Gillette won the tournament followed by Montana teams Belgrade, Forsyth, Billings Skyview and Billings Senior.
Olie Olson was the Panthers top placer, working his way into the finals with a technical fall over Mercer Pickens of Billings West and an 11-5 decision over Jordan Malarchick of Belgrade. In the finals, though, he took on Laural’s Dylan Kramer, and gave up a 5-1 decision to finish second.
Finishing third for the Panthers was Randy Andrews, who lost his semi-final match to Jace Jensen of Buffalo, 6-5, but came back with a win to earn a shot at third. He made good on the opportunity with a 2-1 decision over Jacob Sargent of Williston.
Charles Wittick fell into the consolation rounds when he lost a decision to Brett Ness of Billings Senior, but he battled through the wrestlebacks to face Ness again, before taking a 6-2 defeat.
Jessee Craig reached the semifinals with a quarterfinal win over Josh Materi of Thermopolis before losing to Taylor French of Forsyth. In the match for sixth place, he took on Derek Berrittini of Sheridan and pinned him in 1:54.
Both Waylon Bays and Jim Seckman reached the semifinals before losing, and both were injured in their semi-final matches and finished sixth by default. Bays suffered an ankle injury that Coach Nate Urbach will likely keep him out of action for at least two weeks, and Seckman was pulled out of competition to rest a knee that was bothering him.
Among the non-placers, Urbach noted that Dylan Rood returned to action following a knee injury suffered before Christmas and pinned a Thermopolis wrestler who was a runner-up at state last year. One of his losses was to a Buffalo wrestler ranked no. 2 in Wyoming. He also noted that Mike Mundy wrestled well and scored one pin.
Overall, Urbach said, he was satisfied with his team’s performance.
“We battled hard and we lost some close matches,” Urbach said. “It was a good tournament for us.”
This week the Panthers face a challenge from Greybull/Riverside on Thursday before heading for Buffalo for a dual meet tournament this weekend.
Last year’s dual with Greybull/Riverside came down to the last match, and the defending 2A champs are tough again, despite the recent death of one of their top wrestlers The Buffaloes opened their season by wrestling Worland to a tie in a dual meet and finished fourth in the Powell Invitational. They are coming off a win at the Don Runner tournament at Wind River High School last weekend.
The Powell Middle School wrestlers will kick off the competition Thursday at 4 p.m., taking on the Greybull/Cloud Peak wrestlers. The Panthers and Buffaloes will square off at 6:30 p.m.
Action begins on Friday at Buffalo, with several eastern teams, including defending state champions Douglas on hand to challenge the Panthers, and will conclude on Saturday.