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Panther Eli Reed, shown here in an earlier competition, won his match by pin at the Columbus dual meet.

The Jefferson wrestling team’s match-up with Columbus-Absarokee last Friday was more than just another dual competition. Columbus-Absarokee are the defending Southern Division Champs; Jefferson, took the division title in 2018. So this was a meeting of small-school powers.

Leo Anderson, the Panthers’ All-State wrestler at 103 pounds, made quick work of his Columbus opponent with a pin. But Jefferson’s lead soon vanished as its next four wrestlers all lost by pin: Christian Davis at 113 pounds, Dominick Davis at 120, Cody St. Clair at 126 and Jace Oxarart at 132.  

Finally, Jefferson’s Josh Armstrong was able to go the distance, but he lost his 138-pound match in a hard fought 11-4 decision.  That left the team score at 27-6, with Columbus building a fat lead.  

Then, the tides suddenly turned as Jefferson went on a roll. Eli Reed, at 145 pounds, turned in a pin. Miles Dodge at 152 did the same. And so it went: Talon DeMers at 170, Dakota Dorn at 182 and Matt Riehl at 205. Pin, pin, pin.

The dual came down to the 160-pound class, with Braeden Jones facing a must-win situation. But in the major upset of the evening, Jones was thrown to the mat and pinned. 

That left Jefferson up 36-33, with one match remaining. Unfortunately, that match was at 285 pounds, where Jefferson did not have a competitor and, therefore, had to forfeit. Columbus took the competition by a 39-36 score.  

This was a tough loss – the second dual in a row the Panthers have lost by three points. On the other hand, Columbus-Absarokee boasts five All-State wrestlers to Jefferson’s one – so the Panthers’ near-miss was in some ways a show of strength. The squad will look for greater consistency as it enters the second half of the season.  

Jefferson’s next action will be a mixer in Three Forks on Thursday, January 9.  The next morning, the Panthers will head to Cut Bank for a two-day 30-team tournament that showcases many of the state’s best Class AA, A and BC schools.

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