podium. Hazlett started hot, going up 7-0 into the third period. Hahner used every ounce of energy to make Hazlett earn his victory. Hahner cut the lead to 7-6, but the clock worked in Hazlett’s favor. Hazlett’s 7-6 victory sent him into the consolation semis, facing Corven Marquardso of Billings Senior. Marquardso, who lost by one point to the state champion and teammate Chris Acuna, proved too experienced for the young freshman and picked up the pinfall over Hazlett. Hazlett would lose to Bladen Madel of Great Falls/MSDB in a third-period pinfall. Hazlett’s 6th place finish is the first podium appearance for the freshman.
To complete the list of place winners for Butte High, Keegan Hunt secured a 6th-place finish, his second-state placing for the sophomore. Hunt was defeated by the eventual state champion, Danny Green of Billings Skyview, by pinfall. Hunt then faced Jackson Roby of Billings West. Hunt was up 7-5 until Roby tilted Hunt onto his back to get two near-fall points as time expired. With the score 7-7 in OT, it came down to conditioning. Roby was able to outlast Hunt by getting a takedown halfway into OT. Hunt then faced Aiden Sweat of Glacier. Hunt defeated Sweat in the quarterfinals but could not outlast him this time as Sweat defeated Hunt 6-2.
As mentioned, eighth-grader Reveles McEwen had his blood match against Jayce Kolendich of Missoula Sentinel. Rev was able to close the gap to 5-3 entering the third period, but Kolendich picked up the pace in the third and ran away with an 11-3 victory. This year, Reveles was the only eighth-grader wresting in the Class AA tournament.
This year’s squad proved that there is nowhere but up moving forward. Like the Lady Bulldogs team, the boys’ team is filled with young talent that will only get better next year and the year after.
“This was the first time most of these kids got to the semifinal matches,” said coach Johnston. “With many of the kids returning next year, we just hope this is the lowest they will place moving forward.
Congratulations to all the boys who represented Butte High School in the state tournament: Keegan Hunt, Aiden Maesar, Reveles McEwen, Bradey Doyle, Bridger Garrison, Colter Espelin, Darryn Rossiter, Grady Winston, Ryder McEwen, Joey Ward, Bode Hazlett, Trey Hansen, Will Stepan, Maverick McEwen, Reece Cunneen, Adien Cuchine, Bridger Brancamp, Garrett Henson, Waylond Hicks, and Kade Schleeman
***Side note: It is not the actor Sam Elliot. I had to look it up, but I can confirm it is not the famous 79-year-old actor of the same name that Ryder McEwen faced in the consolation semifinals of the 2024 All-Class State Wrestling tournament.
BC Maroons find the Podium
Butte Central found the podium for the first time since 2018, with Marquise Abad finishing 6th place. Abad’s blood round featured him pinning Eli Erdahl of East Helena in the first period. Abad would then face Jonah Casterline of Laurel. Abad was up 10-5 going into the third period but was caught by Casterline in the third. Luckily, Abad got an escape point in the final seconds to even the score 11-11. Casterline took down Abad midway through the third period to pick up a 13-11 victory. With a show of good sportsmanship, both wrestlers hugged in appreciation of the effort displayed on the mat. Abad would then face William Alves of Lockwood. Alves’ ability to counter Abad’s shots proved too much as he defeated Abad 9-2.
Butte Central finished the tournament with 18 points, the Maroons’ best season since 2016/2017. All four wrestlers who qualified for the state tournament are underclassmen who will be returning next year. Congrats to Marquise Abad, Jack Holmes, Devin Rossiter, and James Holmes.