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Bryce Weatherston admits he’s biased, but he believes Belgrade has the best coaching staff in the state.

On a night when the Panthers wrestled without two of their best performers, the head coach gave full credit to his assistants for helping prepare the rest of the team to step up in their stead.

At Gallatin on Tuesday evening, the Raptors claimed the early advantage only for the Panthers to erase it en route to a dual victory. Belgrade won the final six matches of the night, including one by forfeit, to earn a 46-29 win.

“All we’ve been preaching all year has been heart and giving us six minutes, seven if it takes it,” Weatherston said. “I’m proud of the guys. It was a good-fought effort.”

On Tuesday, the Panthers were missing both Nolan Brown (103 pounds) and Colton Gutenberger (113) due to injuries. Both are ranked No. 2 in Class AA at their respective weights. Belgrade’s win showed Weatherston the team is capable of great things despite not being at full strength.

“Everyone’s going the right direction. Every week we’re performing better and better,” he said. “Once we get everyone healthy, that’ll be huge for us.”

Belgrade’s turnaround technically began with a Mason Watson win by forfeit at 120 pounds, but it really started in earnest at 126 pounds, where Blake Eatmon won by fall in 1 minute, 33 seconds over Gallatin’s Lily Schultz. That win cut the Raptors’ lead to 29-24.

Belgrade’s Mason Gutenberger won by 13-1 major decision over Gallatin’s Kameron Amende at 132 pounds, and Carter Schmidt followed with a 47-second pin of Bode Naffziger for a 34-29 edge. Oden Currier and Colter Lindsley added to the team’s lead with falls in 13 seconds and 1:16, respectively, at 145 and 152 pounds.

“They have some really high-end kids,” Gallatin coach Nate Laslovich said.

Belgrade’s run of wins at the end undid all of the Raptors’ early work in winning five of the first seven matches.

Felix Peterson, at 160 pounds, started the Raptors off well with a 17-2 technical fall over Belgrade’s Logan Linn. Peterson scored the first takedown of the match in the first period, and the only points he allowed came on a reversal shortly after. Peterson added a reversal and a near-fall of his own in the middle period for a 6-2 lead. In the third, he secured another takedown and then followed with four more near-falls to reach his final margin.

“It tells me I’m getting in good positions and staying solid, but I need to work on finishing those,” Peterson said of his near-falls.

It was a showing that Laslovich said the team needs out of Peterson.

“That kid he beat, Logan Linn, he’s a really good wrestler,” he said. “For Felix to tech fall him was great. Felix is a three-time state player, a super tough kid, so you kind of expect that out of him — great results.”

Teammate Landry Cooley built Gallatin’s lead to 11-0 with a fall in 30 seconds against Tayden Vitt at 170 pounds. Ben Rogers and Xaden Cunningham won the next two matches for Belgrade by fall.

The Raptors countered with three falls of their own, first by Oakley Woody at heavyweight (2:20), then Talan Trettin at 103 pounds (41 seconds) and Isaiah Christensen at 113 pounds (3:17). Those wins gave Gallatin a 29-12 lead, its largest of the night before Belgrade fought back.

“It’s great to get all those wins in a row,” Peterson said. “It keeps that momentum going, keeps everyone fired up and energetic.”

Belgrade ultimately got the better of its hosts, but Weatherston credited the second-year program on the other side for showing flashes of what it will, in time, grow to be.

“Hats off to those guys. They showed up and wrestled,” he said. “It’s hard to rally behind yourself when the program’s not quite there yet. And they’ll get it there. Those coaches are phenomenal. Gallatin will get there. At the end of the day, Nate always coaches the grittiest kids.”

Belgrade also won the two girls matches of the evening: Destiny Taylor won by fall in 35 seconds over Brianna Larsen at 113 pounds, and Dekota Carter scored a 12-10 decision over Maria Matosich at 145 pounds.

The Raptors saw more progress in their young program on Tuesday, but there is still more that can be done before the state tournament arrives in just about a month.

“Just getting in that practice room, getting everyone healthy, maintaining that health, getting everyone in better shape, obviously,” Peterson said. “We’ve got to work on technique and just get motivated, get in that winning mindset.”

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Parker Cotton can be reached at or 406-582-2670. Follow him on Twitter @ByParkerCotton.

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