BUTTE — Ahead of his eighth-grade year, Gunnar Yelenich wanted to do something a little different than his two older brothers.
So he decided to wrestle.
Gator (currently a junior) and Tyge (a 2018 graduate) both played basketball and at Central, the court has always beckoned. But Gunnar liked the idea of a challenge and he soon picked up the sport.
With a 2-1 record at Thursday evening's Butte Central Mixer, the freshman moved to 3-3 on the year. Both of his wins at the five-team mixer came by bonus points and the young grappler looked as if he's starting to find his bearings.
"I'm still learning new moves and what to do," said Yelenich, who is listed at 120. "It's hard, but we'll figure it out."
While there were some rookie moves by the, well, rookie, the talent certainly seems to be there. Yelenich's wins both came by bonus points — a pin of Hamilton freshman Michael Loranger in 1:35 and a 13-3 major over Havre's Hunter Velk.
He also led 11-3 in his lone loss to Hamilton's Hannah Hurst, but got into a bad spot early in the third period and was pinned in 4:39.
"You can tell them all the time to always be in good position and always have good motion," Butte Central head coach Robin Moodry said. "But until something bad happens and you actually have failure, you actually realize what coach is talking about.
"The practical experience of getting more mat time, there's always going to be pluses and minuses with that stuff."
For a youthful Butte Central squad, this is true across the board. The Maroons had just three wrestlers go during the mixer and none of them were upperclassmen.
Freshman Brayden Keane wrestled at 126 and went 1-1 on the day, with a pin of Havre's Isaiah Tracy in 1:50. He also lost by fall as Havre’s Dominic Perkins got Keane on his back and pinned him late in the first period.
Sophomore Ian Williams (205) won his only match of the day, an 18-second pin of Stevensville's Sebastian Driver. Three-time state qualifier Clay Fisher and 145-pounder Cale Stillwagon did not wrestle.
Moodry says he expects Fisher to be back fairly soon.
"We're being proactive and making sure he's 100-percent healthy before we send him out," Moodry said. "We want him 100-percent and when he comes back, he's gonna wrestle the rest of the year."
For a Central squad that is still fairly small, getting more wrestlers healthy will be important. Fisher is the only returner on the squad who made the state tournament last season and they'll be looking to get a few more to Billings this year.
They'll next compete in the Whitehall Duals on Saturday. It'll be another test for Central, but the Maroons are feeling alright with where they're at right now.
"They're improving and they improved a lot from this week to last week," Moodry said. "That's the name of the game. Just keep improving until the divisional tournament.
"Their heads are held high ... I thought they got better tonight."