Jan. 26—Senior Night can be a bittersweet experience with so many emotions, but Tuesday's home wrestling matches in Libby was about as sweet as it can be.
The Greenchain hammered Polson, 60-18, and topped Columbia Falls, 39-33.
The performances left head coach Dean Thompson feeling pretty good as the regular season wanes.
"We've had a good year, but we're not done," Thompson said. "We gotta wrestle hard as we get into the postseason. Everyone's had to battle illness and injuries, but with divisionals coming up, it's time to keep working."
Eight senior members of the team were recognized between the dual meets Tuesday. They included Jace DeShazer, Marley Erickson, Zekiah Meyer, Drew Munro, Xavier Reatz, Joey Wise, Richard Harris and team manager Samantha St. Onge.
Against Columbia Falls, the Greenchain were the beneficiaries of four forfeit wins, but there was still excitement as two Libby grapplers rallied from sizable deficits.
Riley Orsborn's forfeit win at 103 pounds made it 6-0, but Wildcat 113-pounder Traic Fainter pinned Sami Jocks to tie it.
At 120, sophomore Bridger Bache trailed Brad Beck 6-2 after one period. But a reversal and three back points put Bache up 7-6. Official JR Rebo circled both wrestlers repeatedly to see if Bache had the pin, but Beck barely fought it off.
Bache stayed on top and in control in the third period to notch the win and give Libby a 9-6 lead.
At 126, Cash Byrd pinned Carter Benjamin as the Wildcats retook the lead, 12-9. The lead grew to 18-9 when Octavius Christianson pinned Darrin Denton. But Denton gave the home crowd a few moments of excitement when, trailing 8-0, he reversed the Wildcat and put him on his back to cut into the lead.
Erickson, seemingly sensing he was wrestling at home for the final time, pumped his fist in celebration after pinning CFalls' Blake Horner in the second period. Erickson led 2-1 after one period before the fall that got him and the home crowd rolling.
Meyer's forfeit win at 145 pushed Libby ahead, 21-18. It became tied when Billy Gustafson topped Connor Benson, 10-3. The Wildcats scored pins in the next two matches to take a 33-21 lead.
While Columbia Falls was to forfeit the last two matches, the Greenchain were running out of time when sophomore Ian Thom took the mat at 182 pounds against Kaden Kaiber. But Thom decked Kaiber at the 3:44 mark to help Libby pull within six points, 33-27.
After DeShazer and Hunter Nelson picked up forfeit wins, the Greenchain were winners.
Against the Pirates, Orsborn and Jocks each scored pins to get Libby off and running. Bache and freshman Brayson Orr claimed forfeit wins to make it 24-0.
At 138, Erickson had a first-period pin to make it 30-6 and Meyer followed with a 44-second fall at 145. Benson got a forfeit before Wise scored a pin at 160 and Hunter Rooney's forfeit made it 54-6. At 182, Thom trailed 4-0 before tying it at 4-4 against Kyrin Doty. The Pirate eventually won by fall.
DeShazer claimed another forfeit. He did get some work in during an exhibition match against Polson 285-pounder Durai Mahkuk, pinning him in 40 seconds.
Thompson liked the progress he's seen from Benson and Denton along with freshman Tristen DeShazer, who's been competing on the j.v.
"Connor faces a lot of tough kids, but he keeps battling and he's done a great job stepping up. Tristen is really improving his wrestling and Denton has shown us some things, too," Thompson said.
The Greenchain was 5-3 last weekend at the 25-team Class A Duals in Butte. Their wins included Polson (54-18), Park-Livingston (48-30), Lewistown (41-29), East Helena (48-30) and Dawson County (45-24). Defeats were to Billings Central (43-24), Laurel (69-6) and Miles City (48-24).
Libby wrestles today at the Whitefish Duals, then takes on Eureka and Cut Bank at Eureka Saturday at 1 p.m.
The divisional tournament will be held Feb. 2-3 in Hamilton while state, as usual, is at MetraPark in Billings on Feb. 9-10.