Savage-Horsemen third at divisional


February 8, 2024

Sara Hannum

Savage-Horsemen Drew Carey (top) and Beau Crabb wrestle in the 138-pound divisional championship in Shelby on Saturday. Carey won in the third period.

Shelby sits at the crossroads of Interstate 15 and Highway 2 on Montana's hi-line. Western Montana wrestlers came to a different crossroads last weekend as they competed in the divisional tournament in Shelby, fighting for a trip to the state tournament.

The Plains-Hot Springs team finished the tournament in third place, garnering 172 points. Florence finished in first place with 239 and Eureka was second with 187.5. The Savage-Horsemen had an incredible nine wrestlers qualify for the state tournament, which takes place Friday and Saturday at the Metra in Billings.

"I'm extremely proud of the team. They showed up to wrestle," P-HS Coach Jesse Jermyn said Sunday. "We knew we had a long shot for a trophy but we weren't sure where we'd stack up. It was a huge accomplishment. It's such a competitive tournament with two divisions. You're competing against half the state."

The Blue Hawks will take six wrestlers to state, including divisional champion senior Max Hannum, and Coach Mike Thilmony is proud of his young time. "We walked out of there very proud of our team. We achieved what we went up there to do.

Johnny Waterbury of Hot Springs made winning look easy Friday and Saturday, taking the top spot at 152 pounds. Waterbury dominated the bracket, pinning Thomas Fortier of Anaconda and Weston Murphy of Fairfield, each in the first period. He then shut out Kyler Bailey of Manhattan 9-0 in the semifinal round and beat George Stenberg of Manhattan in the first period before taking the title with a 6-2 decision over Choteau's Nathan Gunderson.

"That last match (for Johnny) was a difficult match," Coach Jermyn said of Waterbury's win. "Gunderson is a good wrestler and a strong opponent." However, Jermyn said Waterbury is focused and disciplined and does what needs to be done. "He's phenomenal in the way that he can go through and be aggressive and pick his opponents apart," Coach Jermyn added.

Blue Hawk senior Max Hannum and Fairfield McCoy Banner set up the mother of all rematches in the 182-pound bracket. After a bye in the first round, Hannum was focused on the potential rematch with Banner, with whom Hannum has traded the top ranking in the state all season. "It was another battle like all of the matches between those two have been. This time around it was more in our favor, and there were fireworks at the end like there always are," Thilmony expressed. "It was a really exciting match."

Sanders County Ledger canvas prints

Hannum made quick work of his opponents, pinning Bridger Smith of Arlee in under a minute, Luke Randall of Manhattan in just under a minute and a half and Tegan Jones of Conrad of in just over a minute. Banner didn't waste time on the other side of the bracket, with his first three matches lasting less than a minute before he won by pin. Then the two top wrestlers met on the mat for the first time since the Ted Kato tournament in Thompson Falls last month, where Banner bested Hannum 10-8 in overtime. In the semifinal, Banner pinned Colby Crowell of Cascade in 2:25.

In the championship match, Hannum had a 4-1 lead after the first period. In the second period, Banner got within one as he scored a reversal. Hannum got a reversal at the start of the third period before Banner scored an escape and a takedown to tie the match at 6 apiece. With less than 10 seconds left, Hannum scored an escape and finished the division champ 7-6.

Sanders County wrestlers dominated the 138-pound bracket, with Savage-Horsemen Drew Carey and Beau Crabb reaching the championship match, where Carey won by pin in the final period. Carey pinned each of his first three opponents in under a minute, making quick work of getting to the semifinal round, where he won a 6-4 decision over Brock Ryan of Thompson Falls. On the other side of the bracket, Crabb had a few more minutes on the mat but still pinned all four opponents on the way to the championship.

"Drew just walked through this thing," Jermyn expressed. "I don't think he wrestled over two minutes total that first day. He and John both dominated their brackets." Jermyn added that having two wrestlers in the championship was heart wrenching and extremely frustrating as a coach. "We didn't coach, we just sat back and let them wrestle." He noted that Crabb, a sophomore, has improved every week.

Ryan had a bye in the first round, then pinned Wilson Gile of Fairfield in 4:54 before taking Chantz Connelly of Valier to the mat in the third period. After his semifinal loss to Carey, Ryan lost his consolation semifinal match before pinning Evan Flores of Shelby in 3:42 to earn a fifth-place finish. "Brock came in as a fourth seed and wrestled hard," Coach Thilmony said. "He wrestled a great tournament."

Thompson Falls eighth grader Weston Block has proven to be a force all season long at 103 pounds, and didn't disappoint at the division level, finishing in second place. Block had a bye in the first round and won the second match when his opponent was injured. In the semifinal match, Block pinned Blake Hodgekiss of Choteau in 3:57. Block faced some of his toughest competition of the season in the final match, holding on against Richard Schmidt of Cut Bank before falling with 35 seconds left in the match. "We expected him to qualify and have a good tournament for us," Thilmony stated, "but him getting in the finals was huge. Weston wrestled a great finals match and competed hard." Thilmony commended Block for his efforts wrestling an experienced senior wrestler in the championship.

