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Graham finds way to beat Columbia Falls nemesis

by Brad FuquaWestern News
| January 28, 2009 11:00 PM

Finally, Justin Graham could raise his arm in victory with a defeat of Columbia Falls’ Kelly Houle.

Libby High School’s No. 1-ranked senior had lost to Houle four times last season when both wrestled in the 189-pound weight class. At state, Houle finished runner-up while Graham settled for third. This season, it appeared their rivalry would end with Houle remaining at 189 and Graham moving up to 215.

“They’ve always had good matches, go to sudden death or one point like ths one here,” LHS coach Jay Graham said after his son defeated Houle, 3-2, Tuesday night in a dual against the Wildcats. “The horsepower, I think, made the difference.”

Columbia Falls moved up Houle in a strategy to gain more team points but it backfired. Graham led 3-0 early in the second period and then had to hold on for the win – literally. In the final seconds, Houle could’ve tied the match and sent it to overtime if he could escape Graham’s clutches. But Graham wouldn’t let go.

“Nice, real nice,” Justin Graham said afterward about the victory. “Hopefully, it set a tone where he won’t want to ever go up again.”

It was only Houle’s second loss of the season.

Libby dominated the dual by winning nine of the 11 matches that materialized. The Greenchain forfeited the four lowest weights to spot the visitors 24 points. Libby won its first eight matches before Columbia Falls came up with a victory. Then, after a second straight win, the team battle came down to the final match. And Libby sophomore Morgan Peek came through.

“When we moved him, I told him ‘I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t have faith in you,’” Coach Graham said. “Sometimes that works out for you and you seen like a genius; sometimes it doesn’t work out.”

Peek, who is not a regular varsitiy wrestler but moved up because of all of the juggling with the lineup, actually won the match easily. He shot out to an 8-0 lead over Josh Folsom in the first period, nearly pinning his opponent on two occasions in the final minute. He went on to an 11-2 win and Libby got the team victory, 37-33.

Kyle Sweedman, Kody Berget, Seth Wright, Brandin Mills, Kyle Leir, Tate Wilson and Cody Elliott also posted victories.

“That was an exciting dual,” Coach Graham said. “I was proud of the kids … they were the aggressor, they were on the offensive. We moves some people, they moved some people. I thought our kids wanted it more.”

Sweedman, Kody Berget and Wright all moved up a weight class.

Sweedman dominated from the beginning in his 160-pound match against Joe Gross. Within the first 22 seconds of the first period, Sweedman had built a 5-0 lead with a takedown and three-point nearfall. Gross survived the rest of the period without further damage. In the second, Sweedman increased his lead to 7-0 before pinning him with 18 seconds left.

Kody Berget followed with another display of Greenchain power by controlling his battle with Aaron Howland. Berget led just 2-0 through the first but poured on the points for an 11-0 advantage heading into the third. Berget went on to win by technical fall, 19-2, with just four seconds left in the match.

Wright gave up a takedown early but recovered to take a 14-4 lead before sticking Doug Woodworth with 32 seconds left in the second period.

After Graham’s victory, Mills and Kenfield squared off all of the first period on their feet with several stoppages outside the circle. Mills was awarded a point for stalling.

In the second, Mills started in the down position and held tough throughout the period to cling to his 1-0 advantage. Kenfield started down in the third and got a reversal at 1:32 to take the lead but Mills got an escape to tie it up and force overtime. In OT, Mills won with 28 seconds left with a takedown.

Then going back to the lower weights, Leir, Wilson and Cody Elliott kept the Greenchain winning streak going.

Leir survived a close match with Travis Pete, 4-3. The 125-pounder led 4-0 through the first 3:06 and then held on the rest of the way.

Wilson followed at 130 with a victory over Virgil Matt. Wilson nearly won less than a minute in with a pin but Matt held on. In the second, Matt fought back to 5-3 only to see Wilson counterattack for an 8-3 advantage with two minutes remaining. He went on to a 12-4 decision.

Cody Elliott had the comeback of the evening and perhaps the season with a 9-8 decision over Shawn Whitman. Trailing the entire match, Elliott rallied from a 7-0 hole to nearly win by pin in the third period. Down 8-7 on points in the final seconds, Elliott got a takedown with one second on the clock to pull out the victory.

Columbia Falls finally got a win with Jarrett Smith’s pin of Dylan Berget in 52 seconds at 140. The Wildcats grabbed another win at 145 with Russel Plevel’s 10-3 decision over Charlie Berget.

Peek then clinched the team victory for the Greenchain.

As for Justin Graham, he’s on a mission to bring home a state title this season. The victory over Houle was a true test of his skill level.

“After this match, I feel as confident as I can get,” he said.

Libby gets back into action on the home mat Saturday by hosting Whitefish.

Libby 37, Columbia Falls 33

98 – Baccaro, CF, won by forfeit.

105 – Provience, CF, won by forfeit.

112 – J. Whitman, CF, won by forfeit.

119 – Richardson, CF, won by forfeit.

125 – Leir, L, dec. Pete, 4-3.

130 – Wilson, L, dec. Matt, 12-4.

135 – C. Elliott, L, dec. S. Whitman, 9-8.

140 – Smith, CF, pinned B. Elliott, 0:52.

145 – Plevel, CF, dec. C. Berget, 10-3.

152 – Peek, L, dec. Folsom, 11-2.

160 – Sweedman, L, pinned Gross, 3:43.

171 – K. Berget, L, tech. fall Howland, 19-2 (5:56).

189 – Wright, L, pinned Woodworth, 3:28.

215 – Graham, L, dec. Houle, 3-2.

Hwt – Mills, L, dec. Kenfield, 4-2 (OT).

Exhibition Matches

125 – Edwards-Myslicki, L, pinned Barlow, 0:41.

125 – Roby, L, pinned Barlow, 1:04.