For the 28th year in a row, a dual-format wrestling tournament will be held this weekend in Butte.
There are, however, some changes. The meet, formerly known as the Mining City Duals, now honors the man who created the tournament – legendary Butte High wrestling coach Jim Street. The event was recently renamed the Mining City Duals Jim Street Classic Wrestling Tournament, honoring the coach who led Butte High to 13 straight and 15 overall Class AA state titles.
Street brought the idea to Montana in 1989 after his 1987 team went to Hawaii and participated in a dual tourney. The format is now used across the state.
Another change this season is a new presence in the Bulldogs’ head coaching seat, as Cory Johnston has taken over the program. Johnston’s first weekend at the helm saw Butte High wrestle to a 3-3 dual-meet record.
The Bulldogs open action Friday at Butte High at 10 a.m. when they take on Billings West. Butte High continues action at 1 p.m. (possibly earlier, depending on when previous duals finish) against Corvallis, and winds up Friday’s action against three-time defending Class AA state champion Great Falls High with a dual slated to begin at 5:30.
Other notable teams in the field of 24 include two-time Duals champion and three-time Class A state titlist Havre, along with all 14 Class AA schools. Havre has won the meet five times and has placed in the top four 11 times, including a run of 10 of the last 11 years. Butte High has five Duals titles and a total of 15 top-four finishes, though the last one was in 2004, and the Dogs’ last title was won in 2002.
Butte High is coming off a string of disappointing State Meet finishes, but that’s all history, according to the Bulldogs’ new coach.
“It’s never too late for a fresh start,” Johnston said Wednesday after his team’s practice. “Each year you get a chance to start over. You can’t change the things that happened in the past, but you have some control over how it ends up. We got off to a good start and we have some momentum going in.”
The Bulldogs will field a full lineup of 13 wrestlers for the weekend’s action, including a few backups who will be available to fill in where and when needed. The rest of the Butte High team will compete in the Whitehall Duals Friday and Saturday.
Starting lineup for the duals includes Ax Henningsen at 138 pounds. The senior has gotten off to a good start with a 6-0 record, while sophomore heavyweight Jeff Queer’s ledger stands at 5-0 thus far.
Senior Kelly Merrick is back at 132 pounds this week after racking up a 5-1 record bouncing between 132 and 138 last weekend. Gabe Tierney (120) and Tyler Vetter (126) scored three victories apiece last weekend, as did Kaleb Ferriter (145), Kadin Schonsberg (160) and Kadon Queer (170).
Freshman Kyle Harding is back in the lineup at 205 pounds following a bout with pink eye, while fellow frosh Will Queer mans the other end of the weights at 103 pounds. Tyler Casey (113) and Quinn Cunneen (182) registered wins over the weekend, while Willie Anderson steps in for his first varsity action of the season at 152.
“The key for us is the first match,” Johnston said of Butte’s dual with West. “We need to go out and get after it.”
Johnson welcomes the challenge of facing defending state champion Great Falls.
“We don’t go into a single match thinking we can’t win it,” Johnston said. “Our style is different, and they’re going to have to work hard to beat us. Great Falls is a good team, but they had graduation too. You can’t keep the cupboard full forever.”
Butte High graduated four seniors last spring, including 205-pound state champion Lee Cannon. Great Falls saw 10 of its 22 state qualifiers from last spring graduate, including a pair of state champs, two finalists and two other placewinners. Still, the Bison have a dozen wrestlers who competed at state, including former titlist Tommy McMillen and 132-pound runner-up Jordan Komac.
Johnston likes the idea of wrestling in Butte, though he said local fans traveled well over the last weekend.
“We probably had the second biggest contingent behind Helena High last weekend in Helena,” Johnston noted. “But we want people there to watch us. We’ve been working hard and the kids deserve that kind of support.”
(Following first round, times are approximate. Following rounds will begin as mats clear)
Pool 1 – Havre, Missoula Hellgate, Belgrade, Helena Capital; Pool 2 – Great Falls, Corvallis, Butte, Billings West; Pool 3 – Sidney, Bozeman, Dillon, Huntley Project; Pool 4 – Missoula Sentinel, Kalispell Flathead, Conrad, Polson; Pool 5 – Billings Senior, Missoula Big Sky, Ronan, Helena; Pool 6 – Columbia Falls, Billings Skyview, Great Falls Russell, Kalispell Glacier
Round one, 10 a.m. – Butte v. West, Mat 1; Havre v. Hellgate, Mat 2; Sentinel v. Flathead, Mat 3;Sidney v. Bozeman, Mat 4; Helena v. Big Sky, Mat 5.
Round two, 11:30 a.m. – Belgrade v. Capital, Mat 1; Great Falls v. Corvallis, Mat 2; Dillon v. Huntley Project, Mat 3; Flathead v. Conrad, Mat 4; Skyview v. Glacier, Mat 5.
Round three, 1 p.m. – Columbia Falls v. CMR, Mat 1; Senior v. Ronan, Mat 2; Havre v. Belgrade, Mat 3; Corvallis v. Butte, Mat 4; Bozeman v. Huntley Project, Mat 5.
Round four, 2:30 p.m. – Great Falls v. West, Mat 1; Sidney v. Dillon, Mat 2; Sentinel v. Polson, Mat 3; Senior v. Big Sky, Mat 4; Skyview vs. CMR, Mat 5.
Round five, 4 p.m. – Conrad v. Polson, Mat 1; Ronan v. Helena, Mat 2; Columbia Falls v. Glacier, Mat 3; Bozeman v. Dillon, Mat 4; Capital v. Hellgate, Mat 5.
Round six, 5:30 p.m. – Sentinel v. Conrad, Mat 1; Senior v. Helena, Mat 2; Sidney v. Huntley Project, Mat 3; Havre v. Capital, Mat 4; Great Falls v. Butte, Mat 5.
Round seven – Columbia Falls v. Skyview, Mat 1; Belgrade v. Hellgate, Mat 2; Corvallis v. West, Mat 3; Flathead v. Polson, Mat 4; Big Sky v. Ronan, Mat 5; CMR v. Glacier, first open mat.