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Warriors crank it up in final week, capture 2nd in Darby

DARBY — In the final week of the regular season, the Arlee Warriors served notice to the rest of the Western B-C teams that they shouldn’t be taken lightly at the divisional tournament this weekend.

The Warriors placed seven wrestlers at the Darby Invitational Tournament Saturday to finished in second place with 131 points, just edging out the Florence Falcons by a half a point and Darby by a point. 

The Corvallis Blue Devils won the 10-team tournament with 182.5 points.

The Warriors were able to beat the Falcons, who are heavily favored to repeat as Western B-C champions, without Logan Lefler, one of their top wrestlers. The 125-pound sophomore will compete in Deer Lodge this weekend.

Cole Rice wrapped up the season just like he started it – with a championship. The 140-pound junior  defeated Blue Devil Riley Nagel 11-6 to win his sixth championship of the season.

Bryce Norling, the Warriors’ 215-pound wrestler, pinned Corvallis’ Bryce Gauthier in 16 seconds and Noxon’s Derek Jensen in the second period to make it to the finals, where he was defeated by Florence’s KaCee Sutton.

“KaCee is a solid wrestler and Bryce wrestled him well. We still have a week to improve before the tournament,” Arlee coach Ken Hill said.

Austin Rubel (105), Zach Tameler (145) and Damon Cordier (160) all took home bronze from the tournament.

Rubel, a freshman, pinned Thompson Falls’ John Gunderson in 26 seconds in the consolation match to recover from his first Western B-C loss of the year. Rubel was a perfect 12-0 against divisional opponents before losing to JT Hamblen in the semifinals.

“Austin knows what he did wrong and I don’t think he will make that mistake again,” Hill said, adding that there is a good chance that he will get a chance to avenge the loss in the divisional championship match.

In only his second tournament of the year, Tameler paid back an earlier loss to Darby’s Hayden Gandy with a 5-2 decision in the consolation match. The sophomore loss a 7-4 decision to Gandy earlier in the tournament.

Cordier defeated Mission-Charlo’s Chad Anderson 12-3 to finish in third.

“Damon is always tough. His improvement this weekend was offense on top. He has gained confidence in running moves on top and being able to ride his opponents. He should do well this weekend,” Hill said.

Cameron Dominick and Curt Seidel each finished fourth for the Warriors and Leif Rova picked up two wins in the 145-pound class before being eliminated from the tournament.

 Dominick’s tournament was highlighted by a 17-16 victory over Mission-Charlo’s Casey Nitschke in a whirlwind match. 

It was the first time that Dominick had beaten Nitschke this season.

With the late additions of Tameler and Clayton Trimble, who went 2-2 in Darby, the Warriors are putting more wrestlers on the mat and are healthy for the divisional tournament.

The Western B-C Divisional Tournament will start at 10:30 Saturday. Only the top four placers in each weight class will qualify for the state tournament in Billings Feb. 12-13.

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