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Butte High wrestlers poised for strong finish at Jug Beck Rocky Mountain Classic

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BUTTE — Day 1 of the Jug Beck Rocky Mountain Classic is in the books after a jam-packed day of wrestling in Missoula on Friday. 

Of the 12 wrestlers competing for Butte High, 11 are still in the running to place depending on how they finish the tournament Saturday. Wrestlers must finish in the top-eight within their weight class to place.

As far as team scores go, powerhouse Kalispell Flathead (176.5) sits somewhat comfortably in first place. Behind the Braves are University High with 125.5 points and Butte at 125. Coeur d'Alene and Helena Capital round out the top-five with 109 and 87 points, respectively. 

At 170 pounds, Butte's Riley Downey advanced to the semifinals for the first time in his career.

"We're excited for him and really impressed," said Bulldogs coach Cory Johnston.

After a Round 1 bye, Downey secured a fall at 1:38 against Hamilton's Noah Guisinger. He finished his undefeated day with a victory by decision over University High's Cooley Conrad. 

Mason Christian also made it through Day 1 without losing a match. After pinning Belgrade's Ben Rodgers in 1:04 during the tournament's second round, Christian, at 182, nearly went the distance in quarterfinals with Bozeman's Gavin Millard before getting the fall at 5:35.

Johnston said that Christian controlled the entire match against Millard. He just couldn't quite get Millard turned until the closing seconds. 

Butte's Kip Pumnea and Maverick McEwen won by fall in both of their matches. Pumnea, 132, pinned Ronan's Koda King during the quarterfinals and Jackson Syron, of Ferris, in his first match. The 138-pound McEwen pinned Flathead's Cade Gardner in 1:27 during the quarterfinal round. Before that he took care of Missoula Sentinel's Skyler Moore in 1:26. Like Downey and Christian, Pumnea and McEwen had opening-round byes.

Trey Whitlock and Kyler Raiha are also undefeated after Day 1 for the Bulldogs. At 113, Whitlock defeated Kalispell Glacier's Garrett Bosch by decision and then won by fall over Browning's Prestin Connelly during the quarterfinal round. Raiha, 120, pinned Helena Capital's Dustin Campbell before defeating Kalispell Flathead's Diesel Thompson in the quarterfinals. Raiha and Whitlock also had first-round byes.

"They're starting to turn the corner," Johnston said. "Last week at the Le Prowse tournament was a good gauge to tell them where they're at. They really did a nice job there and they turned it up even more now. They all looked really, really pleased with the way they performed."

Johnston was especially enthused by Raiha's 4-3 decision over Thompson. 

"Anytime you can win those interdivisional matches, it's huge," Johnston said. "It was a close match. Last time they wrestled it was close and it was a close one today. So we're happy for him."

Jefferson boys, Anaconda girls lead Choteau Classic

Jefferson's 124 points after Day 1 in Choteau give the Panthers a nice cushion in the boys division heading into the second day. Whitehall sits in second place with 89 and Cut Bank's 79 is good for third. Townsend and Columbus round out the top-five with 76 and 72 points, respectively. Anaconda's boys are in 17th place with 39 points. Deer Lodge is in 24th with four points.

The Copperheads' girls, on the other hand, have racked up 40 points and appear to have a strangle-hold on first place. Deer Lodge is in second place with 22 points.

Matthew Kiewiet is the sports editor for the Montana Standard and sports betting columnist for 406MTSports. Email him at matthew.kiewiet@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter @mattkiewiet406.

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