By Bruce Sayler
The last weekend, the season-opening one, was a good one for the Butte High wrestlers. So, the Bulldogs are really looking forward to this next one.
Montana’s prep wrestling fandom usually anxiously awaits the annual holding of The Mining City Duals Jim Street Classic, anyway. Most likely, it being the premiere dual meet tournament in the state, stirs much of the interest. This year, though, the list of contenders seems deeper than in recent times, and the home team is on it. (Tournament schedule)
Flathead High of Kalispell joins Bozeman, Great Falls High and Havre as entries to head the list of contenders. Flathead is the reigning state Class AA champion and was the Butte tournament runner-up last year. Bozeman looms as, perhaps, the preseason favorite for this year’s state AA crown, Great Falls High is a consistent AA power and Havre, always a Class A juggernaut, is the five-time defending champion of The Mining City Duals Jim Street Classic. The Blue Ponies have the tournament title eight times in its 30-year history.
The 31st holding will be Friday and Saturday with competition beginning at 10 a.m. on Friday and 9 a.m. on Saturday. The championship round is scheduled for 4:30 on Saturday. All matches will all be wrestled in the two gymnasiums at Butte High School.
“We had a really good weekend,” Butte High head coach Cory Johnston said about dual meet wins over Kalispell Glacier, Helena Capital, Helena High and Missoula Big Sky, and a loss to Flathead in dual meets on the Bulldogs’ first two wrestling days of the season. “Friday, we had some jitters, but on Saturday, we kicked it up 10-fold. It was really good.”
The matches with the Kalispell schools were held there on Friday, and the other three meets came in the Capital City Duals in Helena on Saturday.
“We’ve battled a little illness early this week,” Johnston said, “but everybody’s up (for this weekend) and expectations are high.”
The Mining City Duals Jim Street Classic tournament field numbers 24 teams, including all 14 Class AA schools. Eight are from Class A with the other two being Class B-C entries. Defending state Class B champion Colstrip joins Huntley Project of the Class B-C ranks.
“There’s plenty of good talent coming in to wrestle,” Johnston said. “The pools are pretty evenly bracketed. It’ll be pretty exciting to see where everybody falls.”
Butte High is bracketed in Pool 6 with Flathead, Belgrade and Missoula Hellgate. The Bulldogs will square off against Hellgate in the Friday 10 a.m. round to start the tournament. They’ll have bouts against Belgrade at 1:45 p.m. and Flathead at 5:30. Butte High’s loss at Flathead last Friday was by a 42-26 score.
“We’re treating this one like a home dual,” Johnston said of the renewal of what has been a spirited wrestling rivalry over the decades. “We’re wrestling Flathead at 5:30 Friday in the old gym and we’d like to see it packed. It should be fun.”
A lot of positives sprouted for the program on opening weekend. Johnston pointed to the undefeated performances of Keagan Gransbery, Carl Anderson and Kameron Moreno as being highlights, along with strong efforts by Scout Allen and Anthony Liva. Gransbery was at 103 pounds, Anderson at 15w and Moreno at 205.
Allen scored a win at 132 pounds over a state place-winner during his weekend, and Liva, wrestling at 138, beat a contender who pinned him three times, all in first periods, during bouts last season.
The coach also lauded the efforts of Dylan Averyt at 145 pounds, Austin Endy at 182 and Christian Sherman at 113, all with no or little previous varsity experience before winning matches last weekend.
“It was a really good weekend,” Johnston said. “Everybody is doing his job.”
The Bulldogs aren’t looking past Hellgate or Belgrade, but, having met Flathead already, have been looking ways to reverse the results in their next meeting.
“We think we can win more,” the coach said. “We’ve been watching film and will be making adjustments. It’s a good opportunity to put ourselves in a really good place.”