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Missoula Sentinel junior wrestler Reece Eckley, right, takes off his headgear after pinning Bozeman's Ethan Faure in a quick 25 seconds in a meet last season in Zootown. Eckley is among the many Missoula wrestlers who will take part in the Garden City Duals at Hellgate Friday. 

MISSOULA — The Hellgate, Sentinel and Big Sky wrestling teams will battle for Missoula supremacy when they square off in the Garden City Duals on Friday at Hellgate.

Big Sky and Hellgate start at 3:30 p.m., Big Sky and Sentinel follow at 5:30 p.m., and Sentinel and Hellgate close at 7:30 p.m. The school that wins two duals will win the tournament and the "Battle of the Axe," a traveling trophy containing the school colors of all three teams.

“It’s always an exciting environment whether one team thinks they’re going to win or not,” Big Sky head coach Rick Moreno said. “It’s just a really highly competitive dual. It’ll be fun. I know Sentinel’s not as strong as they were in the past, but I’ll never underestimate their team. I know it stung us last year with the unfortunate mishaps we had losing to them. We want to bring that trophy back to us. I think it’ll be a good, hard-fought dual.”

The triangular is the final tuneup before the postseason begins with divisionals the next week. Big Sky will host the Western AA divisionals on Feb. 2. The state tournament is Feb. 8-9 in Billings.

“It’s a time to refine our skills a little bit, get our head right,” Moreno said. “It’s always a crosstown rival, so it’s always good to get that kind of competitive spirit rolling right before we go into divisionals. We’re kind of approaching it like any other competition. That’s kind of the word in the room is consistency. We approach it with the same mentality and attitude. You can’t control it, it’s always going to be hyped up.”

Epperly breaks state’s assists record

Bigfork senior Anders Epperly broke the state’s all-class assists record during Friday’s 72-49 win over St. Ignatius. He eclipsed the mark of 691 set by Randy Robinson of Kremlin-Gildford during the 1991-92 season.

“It feels pretty good,” the 5-foot-10 Epperly said of breaking the record. “I got to give all the credit to my teammates and my coaches. I’ve been blessed to play with some great teammates ever since my freshman year, when coach (Sam) Tudor gave a little freshman the starting point guard job. I know that probably wasn’t pretty easy for him.”

Epperly upped his career assists total to 699 in Friday’s win, which moved Bigfork to 11-1 on the season and 78-9 during his four years. A two-time all-state player, he doesn’t have an assist number he’s eyeing but is focusing on ending his career with back-to-back Class B state titles.

“If I get a lot of assists during my career, that’s great,” Epperly said. “Hopefully, I can end my career with a win. That’s the biggest goal. I’d rather have that with my team than any records or anything like that.”

Epperly credits his ability as a passer to his grandfather and father, who taught him how to play basketball and be a leader on the court. He also learned from his brother, Evan Epperly, a former Griz football player.

“(Anders) is one of the finest basketball minds I’ve come across,” Tudor said of Anders, who is also the football team’s quarterback. “He’s a humble, modest kid and an amazing leader.”

Hellgate’s Worster eclipses 1,000 points

Hellgate junior Rollie Worster, a Griz basketball commit, reached the 1,000-point plateau during the Knights’ win over crosstown rival Sentinel.

Worster scored 21 points in the 64-34 win, shooting 7 of 10 from the field and 4 of 4 at the free-throw line. Showing his propensity to get his teammates involved, he dished out nine assists, too.

Libby's Doolin signs with Dickinson State

Libby wrestler Buddy Doolin signed his National Letter of Intent on Wednesday to wrestle at Dickinson State, according to the Loggers' Twitter account.

Doolin was the 103-pound Class B/C state champion in 2017 and the 113-pound Class A state runner-up in 2018. He was ranked as the No. 3 120-pound wrestler in the latest Class A coaches poll.

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Frank Gogola covers Griz football and prep sports for the Missoulian. Follow him on Twitter @FrankGogola or email him at Frank.Gogola@406mtsports.com.

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