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Bennetts siblings, Nash lead Whitefish wrestling in Class A invites

Whitefish Pilot | January 25, 2023 1:00 AM

As divisionals and state competition draw closer, the Whitefish wrestling team is preparing to have its full team healthy and ready to go. Just two weeks away from the Western A Divisional tournament, the Bulldogs are still dealing with some lingering injuries, but hope to have all the athletes healed and ready for competition soon.

“Our goal is to be in the best shape we can be for divisionals and we’re on the right path for that,” Whitefish head coach Danny Neff explained.

Last weekend the team competed in two events — the Class A Duals for the boys and the Fergus Invitational for the girls. Although they didn’t place well as a team, Neff says that doesn’t reflect the talent on this squad.

“We didn’t compete at the best level because we didn’t have all our kids,” he said. “But I keep stressing to our athletes that, when we’re all healthy and all in our weight classes that we need to be in, we’re going to be a pretty dang good team.”

Whitefish’s only female athlete, Sam Bennetts, went 7-1 through two days of competition at the Lewistown Civic Center. Bennetts crushed the competition on day one, pinning four different opponents all in less than two minutes on the mat. On the next day, she won over girls from Custer County and Havre, before falling in the semifinal to Great Falls’ Alonna Fulmer.

Bennetts bounced back in the consolation semis, winning by a 6-5 decision over Anastasia Saldana from Hardin. She placed third overall.

“Who I was really excited about this weekend was Sam Bennetts… She’s only a freshman but she went out competing with some of the top girls in the state at her weight class and ended up taking third,” Neff said. “It’s really exciting to see those young wrestlers come into a program that’s unfamiliar to them and just pick up the reins and just go with it. She’s one of those wrestlers that not only I can count on but the individuals in the practice room can count on, pushing them.”

For the boys' competition, Whitefish was in Pool C and had duals against Havre, Libby, Lockwood and Polson. Many of the guys competing were coming back from injuries and it was their first time back on the competition mat in a while.

But the two that really stood out to Neff were Kai Nash wrestling at 205 pounds and Henry Bennetts at 160. Both only lost one match through the weekend.

“Henry’s made some huge leaps from last year competition-wise and being our captain on the team is a good leader on and off the mat,” Neff said. “So I’m really excited to see what he does at divisionals.”

“Kai is just so aggressive, he’s really fun to watch,” Neff added. “He’s got a gas tank and can wrestle hard for six minutes which a lot of the wrestlers in the state can’t do.”

The Bulldogs will host the Whitefish Duals on Friday, which invites several teams from around Class A to compete in the WHS gym.

“This is our time to get the crowd out, get a lot of the students from Whitefish out to support our athletes,” Neff said. “So it’s an exciting time for the athletes to get to wrestle in front of their home crowd.”

The Whitefish Duals will be the final regular season competition and the Bulldogs will then travel to Polson on Feb. 2-3 for the Western A Divisional.

The Whitefish Duals begin at 2 p.m. on Friday.