WHITEHALL – The road to Billings, site of the Montana State Wrestling Champions, went through Whitehall for some wrestlers.

Huntley Project, Whitehall and members of the Butte High junior varsity squad met at Whitehall High School on Thursday night to compete, get mat time and prep for a weekend that will be full of wrestlers taking the steps necessary to aim toward Billings.

Huntley Project was certainly up to the challenge, beating Whitehall, 50-24, and Butte, 57-18 in the Whitehall Quads.

Whitehall went 1-1 by closing out the evening with a 51-6 win over Butte.

“The kids have been working hard,” Huntley Project coach Tim Kaczmarek said. “We wanted to come out and give 110 percent. If we make a mistake, we make a mistake. But just give it 100 percent. That was kind of our main goal.”

The Red Devils looked like a team on a mission – and in a way they were. Half of the team will be at Butte on Friday and Saturday for the Mining City Duals, while the remaining wrestlers will remain at Whitehall for the Whitehall Duals.

Kaczmarek said that his wrestlers compete against one another for the chance to wrestle at Butte High.

The Huntley Project-Whitehall dual, the first of the evening, turned out to be the closest though it didn’t start out that way.

Clayton Donally, Murry Knickerbocker, and Jaxon Dean picked up early victories to stake the Red Devils to a 16-0 lead. Knickerbocker’s and Dean’s victories were by pin.

Whitehall got on the board at the 126-pound bout when Mike Wilkinson pinned Ashton Christman in the opening round. Connor Johnson, Dallen Hoover and Riley Forcella followed in similar fashion. The four consecutive pins put the Trojans in front, 24-16.

The Red Devils took control from that point, shutting out the Trojans and pulling away to the win.

“It’s always nice to see Whitehall because they’re Class B and we don’t get to see them a whole lot in the tournaments,” Kaczmarek said. “That’s one reason we stopped here, so we can wrestle those guys. It’s nice getting three days of competition in a row. The kids will get a lot of matches this weekend.”

Steve Sacry, Whitehall’s assistant coach, liked what he saw in both matches but was hoping to see his team come out a little stronger against Huntley Project. But being the first home dual for the Trojans, he sensed trouble.

“The first match at home is usually emotionally tough to get up for, so that first match with Huntley, I thought they did pretty well but there wasn’t a lot of fire in it,” Sacry said. “In the match with Butte, the kids were a lot more focused. The brain wasn’t quite as scattered. They went after it and did a good job.

“Huntley is a great team and we had some good matches with them.”

Sacry is also looking forward to an action-packed weekend and is glad that the kids have the jitters out of the way and can now focus on the task at hand.

“Some of those early jitters that you have here at home and you have family watching, we got that out of the way,” he said. “So (Friday) it’ll just be wrestling. We’ll have a lot of kids here. We’ve got 16 teams so there will be a lot of kids here with a lot of excitement and a lot of wrestling. The first part of the year, that’s what you need. It’s a good time to learn stuff and get some experience.”

Despite the two victories, not everything went well for Huntley Project.

Seth Huidekoper suffered a serious injury to his left arm while wrestling in the dual against Butte. Medical personnel were able to reach the 103-pounder quickly and tended to him until he was transported to a hospital in Butte.

Butte, which will bring an army-sized team back to Whitehall this weekend, is looking for mat time. It’s something that is especially important during the early part of the season. The more matches, the better.

Butte had some JV wrestlers in Dillon as well as Whitehall on Thursday night. They’ll join forces in Whitehall on Friday.

“It’s a varsity meet that we’re sending our JV kids to,” said Dan Larson, one of a handful of coaches who works with the squad. “You can’t replace that competition.

“We teach our kids that whoever you’ve got on the mat, you have to face him. It doesn’t matter if it’s a good kid or a kid that’s young. We’re going to scrap.

“We saw some things that we need to improve but I thought we battled hard. I thought we scrapped pretty well (Thursday).”

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