BUTTE — Thirty years ago legendary head coach Jim Street and the Butte High wrestling team were invited to a wrestling tournament in Hawaii.
A former wrestler of Street's, who coached in Washington state had been to the tournament before, told the tournament director to give Street a call. He did, and Street told him they'd love to come compete in the massive dual tournament.
Butte, in the midst of 13 straight Class AA state championships, was one of the best high school programs in the nation. It was a natural fit.
One massive fundraising effort later and the Bulldogs were headed to the Aloha State over the 1987-88 winter break. They won the tournament — the first team to make it through unbeaten — and Street came back with an idea.
He was going to bring the format back to Butte and create a massive dual tournament.
Just like that, the Mining City Duals were born.
"Our format is a little different from theirs, but the idea was the same," Street said. "It's a dual meet tournament where you come through the brackets and crown a team champion."
It's grown tremendously and now brings in every Class AA team in the state as well as some of the top programs in Class A and Class B.
There’s even a waiting list to get into what's also referred to as the Jim Street Classic.
“It’s one of the most important things we have for the wrestling scene in Butte,” Bulldog head coach Cory Johnston said. “Kids dream of this when they’re younger. I always stress to kids how lucky they are to be here.
“We’re lucky to have such good fan following.”
Split into six pools, the teams will wrestle three duals on Friday in hopes of making it into the winners pool on Saturday.
Butte in Pool 4 draws rival Bozeman as well as Helena High and Missoula Hellgate. Pool one is made up of Glacier, defending Class A state champion Havre, Conrad and Frenchtown. The second pool includes Polson, CMR, Billings Senior and Dillon.
Pool 3 will pit Skyview against Huntley Project, Lewistown and Missoula Sentinel. Missoula Big Sky is joined by Ronan, Billings West and Great Falls High in Pool 5.
Defending Class AA champion Flathead will square off against Belgrade, Columbia Falls and Helena Capital.
It’s a stacked tournament and a great way for teams to get a sense of where they sit early in the season. Johnston also mentioned it’s a great way to get wrestlers experience at different weights, which can be critical when figuring out lineups for the rest of the season.
The Bulldogs also see it as a chance to show off in front of their home fans, something they won’t have much of chance to do this year. After the Mining City Duals, Butte has just one more home meet — a dual against Bozeman on Jan. 9.
“We’re excited to have everyone here,” Johnston said. “We don’t have a lot of chances to compete at home this year. The kids are excited, we’re excited.
“I feel good. Everyone’s ready and we’ve been doing some good things to start the season.”
Butte enters the Mining City Duals with a 4-2 dual record. The Bulldogs went 3-1 on Dec. 2 with wins over Helena Capital, Helena Capital and the Bozeman JV. Their lone loss was to Missoula Big Sky, 36-34.
Heavyweight Jeff Queer is 6-0 to start the season, as is 120-pounder Gabe Tierney. Both will have huge tasks ahead of them this weekend.
Havre has won the dual each of the last four seasons and it remains to be seen if the Blue Ponies will be knocked off this weekend.
Twenty-three other teams certainly would like to see that happen.
"It’s a great tournament," Street said. "Everyone gets to wrestle a bunch and gain confidence. It, by far, is the best dual tournament in the state."