Prep wrestlers converge on Butte

A whole lot of wrestling is slated for the Mining City Saturday, as Butte High hosts the Eastern AA Seeding meet and Butte Central is the site of the Southwestern A Divisional meet.

Both tournaments begin at 11 a.m. Saturday, and both wrestle straight through to the final round. The Eastern AA meet will be held at Richardson Memorial Gymnasium, while the Southwestern A meet will take place at the Maroon Activities Center.

Both Butte High coach Jim Bob Humphrey and Butte Central coach Robin Moodry hold high hopes to advance wrestlers to the State All-Class Wrestling meet next weekend in Billings. The Eastern AA meet will send the top eight wrestlers in each weight class, while the Southwestern A meet will send the top four to the Class A State meet.

“I like our chances,” Humphrey said Wednesday. “This is a great opportunity for us. We’re coming off a great week of practice and I’m excited because we’re wrestling well.”

It will take a good effort by any of the 21 Bulldogs who want to reach the State AA meet, as the Eastern division is loaded with talent, and only the top four wrestlers in each weight class will be seeded according to their record this season against Class AA opponents.

“There are a ton of god teams on our side,” Humphrey said. “It will be a challenge, but if we can get in we should do well at State. Right now, punching our ticket is the important part.”

Butte High has a young squad, but a number of the Bulldogs have some State meet experience, including Lee Cannon, Wyatt Merkel, Cian Randall, Kaleb Ferriter, Ax Henningsen and Levi Renz.

Freshman Tyler Casey is the sole Bulldog respresentative at 98 pounds, while freshmen Bryson Henningsen and Tyler Vetter fill out the 106-pound class. Freshman Kyle Konda bumped up and will try his hand in the 113-pound class, while sophomore Tyler Ossello will be the lone man at 120 pounds.

Sophomore 120-pounder Kelly Merrick is out for the season with a knee injury suffered at the AA Duals in Great Falls.

“That’s a tough one,” Humphrey said. “Kelly was wrestling pretty well.”

Sophomore Braxton Henningsen and junior Bridger Mooney check in at 126 pounds, and sophomore Kyler Smith mans the 132-pound division. Freshman Willie Anderson and sophomore Kaleb Ferriter take the reins at 138 pounds, while junior Levi Renz and sophomore Kaden Queer are at 145.

Freshman Kadin Schonsberg will be put to the test at 152 pounds, as senior Andrew Anderson and  sophomore Cole Gillespie weigh in at 160. Senior Nick Challeen joins sophomore Cian Randall at 170 pounds, while senior Wyatt Merkel and sophomore Quinn Cunneen are at 182 pounds.

Junior Lee Cannon and sophomore Connor O’Neill will both compete at 195 pounds, while the loss of Johnny Walker to an injury in December leaves the Bulldogs open at 220 pounds. Senior Connor Lee will anchor Butte High at heavyweight.

“We had a talk from the seniors to the freshmen about how fast the season goes,” Humphrey said. “But I feel like we’ve grown on a daily basis all year long. Now we’ll see how they perform.”

The Maroons can bring as many as five wrestlers to the State meet – because they are down to just five wrestlers. Moodry says each of his wrestlers has a good chance of making the top four and earning a trip to Billings.

Butte Central is led by 113-pound junior Clay Stillwagon, a defending state champion and two-time divisional titlist. Stillwagon was sidelined briefly by injury, but looks to be at full strength for the final two weeks of the season.

“Clay is healthy and ready to go,” Moodry said. “We’re looking for him to do good things for us at divisionals.”

Junior 138-pounder Zach Hart took fifth place last year at State and is also a two-time divisional champ. Moodry said Hart’s weight class is one of the most competitive in the Class A ranks, with some of his toughest competition coming from Corvallis.

“Zach’s got to wrestle hard and well to win,” Moodry noted. “He’s been getting better week by week and I think he’s ready.”

Sophomore Sean Cooney comes in at 152 pounds after a solid season and a trip to State last year where he went 1-2.

“Sean had a really good week of practice,” Moodry said. “He’s been doing a lot of extra work and he’s definitely improved since the start of the year. We’ll look for him to wrestle well.”

The Maroons have a couple of first-year wrestlers in senior Tyler Trudnowski at 182 pounds and sophomore Jake Michelotti at 220. Trudnowski is coming off injury, though Moodry is impressed with the athlete.

“I’m proud of Tyler and what he’s done in his first year as a wrestler,” he said. “Postseason is all about who comes out and wrestles to win. If Tyler wrestles well and does the right things, good things will happen.”

Michelotti has come a long way over the course of the season, Moodry said.

“Jake seems a lot more comfortable on the mat,” he said. “He’s been a lot more aggressive offensively, especially the last two or three weeks. I think he and the kids are hitting their peak at the right time. Jake’s got a god chance as long as he wrestles the way he’s been wrestling.”

Junior Bryce Noctor had been looking forward to the end of the season, but the 106-pounder was recently sidelined with medical problems.

Moodry said Noctor’s health was much more important than wrestling, though he’s hoping for another season from the “spider” once he regains his health.

“Bryce is a great guy to have around,” Moodry said. “I like to think positive things, and I hope to have him back next year.”

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