Eighth grader Carson Kenney finished in sixth place for the Hawks at 120 pounds, winning his first match by forfeit before falling in the quarterfinals to Logan VanDyke of Conrad. In the consolation bracket, Kenney pinned Whitehall's Kaden Armstrong in the first period before winning a 11-5 decision over Cale Hoover of Whitehall. "Carson won a huge round in the consolation quarterfinals to qualify and get to the top six. He's a tough kid and being in that state environment is going to elevate his game," Coach Thilmony said. Izaak Munski of Cascade pinned Kenney at the start of the second period, putting the Blue Hawk in the final for fifth and sixth place, where Kenney lost by pin to Cut Bank's Ray Dagel.

Gavin Schrenk of Plains won seventh in the divisions at 126 pounds and will travel to state in Billings. Schrenk had a bye in the first round, then pinned Mark Sandoval of Darby in the second period to make it to the quarterfinals, where he lost a 6-1 decision. In the wrestle backs, Schrenk pinned Rhain Gonzales of Sidney before falling 9-6 to Isaac Skogen of Whitehall. In his final match of the tournament, Schrenk beat Cole Standley of Cascade 7-5.

Savage-Horsemen Brenden Vanderwall and David Chapman both earned a trip to state in the 170-pound bracket, facing each other in their final match for fifth and sixth place. The two had a very similar path to that final matchup of teammates as they each pinned their first opponents in the second period before losing in the quarterfinals. They each then pinned two opponents in a row to meet in the final match, where Chapman pinned Vanderwall in 2:36.

In the 182-pound bracket, Gabe Rasmussen of Plains finished in fifth place and will advance to state. Rasmussen got a pin in his first action before losing in the quarterfinal round. In the consolation bracket, he pinned one opponent before winning a 11-9 decision. Rasmussen lost by pin in the consolation semifinal but came back to pin Luke Randall of Manhattan in 3:24 in his final match.

Matthew Thurston and Will Tatum will also be heading to state for the Savage-Horsemen. Because the state is divided now into two divisions, some Western weight classes have more wrestlers qualify for state based on the number of wrestlers in the bracket in the west compared with the east. Thurston went 1-2 at divisional, with his win a pin in the first period over Russell Douglas of Boulder. Tatum had one win at divisional as well, pinning Manhattan's Paul Webb in the second period.

Senior Diego Long of Thompson Falls will make his second appearance at the state tournament. Long had a bye in the first round at 126, won his next match by forfeit and pinned Sandoval of Darby but fell in his next match. Due to eligibility in the bracket, Long had to wrestle back and win ninth place to earn a trip to state, which he did. "He wrestled great and showed a lot of heart," Coach Thilmony said of the senior, who Thilmony said has one of the tougher weight classes in the state..

At 145 pounds, Hawk Chris Schwab pinned his first opponent before losing in the quarterfinals and losing his first match in the consolation bracket. Schwab's weight class qualified nine wrestlers for state and Thilmony said Schwab's match to win ninth place was one of the biggest and emotional for the team at the divisional tournament. "He's a first-year wrestler and new to the program. He worked hard all year and set a goal to qualify for state. He worked hard to earn this. That was a big win for our team," Thilmony explained.

John Thurston of Plains went 1-2 at divisional, with his win coming in a high-scoring 15-14 decision over Kegen Vanek of Cascade. At 126, Cody West had a bye in the first round then lost by pin before fighting back in the consolation bracket. West pinned two consecutive opponents before falling to Bridger Molenda of Cut Bank in a loser-out match. In the 132-pound bracket, Andrew Waterbury of Hot Springs went 1-2 at divisional, pinning Valier's Shawn McCormick in 1 minute, 20 seconds in the first round before losing out.

Jonah Sorraco of Thompson Falls had a bye the first round at 138 pounds, but was unable to get a win in divisional action. Teammates Trevor Peterson, Luke Pastorius, Alex Albano and Tate Bosker were unable to get a win at the division level. Thilmony said his first-year wrestlers wrestled hard. "I'm proud of the effort they gave all year and at divisional."

At 160 pounds, Devin Barnes of Plains had one win at divisional, pinning one opponent in 3:28 but missing the podium. At 172 pounds, Hawk Rowan Ackley also had one win, beating Braxtyn Walker of Whitehall in a 6-2 decision.

"One of the biggest things we focused on is tournament fatigue, focusing on how to minimize that going in and avoiding it. I'm happy that the kids were able to do that. They have to be turned on mentally to do that. They did exactly what they needed to do," Jermyn added.

The Blue Hawk girls team did not have any wrestlers qualify for the state tournament, but Coach Thilmony said they walked out of the Shelby High School gym proud of their accomplishments this season. "We had close to 40 wins this year and that's huge," he noted. This is the third year for the girls program at Thompson Falls, and the program grows in numbers and experience each year.

Sara Hannum

Blue Hawk senior Max Hannum (right) battles McCoy Banner in the championship match at 182 pounds. Hannum won 7-6 with an escape in the final 10 seconds.

"There was a little bit of sadness but at the same time, our girls team is on the verge of some great things," Thilmony said. He said he told his team, "You have to experience the pain of failure before you can really have success. It's disappointing not to qualify but I'm proud of what they experienced. We had a great season. The girls program is growing and getting better." Competing for the Hawks at divisional this year were senior Desani Bewick, as well as Veronica Vega, Jaden Bewick, Alayna Hockhalter and Lexi Volk.


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