Butte High in trophy hunt at fourth
KALISPELL — Six Butte High wrestlers are still in contention to win a state title at the Class AA State tournament at Flathead High School.
Trey Whitlock, Maverick McEwen, Keagan Gransbery, Anthony Liva, Mason Christian and Zach Tierney all advanced to the final four of their weight classes on a long first day Friday.
As a team, the Bulldogs sit in fourth place with 96 points. Kalispell Flathead leads the way at 129 points, Billings Senior is second at 113, and defending champion Great Falls High is third at 103.
“We’re in the trophy hunt, that’s for sure,” Butte High coach Cory Johnston said. “It’s going to come down to punching guys into the finals. We’ve got to punch a majority of the guys into the finals to have a fighting chance.”
Butte High is looking for its first State trophy since the Bulldogs captured third place in 2006.
Whitlock, a junior, used a pair of wins to advance to the semifinals at 103 pounds, where he is the No. 1 seed from the Western AA. He will take on Junior Madrid of Billings Senior in Saturday’s semifinals. Madrid is the No. 2 seed from the Eastern AA.
McEwen, a freshman with two middle school state titles under his belt, bullied his way to the semifinals at 113 with two pins. He will take on Colton Gutenberg of Belgrade, the second seed from the East.
Gransbery, a senior with a second- and third-place showing at state on his résumé, will take on Billings West’s Jesse Aarness, the No. 1 seed for the East at 126 pounds. Gransbery beat Tyler Bowen of West 16-6 before pinning Bryson Danzinger of Missoula Sentinel in the quarterfinals.
Liva, a senior, will take on No. 1 Eastern AA seed Avery Allen in the 145-pound semis. The No. 2 seed from the West, Liva won a pair of decisions to get there. He beat Colton Martello of CMR 4-2 before downing Oden Currier of Belgrade.
Christian, a sophomore, will also take on the top seed from the East in Liam Swanson of Great Falls High at 182 pounds. Christian, the No. 2 from the West won a pair of first-period pins to advance. He wrestled a total of 2 minutes, 9 seconds in the wins.
Tierney’s day opened with a 30 second pin at heavyweight. Another pin set up the No. 1 seed from the West against Jaydn Hoff of West. Hoff is the No. 2 seed from the East.
In all, Butte High has nine wrestlers left out of the 25 who made the trip,
Sophomore Canyon Mullaney is still fighting on the consolation side of 103 pounds. He won a loser-out match.
At 132 pounds, Bulldog sophomore Kip Pumnea won a match to stay alive after falling in the quarterfinals.
Junior Connor Konda is still alive at 138 pounds after beating junior teammate Wiley Dallaserra in a loser-out match. Dallaserra won a pigtail match before losing twice.
Butte juniors Kyler Raiha and Cole Worley both advanced to the quarterfinals at 120 pounds before losing out. Morgan McClernan won two matches, including a pigtail match to get into the bracket of 16, before he lost out at 152.
Gavin Vetter won a match at 152 before he lost out, and Bulldog teammates Riley Downey (170 pounds) and Bryton Hardesty (145) won pigtail matches before losing twice.
Johnston said his Bulldogs impressed on the first day. The sixth-year Butte High coach said many coaches from Eastern AA teams — coaches who did not see Butte High during the regular season because of the COVID-19 changes — talked about the effort each of his wrestlers was giving throughout what will go down as one of the all-time long days at a state tournament.
Pigtail matches began at 9:30 a.m., and the first day did not wrap up until after 11 p.m.
“I don’t where we will end up when it’s all done,” Johnston said, “but one thing is for sure, we opened some eyes.”
The semifinal round begins at 10 a.m. Saturday. Championship matches are expected to begin around 3:30 p.m.
For complete results and to follow Saturday’s action live, go to trackwrestling.com.