The talk circulating throughout the gym at Butte High School on Saturday morning was how the Helena Capital wrestling team scored a stunning upset of Havre High.
By the time the mats were rolled up to put an official end to the 29th version of the Mining City Duals/Jim Street Classic, everything was back to normal.
Havre had risen from its early-morning fall and claimed its fourth straight championship of the prestigious and tough tournament.
The Blue Ponies beat and up-and-coming Helena High in the championship, 38-15.
Flathead High claimed third place in the tournament after Missoula Big Sky opted to head home rather than stick around and wrestle for one last dual. It was the second time in the tournament’s history that there was not a dual to decide third place.
Jeff Thompson, who returned to coaching at Flathead after a several-year hiatus, was satisfied with where things ended for his squad. In fact, the Braves were probably happy that they didn’t need to take to the mat one more time.
“Overall, we had a great weekend of wrestling,” Thompson said. “We battled. We just had a grueling bracket and kids can only go hard for so long. I really feel like in our last match, we were just tired. We wrestled as hard as we possibly could. We just ran out of juice.
“But we’re happy with where we’re at. The nice thing about losing is that you know what you have to work on as a team.”
Havre wrestling coach Scott Filius had a hard time remembering how many consecutive titles his team had won at this tournament but he was quickly reminded. The Blue Ponies were able to shake off their 42-35 loss to Capital and won three consecutive matches.
“The secret is to not get too down,” Filius said. “We got knocked off (Saturday) morning but came back and had to score a pile of points in the next dual to give ourselves a chance, and we did.
“We have four real young kids in our lineup and they all went down at the wrong time. Collectively, you’re going to have that with young kids. We raised the expectations and they competed very, very well the rest of the meet.”
The Blue Ponies overcame their lone loss of the tournament with a hard-fought, 39-30 win over Billings Skyview. Havre then had to get past an equally-tough Flathead squad in the semifinals. They beat the Braves by a 42-34 margin.
Helena began Saturday with a 43-21 win over host Butte, before knocking off Great Falls, 33-31. The Bengals then took care of Big Sky, 46-17, to earn a shot at the title.
“I knew we had the kids that could do it,” Bengals coach John Burke said. “We had to have a few kids step up this week. I thought we had a few kids who just came out of nowhere and really stepped it up. That helped us.
“We had been giving up weights all weekend, two to three weights every dual, and to get us to the finals with that many kids was a heck of an accomplishment.”
Helena did its best in the finale but Havre was simply too much. Kyle Tabbert got the Bengals off on the right foot at 138 pounds with a 9-3 decision over Connor Harris but a forfeit-win and narrow decision by Mason Dionne, at 152 pounds, gave Havre a 9-3 advantage.
The Bengals tied the score with a forfeit at 160 pounds, only to see the Blue Ponies pull away with four straight wins.
Hayden Schrull broke the streak with a 7-5 decision at 205 pounds but heavyweight Jared Sienkowski got things back on track for the Blue Ponies with a pin of Jacob Manisbusan. The fall gave Havre a 24-12 lead, one that proved to be insurmountable.
The setback in the final match did nothing to diminish the Bengals’ accomplishments.
“We’ve had real consistent seniors who have been wrestling tough all year,” Burke said. “Then we had London Norris, a freshman, come out this weekend and he went 6-1 or something like that. He wrestling tremendously hard.
“J.T. Nygaard and Jacob Manibusan both had some huge wins for us. I just really felt that everybody contributed. That’s why we were so successful with 11 wrestlers.”
All of teams who competed at the Mining City Duals/Jim Street Classic this weekend are aware the season is still young and that there is still a lot of wrestling to be done. All of the coaches undoubtedly left Butte High with a list of areas in which their respective teams can improve.
Butte ended its tournament run with losses to Helena (43-21) and Great Falls (35-32) before beating Huntley Project.
Bulldogs coach Cory Johnston saw a lot of good things from his squad, including freshman Quinn Sullivan’s first two victories (one by forfeit), and has reason to be optimistic as the season moves along.
“I saw great effort,” Johnston said. “As the tournament went on, we got better and better as far as the effort that they were giving. They started to learn how to fight a little bit more when the chips were stacked against them. I think we just learned toughness.
“You’ve got to get that mental edge early. You’ve got to understand that you can wrestle six minutes. It takes a while to get that figured out. You can’t simulate that in the wrestling room. You can only get in match shape by wrestling in matches.”
Tyler Casey, at 120 pounds, Kadin Schonsberg and heavyweight Jeff Queer continued to look promising with stellar performances. Queer continued his run toward a trip to state and Schonsberg has shown a lot of improvement over last season.
“He’s dealing with adversity a lot better,” Johnston said of Schonsberg. “The main thing that we’re seeing as a coaching staff is that we’re trying to make it fun for Red. He puts a lot of pressure on himself. He’s not wrestling with stress right now.”