For most of the fans packed in the Rimrock Auto Arena in Billings Saturday, the moment that Bulldog Jame Petersen decided he wasn’t going to lose went unnoticed. But the trained eyes of his coach saw it.
After losing his fourth semifinal in four tries at the state tournament, Petersen was tied with Deer Lodge’s Bobby Ray in the final seconds of his first wrestleback match. Then Ray gained an advantage on the 145-pound Charlo senior and looked like he was going to score a takedown before the two teetered out of bounds. It was then that Mission coach Lyle Cronk saw it in Petersen’s eyes.
“You could tell right then, that he decided that there was no way he was going to lose,” Cronk said.
Back in the center of the mat with his newfound resolve, Petersen quickly took down Ray to escape with a 4-2 victory. He advanced to the third/fourth-place consolation match, where he pinned Florence’s Zach Newbary in the third period for the best finish in his high school career – he finished fifth as a sophomore and sixth last year.
“To dig down deep and find the resolve to win took a lot,” Cronk said, after Petersen’s match with Ray.
Petersen really had to search to find the determination to beat Ray in a situation, where lesser men would have crumbled. Petersen entered the tournament with a 29-2 record and had only one goal; to make the championships. It appeared that he had reached the goal, but had it ripped away from him, after he took down Conrad’s John Schlosser in the first overtime, but was ruled out of bounds, despite the referee holding up two fingers after the takedown. In the third overtime, Schlosser, who Petersen defeated 6-4 in overtime in the Choteau championship match, escaped Petersen’s grasp with 6.5 seconds left in the third overtime to win the match 2-1.
“After the semis, I tried to pump myself up, but I really couldn’t,” Petersen said, but added he still felt confident going into the match against Ray.
“I thought in the beginning I was going to win, but then when he started strong I was kind of second guessing myself,” Petersen said. “But toward the end, I knew I was going to win. I worked too hard not to win. I just knew I had to finish.”
Petersen’s victory over Ray, set up a rematch with Newbary, who he defeated 17-10 in Choteau. During the match in Choteau, Newbary put Petersen on his back and thought he pinned him and hasn’t been shy about letting people know how he felt. In the consolation match, Newbary never came close to putting Petersen on his back, and Petersen dominated the match before pinning him at the 4:52 mark.
“He (Newbary) might have thought Choteau was a mess up, but it wasn’t,” Petersen said.
Scotty Gilleard was the only other Bulldog to join Petersen on the podium. Gilleard, who finished sixth last year, finished in fourth place in the 125-pound class. For the Mission sophomore ignorance was bliss at the tournament and against opponents he knew nothing about he went right after them.
“When Scotty’s aggressive, he’s as tough as anyone,” Cronk said.
Gilleard opened the tournament with a 12-10 decision over Forsyth’s Craig Nelson and advanced to the semifinals with a 16-1 technical fall over Conrad’s Colt Harris.
In the semifinals, he ran into the eventual champion Val Rauser, a Townsend junior who earned the tournament’s quick pin award after pinning his four opponents in a combined three minutes and 32 seconds. Gilleard lasted longer than most of the Townsend junior’s opponents, but was pinned at the 1:06 mark in the first period.
In his first wrestleback, Gilleard met up with Nelson again, this time defeating him 16-11 to earn a spot in the third/fourth-place consolation match against Arlee’s Logan Lefler, which he lost 11-4.
Lefler had defeated Gilleard all three times the two had faced this season, including last week at the divisional tournament.
“It’s difficult to wrestle somebody that has beaten you a couple of times. If you’ve been beat, sometimes it’s hard to make yourself believe you’re going to win,” Cronk said.
The loss to Lefler couldn’t diminish what Gilleard accomplished at the tournament.
“I’m really excited with how he wrestled. He beat some tough kids from the east and west...Fourth place is an excellent place to end up for a sophomore and it’s an improvement from last year,” Cronk said.
In his first year of high school wrestling, Mission senior Nick Dinnell was just one match away from placing at the tournament in the 285-pound class. After starting the tournament by pinning Fort Benton’s Robert Shinaberger in the third period, Dinnell was sent to the loser bracket after losing a 7-0 decision to the sixth-place finisher, Maverick Quiroz.
Dinnell started Saturday by pinning Logan Brown from Huntley Project at 1:28, but his tournament was ended with a close 7-6 decision against Townsend’s Tate Pool.
“Before the match, we talked about win or lose to go out and wrestle aggressive, and he did that,” said Cronk.
Travis Dumont was the only other Bulldog senior to make the trip to Billings, but wasn’t able to get a win in the 152-pound class, where no wrestler from the Western B-C placed. Cronk said that it was a tough way for Dumont to end his career, but that the senior did a great job this season of being a leader of a very young team.
Chad Anderson was one of the Mission-Charlo underclassmen to notch a win at the tournament. The 160-pound sophomore pinned Conrad’s Ramsey Offerdal at 2:23 in his second match at the tournament. Russell Schultz, a 119-pound sophomore who placed sixth last year, Joel Lewis, a 189-pound junior, and Dillon Edwards, a 98-pound junior all went 0-2 at the tournament.