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Panther wrestlers take 8th at Jug Beck Classic

Powell Panthers took eighth place in their first-ever appearance at the Jug Beck Rocky Mountain Classic wrestling tournament in Missoula, Mont., over the weekend.

Junior Jacob Davis was runner-up at 160 pounds and was the top finisher on a Panther team that placed seven wrestlers in the top eight.

Head coach Nate Urbach stressed how impressive it is to place in a tournament of the Jug Beck’s caliber.

“I can’t say it enough,” the coach said. “To get in the top eight in this tournament is a heck of an accomplishment.”

Powell amassed 127.5 team points in two days of competition.

Great Falls High School (Great Falls, Mont.,) won its third straight Jug Beck title with 249.5 points, 64.5 points more than the second-place Havre Blue Ponies (Havre, Mont.,), 73 points more than third place Central Valley (Spokane, Wash.,) and 122 more than Powell’s score.

Powell was 15.5 points behind seventh-place Sentinel High School (Missoula) and eight points in front of ninth-place Mead High School (Spokane, Wash.,).

The invite-only tournament featured 32 teams from Oregon, Idaho, Washington and Montana. Powell was Wyoming’s lone representative, and Urbach said the Panthers already have been invited to next year’s Jug Beck Classic.

Urbach said the quality of the competition was something the Panthers took some time adjusting to, but it ultimately will serve them well down the road.

“The better competition you get, the better off you are when you get in those tight matches with other teams,” Urbach said.

He equated Powell’s Friday performance to a batter in baseball getting used to a new pitcher who throws a great fastball.

“We weren’t used to the speed of the ball until the second day,” Urbach said. “We lost some tight matches [Friday] that we won the next day in similar circumstances.”

Davis advanced to the 160-pound championship bout after a tight semifinal match that he won in overtime.

Davis led 4-0 with less than 30 seconds remaining, but his opponent evened the match at 6-6 with 15 seconds left, forcing an extra period.

But Davis pulled it out and his dramatic win advanced him to the finals, where he lost 7-2 to John Fairbanks from University High School (Spokane, Wash.).

Sophomore Nic Urbach placed fourth at 126 pounds. Both of Urbach’s losses,

including a 5-0 loss in the third-place match, came against Silas Hopkins of Bozeman High School.

Sophomore Chance Karst (120 pounds) and junior Colton Parham (132 pounds) each placed fifth in their weight class, respectively.

Urbach said he was happy with the way each Panther wrestled and gave Powell what it needed to place in the top 10.

“Colton has really come along and so has Chance,” Urbach said.

Karst beat Ryder Day of Kalispell Glacier (Kalispell, Mont.,) by an 11-2 major decision in the fifth-place match.

Parham claimed fifth with an 11-2 major decision of his own against Hunter King of Mead.

Sophomore Kye Catlin took sixth at 145 pounds after losing a 4-2 decision in the fifth-place match to Zayne Brunz of Columbia Falls High School (Columbia Falls, Mont.,).

Senior Matt Widdicombe defeated his Columbia Falls opponent, Bryan Shaffer, by a 4-0 score to claim seventh-place at 152 pounds.

“Widdicombe had a really tough quarterfinal,” Urbach said. “He had a couple calls go the wrong way for him, but he came back like a champ.”

Junior Riley Stringer rounded out Powell’s placers with an eighth-place finish at 220 pounds.

Juniors Noah Wozney (106 pounds) and Rowdy Gard (285) and senior Grant Nickles (170) were each one win away from placing in the top eight.

Urbach said Nickles performed exceptionally well, considering he was overmatched in most of his bouts.

“He’s undersized at 170, but he won two or three tight, gutty matches,” Urbach said. “That bodes well for him and (us).

Senior Zach Thompson, who routinely finds himself at the top of the 195-pound standings, did not place in Missoula.

“He ran into some pretty tough kids and lost two tight matches,” Urbach said.

It was a disappointing weekend for last year’s state title hero, but Urbach said he expects Thompson to bounce back better.

“He’ll be all right,” Urbach said. “It will be a good wake-up call for him.”

The Panthers will keep a busy schedule this week, which features three straight days of competition.

Powell will travel to face Greybull High School in a dual at 6 p.m. on Thursday. Then the team will head to Lander for the Lander Invitational Friday and Saturday.

Bouts in Lander begin at 2 p.m. on Friday and 9 a.m. on Saturday.

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