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December 30, 2008 4:02 am

Panthers open 2009 slate Friday

Written by Tribune Staff

Defending state champs looking for continued progress

The holiday season is drawing to a close, and the Powell High School wrestling team is slated to kick off the 2009 portion of its schedule Friday at noon when they open competition at the two-day Bozeman Invitational.

According to PHS head coach Nate Urbach, the event promises to be one that will serve as yet another formidable challenge for his squad. The tournament, he said, has the potential to rival the one in which the top-ranked, Class 3A Panthers participated in earlier this season in Rapid City, S.D. That particular tournament, Urbach said, was the toughest one any of his teams had been a part of during his coaching career.

“We're looking for continued improvement,” Urbach said. “We'll also have a chance to see how well we can do against some of the best teams around. Every tough team in Montana will be there. This tournament has been a really good one in the past, and it will be interesting to see how it compares to the one we went to in Rapid City. It has the potential to be right in line with what we saw there.”

Overall, 25 to 30 teams are expected at the tournament, which will feature Montana's No. 1 A (Havre) and AA (Billings Skyview) squads. Those teams also are ranked 30th and 35th nationally, according to Amateur Wrestling News' Prep 40 rankings, which were released Dec. 22.

“I'm excited to see how well we stack up against a strong lineup of teams,” Urbach said.

Day two of the Bozeman Invitational is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Saturday.

Following this weekend's tournament, the PHS varsity wrestling squad will have a Thursday, Jan. 8, matchup at Thermopolis. The dual meet is slated to begin at 6:30 p.m.

As for the remainder of PHS's varsity teams, the break in competition for the holiday season will come to a close next week. Both the girls and boys basketball teams will be in action at home against Kemmerer Friday, Jan. 9.

The varsity girls contest is slated for 5:45 p.m. and the boys matchup is set for 7:30 p.m. For the Panther boys, that day will mark their first game at the new school.

Also, PHS's boys swim team will resume their season Friday, Jan. 9, with a home contest against Riverton. That event has a 5 p.m. start time at the PHS Pool.