Young ‘Dog wrestlers ready to go

 

The Bulldogs seem to have found the fountain of youth.

Butte High’s freshman- and sophomore-laden wrestling team is back in action in the school’s practice room, enduring grueling workouts in preparation for the opening matches of the season Friday in Kalispell.

“We were young last year and we’re younger this year,” said second-year head coach Jim Bob Humphrey, who is currently looking at a roster of nearly 40 grapplers – with just four seniors and five juniors.

And since four of those nine upperclassmen are currently wrestling in two weight classes, there’s plenty of room for the younger wrestlers to find a home in the 15-slot varsity lineup.

Butte is relatively deep through the lineup – this season features an adjusted set of weight classes to more accurately represent larger wrestlers – though the Bulldogs are thinnest at the heavier end of the scale. As of Monday afternoon Butte senior Connor Lee was the only Bulldog in the wrestling room checking in over the 200-pound mark.

Humphrey hopes to see a few more wrestlers join the team’s ranks, especially at the big end, but said he’s pleased with the group he’s got.

“I’m pretty happy with our team,” he said. “Ideally you’d like to have all the weights filled, but the ones where we do, we have some pretty tough dudes. It’s pretty exciting for me.”

The Butte High wrestling room will be in full action Tuesday afternoon, as the first challenge matches of the season will be contested. Humphrey held a special Purple and White meet last winter to decide varsity positions, but has decided to keep the intrasquad action in the wrestling room.

That’s partly due to a new practice format Humphrey has introduced to the team this season. Instead of one long practice after school, Butte’s coaches have divided the workout into an hour before school begins and an hour after school lets out.

“Our goal with that is to have the guys go all out,” Humphrey said. “There won’t be any excuse for not going as hard as you can.”

Indeed, as the new paint job in the wrestling room says, “It’s not the hours you put it, it’s what you put in the hours.”

Butte High travels to Kalispell for duals with Glacier and Flathead Friday afternoon. The Dogs will return to Butte late Friday night only to be back on the road early Saturday to compete in the Helena Duals. The Mining City Duals take place Dec. 13-14, and Butte’s 2013 wrestling wraps up with the CMR Holiday Classic.

“It’s a lot of matches right at the beginning,” observed Butte High assistant coach Eric Dunmire. “You could wrestle 28 matches in the first three weeks of the season.”

Butte High returns only two place-winners from last February’s State tourney in Billings – juniors Levi Renz, who was third at 135, and Lee Cannon who placed fourth at 171 pounds. Renz will begin this season at 138 pounds, while Cannon will take the 195-pound slot.

Many of the sophomores in Butte’s lineup are salty with plenty of varsity experience from their freshman season. Kelly Merrick is back at 120 pounds and Ax Henningsen starts out the season at 132. Kaleb Ferriter, Kaydon Queer and Taran Bennett will battle for the 145-pound slot, while Cian Randall and Quinn Cunneen wrestle at 170 and 182.

In addition to Lee at heavyweight, Butte seniors include Nick Challeen, Andy Anderson and Wyatt Merkel, all at 160 pounds. In addition to Renz and Cannon, Butte juniors are Tyler Wonnacott (170), Bridger Mooney (126) and Blake Bowen (106).

Freshmen to watch out for include Bryson Henningsen at 113, as well as Kyle Konda and Tyler Vetter at 106.

Lee won’t have the required practices in before the weekend, so Butte will forfeit 220 pounds and heavyweight until the Mining City Duals.

“We’ll give up a little, but we don’t have any ‘gimme’ weights,” Humphrey said, noting that Butte will wrestle Dillon, Missoula Hellgate and Helena Capital in the opening rounds of the Helena Duals.

I’ll be excited to see them compete and get after it,” Humphrey said. “We’ve been banging on each other and wrestling hard. It’ll be fun to see how it goes outside the room.”

 



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