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Battle of the Big Horns goes to Powell

Panthers remain unbeaten in dual action

The third-ranked Powell Panthers topped Montana No. 1 Billings Skyview 33-28 to capture first place in the Battle of the Big Horns in Worland on Saturday. Powell won all seven of its matches in the all-dual tournament format, running the team’s mark to 9-0 this season in head-to-head competition.

After a Friday spent dominating the competition — the team’s closest pool match came in a 57-21 — the Panthers were finally tested on Saturday. Powell struggled but survived to advance 36-33 past Riverton in the quarterfinals.

“We traveled back to Powell overnight and we just came out looking tired,” said Panther head coach Nate Urbach. “Dylan Rood was able to get a win by fall in the next-to-last match for us that helped us get by.”

The Panthers woke up after their early morning scare, defeating Worland by a 40-28 count in the semifinal count. Nic Urbach (113), Jacob Davis (145), Tyler Patterson (170), Zach Thompson (195) and Riley Stringer (285) all won by fall for the Panthers. Colbee Craig (120) added a lopsided 13-2 major decision victory to help the Panthers advance

That set up a showdown between the unbeaten Panthers and the top-ranked wrestling squad out of the state of Montana, Billings Skyview, for the tournament championship.

The Panthers began that dual in an immediate hole as Anthony Lujan (152) lost a major decision and Mike Mundy (160) followed by finishing on the short side of an 11-7 decision. Powell recovered with wins by forfeit from Grant Nickles and Tyler Patterson, who bumped up from his regular 170-pound class to 182 in order to get the Panthers a valuable six points in the title dual.

Zach Thompson scored a 12-9 decision to extend the Panthers’ lead to 15-7. Spencer Shultz was a mid-second period fall victim at 220, but Powell immediately recovered the lost points as Riley Stinger ended his heavyweight match just after its midpoint with a win by fall, sending the dual down to the lightweights with the Panthers holding a 21-13 edge.

Skyview moved to within two points on a second-period win by fall over Noah Wozney at 106 pounds. Nic Urbach extended Powell to a five-point cushion, 24-19, but Skyview immediately recovered the points with an 11-4 win over Colbee Craig at 120.

Skyview’s Jace Holman scored a win by fall over Dyan Rood at 126 pounds to reclaim the lead. Andrew Feller pulled the Panthers back to within a point with a 5-4 victory, but Powell’s position remained a precarious one.

“At that point, we had to win the last two matches to win the tournament, and both Matt Widdicombe and Jacob Davis were up against wrestlers who were ranked in Montana,” Coach Urbach said.

Widdicombe, a Saturday replacement for freshman Kye Catlin who hyperextended an elbow on Friday while going 4-0 and winning all four matches by fall, came through with a 7-5 decision that gave the Panthers a precarious 30-28 lead going into the dual’s culminating match at 145 pounds. Davis followed with a 4-0 shutout decision, securing victory for the Panthers.

“Both of those guys pulled out tough victories,” said Coach Urbach.

The Panthers also advanced three wrestlers into the Best of the Best round at the tournament’s end. Freshman Nic Urbach (113) finished off Lyman’s Brodie Douglass in just 71 seconds to throw an exclamation point at the end of his weekend. Urbach returned from Worland undefeated for his eight matches, extending his season record to 20-4. Urbach’s closest match at the Battle was a 7-0 decision.

“Nic wrestled really well,” said Coach Urbach.

He wasn’t the only one to wrestle well. Senior Andrew Feller reached the Best of the Best round after posting a 6-1 record during the tournament. Feller came up two points shy in his attempt to avenge his only loss of the tournament, falling 5-3 to Riverton’s Arhen Wempen. Wempen had scored a four-point decision victory over Feller in the tournament quarterfinals.

“Andrew wrestled as well as I think I’ve ever seen him wrestle,” said Coach Urbach. “He looked strong all weekend.”

Sophomore Jacob Davis was undefeated at 7-0 through the tournament to earn his spot in the Best of the Best round. In that showcase round though, Davis’ hopes of a perfect weekend were abruptly derailed in a 14-2 major decision loss to cross-county wrestlers Russ Wilde of Cody.

Junior Zach Thompson also went undefeated in Worland, but despite racking up a 7-0 record was denied the opportunity to wrestle in the Best of the Best round after two other wrestlers also managed to compile 7-0 marks.

“We’ve had that happen to us before,” said Coach Urbach. “You get good wrestlers on teams that, for whatever reason, don’t hit each other and then they look at the number of pins to decide who gets to wrestle in that round. Zach performed well.”

In addition to Powell’s preliminary pool victory over Lander, the Panthers also picked up lopsided wins of 52-12 over Sheridan, 69-6 over Mountain View and 61-12 over Rawlins to earn their spot in Saturday’s championship Gold Pool.

Powell heads to Lander this Friday and Saturday for the team’s final action of 2012.

“That will be kind of a pre-state tournament,” said Coach Urbach. “A whole lot of teams will be there. We’ll finally get to see Douglas and Star Valley.”

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