Powell wrestlers won six matches on pins and earned one major decision to take a 46-39 win despite forfeiting two weight classes. Laurel countered with four pins and a decision, but couldn’t outpoint the Panthers, who were competing with an adjusted lineup because Montana schools have not adopted the new weight classifications.
The match opened at 119, where Karson Kukes, the top-ranked Montana wrestler at the weight, gave Laurel an early lead by pinning Colbee Craig. Dylan Rood and Drew Feller followed with pins of their own to put the Panthers up 12-6, but Kolton Kukes, another number-one ranked Montana wrestler pinned Grant Nickles at 135 just before the second-period buzzer to tie the match.
At 140, Zach Thiel fell behind, but came back with three take-downs in the third period before ending the match with a pin at the 5:35 mark. However, the match remained tied at 18 when Powell forfeited at 145, and a third top-ranked Montana wrestler, Tommy Cooper put the Locomotives in the lead with a pin over Nathan McDonald.
But Powell responded with three straight falls to retake the lead. Randy Andrews started the string with a second-period pin before Olie Olson took the mat for a match spectator James Andrew said was the “match of the night” with Laurel’s Ryan Gosselin.
Gosselin took an early 4-0 lead, but Olson came back, tying the match at 11 early in the third period before throwing Gosselin and pinning him with 22 seconds left in the match. Zach Thompson followed with a 44-second pin to give the Panthers a 12-point lead.
At 215, Kurt Bullinger took the mat against still another top-ranked Montana wrestler, Austin Boucher, and wrestled him on even terms before giving up a 7-6 decision that kept the Panthers’ team lead at nine points, 36-27.
Laurel’s Cody Stone-Murphy closed the gap to three points by pinning Rowdy Gard, and a Powell forfeit at 98 was matched by a Laurel forfeit at 105, leaving the Locomotives one last chance to take the dual with the 112 match. Charles Wittick erased that chance with a 14-6 major decision to give the Panthers the win.
It will be more duals for the Panthers this weekend when they travel to Worland for the Battle of the Big Horns. The tournament is wrestled as a series of dual meets, with pool competition beginning at noon on Friday. Teams will be seeded into brackets on Saturday following pool wrestling, and after the championship match, a dual featuring the best of the best from the teams attending will be wrestled. Powell finished third in the tournament last year, losing to Star Valley in the semi-finals. They won the tournament in 2008 and 2009.
This weekend’s action will conclude the year for the Panthers, who will next take the mat in the Bozeman Invitational, Jan. 6-7.