WHITEHALL – The Whitehall Duals might not have been as flashy or high-profile as those taking place 27 miles away in Butte on Friday but the Mining City Duals didn’t hold a monopoly on drama.
The Anaconda wrestling team took care of business by posting a 3-0 record on Day 1 of the Whitehall Duals, earning a spot in Saturday’s championship round at Whitehall High.
Whitehall also advanced to the top echelon by winning three of its four dual matches.
Jefferson’s High’s shot at a perfect record was dashed by a tiebreaker that came out of the rulebook, and Butte Central went 1-2 in the team standings despite its wrestlers posting a 14-1 mark on the mat.
“I don’t remember ever having that high of a win percentage,” Central coach Robin Moodry said of his team’s 93 percent clip. “That’s very positive and we’re getting in better shape. Kids are starting to follow the technique we’ve been showing so everything is looking pretty good right now.
“We’d love to win as a team but it’s more important to win your individual matches when you don’t have a full team. You can’t win a dual so you do what you can. We hope that our numbers match up with somebody else so we can win a dual but we came here to get better.”
The Maroons were simply undone on Friday by the lack of wrestlers. They gave up a lot of points on forfeited matches, which is the reason they only won one dual. That lone victory came against Deer Lodge.
Things seem to be on an upswing for the Maroons, who are enjoying the return of Theron Nelson, now a 160-pounder, and a transfer from Deer Lodge.
Nelson wrestled for the Maroons two years ago but played basketball at Central last season.
“I was planning on playing and practicing basketball in the summer but I got a full-time job so I didn’t really have time,” Nelson explained. “So I was like, ‘Well, I’ll go back to wrestling.’
“I like wrestling.”
Gage Young was Deer Lodge’s varsity wrestling team last season. He stuck with the sport but enrolled at Butte Central this past Monday. He is currently on the junior varsity squad, though Moodry is still trying to see if he is eligible to wrestle on varsity.
Even with the loss of Young, however, the Deer Lodge varsity squad saw a 600-percent increase in the number of wrestlers it has this season.
“Last year we only had one wrestler so we tried to do some recruiting,” Wardens head coach Clint Stevenson said. “We’re just trying to build. We’re happy with what we’ve got but we’re still trying to build.”
132-pounder Kordell Smith returned to the Deer Lodge wrestling program this season. He’s the lone senior and the only one with experience. The Wardens failed to win a dual match on Friday but the experience the wrestler got was invaluable.
“We’re just trying to improve,” Stevenson said. “We’re trying to get better every day. We’re a small team so we see each other every day in the practice room. But we can only get so much better there. Here we’re seeing other kids, wrestling different opponents and learning something from every match. Being young, it’s hard because you don’t win a lot of matches but hopefully we can learn from our losses.”
The Jefferson High Panthers did some learning of their own following a 36-36 tie with North Fremont High. Officials went through a list of tiebreakers before finally finding one that separated the two teams. The Idaho team scored more first points in its individual bouts against Jefferson, earning the one point needed for the 37-36 win.
“I knew right away that they would come to first-score, which was takedowns,” Jefferson coach Troy Humphrey said. “Because they won six matches by wrestling and we only won two, I knew they would have it.
“It was a good learning experience. We’ve got a lot of youngsters on the team who either can’t find their headgear or they’re not warming up. We’ve got to work with that kind of stuff but we’ll get there.”
Among the teams who seem to already be there are Anaconda and Whitehall.
The Copperheads looked strong in scoring wins over Butte Central, Helena Capital’s JV squad and Deer Lodge. A lot of their victories over Central and Deer Lodge were via forfeits.
“Whether we put a guy out there who is going to wrestle, or if we put a guy out there who is going to get a forfeit, all of these guys are ready to go,” Copperheads coach Joe Casey said. “They’re all going to be prepared for whatever we throw at them.
“One of the reasons that we’re in first place out of our pool is because we do have the numbers. Yeah, you’re going to get a forfeit but it’s a win. You still get six points for the team. It’s a good thing.”
Whitehall was in one of two five-team pools and came out of Day 1 with a 4-1 record. Coach Mark Nelson saw some areas in which his team can be get better and hopes to use these early-season tournaments to improve.
The Trojans finished second at last weekend’s Cascade Tournament. Nelson is expecting good things out of Connor Johnson and heavyweight Dawson Hoerauf this season, among others.
“We’re probably a better tournament team than we are a dual team,” Nelson said. “We finished second at Cascade. “We put five in the finals and won four.
“Connor Johnson was fifth at state last year and he’s got to improve on that. We have a decent heavyweight in Dawson Hoerauf. We think he’s pretty solid.
“And then we have Braxton Armstrong. He’s our 152-pounder and was one match out of placing last year. We expect him to get there.”