Top teams converge for Mining City Duals

By Bruce Sayler

The Butte High wrestling head coach got a good look at his team last weekend in some season-opening dual meets and tournaments. Cory Johnston liked what he saw.

“At both places, we had some young guys perform very well,” Johnston said. “(The junior varsity) took second at (the Belgrade Invitational), which is a varsity tournament, then in the Capital Duals, we were really close to going 4-0. Hopefully, we’ll get some things we did wrong fixed this week and maybe have a 3-0 day Friday.”

The Butte High varsity was 4-2 its opening weekend in dual meets. The Bulldogs split with the Kalispell schools on Friday, beating Glacier before losing to defending state Class AA champion Flathead. Then, on Saturday at the Capital Duals in Helena, they were 3-1 with wins over the Helena High and Helena Capital varsities and over the Bozeman junior Their loss was by 36-34 to Missoula Big Sky.

That was a light schedule compared to what Butte High and 23 other schools will be experiencing this weekend. The Bulldogs will be playing host to their 30th annual Mining City Duals Jim Street Classic Wrestling Tournament Friday and Saturday in the Butte High gyms. (Schedule)

Friday’s pool competition schedule includes Butte High matches versus Pool 4 opponents Missoula Hellgate at 10 a.m., Helena High at 1:45 p.m. and Bozeman at 5:30 p.m.,

The other schools entered are, by pool assignment: Glacier, Havre, Conrad and Frenchtown in Pool 1; Polson, C.M. Russell of Great Falls, Billings Senior and Dillon in Pool 2; Billings Skyview, Huntley Project, Lewistown and Missoula Sentinel in Pool 3; Big Sky, Ronan, Billings West and Great Falls High in Pool 5; and Flathead, Belgrade, Columbia Falls and Capital in Pool 6.

Havre, the five-time defending state Class A champion, is hunting its fifth consecutive Mining City Duals/Street Classic team crown.

After what Johnston saw from the Bulldogs the opening weekend of the season, he said he is enthused about sending the team to the mat again.

“I wouldn’t say I was surprised, but I was pleased with how well the young kids wrestled,” the coach said. “You see things in the wrestling room and you’re not sure how they will correlate to the (competition) mats. They weren’t afraid.”

Youth, though, also brings needs for experience, lessons and teaching. Johnston said there is plenty to work on, even with the optimistic start to the campaign.

“As a team, we want to be more explosive off the bottom,” he said. “We want to exploit that mentality that nobody likes to be ridden and so we need be more explosive off the bottom. And, we need to get going earlier in our matches.”

The competition is recognized as being as good as it gets, which means awfully tough, for this year’s installment of The Mining City Duals/Jim Street Classic.

“The Duals always are,” Johnston said. “Havre is a multi-time state champion, and Skyview is a great team. Bozeman is a great team and is in our pool.

“I’m happy about it. I want to see how we stack up against the best teams.”

Helena High fell to Havre in last year’s championship dual.

Some individual Bulldogs got off to terrific starts on the season last weekend. Sophomore Scout Allen went 5-1 with his only loss being against a two-time state placer, Johnston said. Sophomore Kobe Moreno went 6-0 and his twin brother, Kamryn Moreno, went 5-1 with is only loss coming when he moved up to a heavier weight class for a bout. Wil Queer suffered just one loss and senior Jeff Queer, defending state AA heavyweight champion, was undefeated both days. Gabe Tierney also posted a 6-0 mark.

“We had a really nice showing,” Johnston said. “Jeff had a great weekend, and Gabe always brings a ton of energy.”

Junior Kyle Harding won the 205-pound class in the Belgrade tourney and will wrestle varsity this weekend, sharing the spot with senior Greyson Mandic.Other entries figure to be Christian Sherman at 103 pounds, Wil Queer at 113, Tierney at 120, Allen at 126, Tye D’Arcy or Cory West at 132, Anthony Liva at 138, Quinn Sullivan at 145, Kole McGrath or Tanner Cooney at 152, Carl Anderson at 160, Kobe Moreno at 170, Kamryn Moreno at 182 and Jeff Queer in the 285-pound limit class.

Minor shifts in the lineup are likely throughout the meet.

“It should be a fun weekend,” Johnston said. “The top teams in the state will be there.

“I always like our chances. I never go into a fight I don’t think we can win.”