BILLINGS — Year-in-and-year-out, the Havre High wrestling team reloads with top tier talent. Not only have the Blue Ponies been team title contenders for the past decade, they also seem to have an unlimited number of individual title contenders.
And the Central A Blue Ponies were up to their old tricks again over the weekend.
Friday and Saturday the Ponies were in Billings for the state wrestling tournament. The Ponies dominated the competition at the Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark, reclaiming the Class A team title with the help of four grapplers competing in the championship finals.
HHS was No. 1 with 233.5 points, while Sidney was second with 207, and Belgrade was third with 172.5.
Keegan Kennelly (98), Grayson Brenna (105), Grant Pattison (189) and Tyler Adams (215) all represented the Ponies in the championship finals. And getting pretty solid production, the Ponies came away with two No. 1 finishes. Brenna and Pattison both won coveted state titles for HHS. Unfortunately, Kennelly and Adams suffered heart-breaking losses in their title matches, but still finished in a very respectable second place.
“You always want to blank everybody in the finals,” Havre High head coach Scott Filius said. “But we are happy with what we got. We were pleased with the kids, they had great efforts, and now we go back to work.”
Pattison held the No. 1 ranking all season long and didn’t disappoint on the big stage.
In the championship match, Pattison defeated Steven Keetan of Hardin with a 3-0 decision. Pattison scored on near fall at the end of the second period and later scored on an escape in the third period. It was Pattison’s tightest match of the weekend, and the first win that didn’t come by way of a pin. Pattison was 4-0 on the weekend and finished his senior season with a record of 37-4, while joining his older brother, Kent, as a state champion Blue Pony.
“This is one of the greatest feelings I have ever had,” Pattison said. “I got worried about half way through (the championship match), but I got a near fall and I got more confidence. It feels great to finally get a title under my belt.”
To start the weekend, Pattison pinned Corvallis’ Monty Jessop in 3:48. Pattison then followed suit with a fall over Sidney’s Dace Fisher in 1:34, and a fall over Glendive’s Parker Tezak in 2:57.
Brenna also went 4-0 on the weekend with three wins by way of fall, and a decision win in the chipper. Brenna atoned for a loss in the 98-pound championship match last February, and like Pattison, he dominated his way to his first state title.
After trailing 2-0 to Sidney’s Ethan Graves to start the first period, Brenna quickly took over the title match. Scoring on an escape, a take down, and a near fall, Brenna led 5-2 after the first period. Brenna added another takedown in the second period, and a reversal in the third as he earned the 9-2 decision and an individual title for the Ponies.
Brenna’s pins came over Whitefish’s Dillon Thorsteinson in :16, Corvallis’ Paul Allstop in :27, and Columbia Falls’ Cameron Linstead in 3:44. Brenna finished the season with a record of 35-5.
“I have been working hard the last few years,” Brenna said. “I came up short last year when I got second, but I worked hard all season and all summer to finally win a state title. I knew yesterday (Friday) was going to be easier than today (Saturday), and I knew I was going to see (Ethan Graves) in the final, I have been looking at him all season. I just had to go out with intensity, and I ended up using more technique and had better conditioning than him.”
Both Kennelly, just a freshman, and Adams, a junior had a shot at titles too. But after heart-breaking losses in the finals, both had to settle for No. 2 finishes instead.
“A title was my whole goal this year,” Adams said. “It is hard to swallow now because I put in the time and the effort and didn’t get the results I wanted. It is heart breaking, but it is also motivation for next year.”
In the finals, Kennelly lost a tight matchup to Butte Central’s Clay Stillwagon, getting pinned in 4:24. Stillwagon held a 4-2 lead through two periods, and Kennelly got caught trying to make up ground in the third. The loss followed three straight wins for Kennelly, including a pin over James Buckley of Whitefish in 1:41, a 5-3 decision over Kohltin Starkel of Glendive, and a 4-3 decision over Cody Warner of Frenchtown.
Adams also put together three straight wins before losing in the finals.
In the championship, Adams fell behind 2-0 early. Adams remained in contention through the second period, trailing 3-1, but Joe Murdock of Hardin ran away with it. Murdock earned a near fall and two more takedowns, defeating Adams 10-3. Before the final hiccup, Adams had a solid first three rounds, pinning Luke Channer of Corvallis in 52 seconds, pinning Ejay Studen of Glendive in 1:04, and beating Bryce Wiegert of Anaconda 5-0 in the semifinals.
And like in almost every year that anyone can remember, it was yet another great finals’ night for the Ponies. The losses were bitter-sweet, as HHS still rolled to the team title, while the wins in the finals by Brenna and Pattison were glorious, as Havre again brings individual titles home. Pattison managed to keep the 198-pound title in Havre for another year as Casey Schaub won the same weight class in 2012.
Pattison will graduate a state champion, while Kennelly, Brenna, and Adams will look to return to the state tournament and win gold next season.