Advantage Butte Meeting draws attention to wrestling

By Bruce Sayler

A small number of participants for the November Advantage Butte meeting discussed and acted on a list of business issues. The meeting took place at the Butte Plaza Inn.

Matt Stepan was one of the busy people at the meeting – as Montana Tech’s athletic director and an active member of the Butte Wrestling Club.

Stepan wore his Montana Tech hat and introduced Tommy Heppler, who was recently appointed associate director of the Montana Tech Foundation athletic division. He will have promotional and other responsibilities at the college’s track and field, Stepan said.

“I work with Montana Tech to make athletics successful,” Heppler told the group. “We set the bar high for football and fell a bit short. It’s not how you fall, it’s how you get back up.”

Narrowly missing out on a Frontier Conference football title and a spot in the NAIA playoffs, the Orediggers finished their season with a 7-3 record and 24th national ranking.

Heppler added that volleyball, which recently qualified for the NAIA tournament, golf and cross country have all had successful fall seasons for Montana Tech. Four cross-country runners will compete at the Nationals. The Orediggers will host a volleyball playoff game Saturday pitting Montana Tech against Westmont (California) at the HPER complex. Winner advances to Sioux City, Iowa National Finals.

Heppler added that Montana Tech’s men’s and women’s basketball teams got off to a good start in their winter campaigns.

Butte Civic Center manager Bill Melvin said the HYPOXIA 22 crossfit event, which normally takes place at the Civic Center, will be held on December 3, but at the Copper King Inn. The Civic Center will not be available until the end of January as it is being used for the production of the 1923 television miniseries. Melvin said the Butte High-Butte Central boys’ and girls’ basketball games have been rescheduled for Jan. 31 at the Civic Center and will be the first sporting event at the arena this school year.

Advantage Butte CEO Rody Holman chaired the meeting. Holman represents PayneWest Insurance. Melissa Bolton of the Butte Plaza Inn/Best Western is serving as group secretary and reported that the Butte 100 mountain bike event will open registration for the 2023 race in January. The announcement came from event owner Stephanie Sorini, who is also executive director of the Butte-Silver Bow Chamber of Commerce.

Montana Special Olympics Development Director Brenda Hergott commended Advantage Butte and the Butte community for the work they have recently done in conducting the Special Olympics State Basketball Tournament. Hergott said seven venues in Butte were used to hold the tournament, which featured more than 160 games involving 89 teams.

“The tournament went very well,” she said. “The opening ceremonies were so much fun, the dancing and carnival was wonderful and so many people in Butte got involved in it all. Bob Green, JP Gallagher and many, many more participated. Advantage Butte had 31 sponsors.”

Hergott presented Holman with a gift of a framed Special Olympics sports commemorative picture to be displayed where Advantage Butte decides. This year’s tournament was the last in a three-year run for Butte as host. The tournament heads to Helena next fall to start its three heats there before returning to Butte in 2026, Hergott said.

Holman spoke about the Jim Street Mining City Duals High School wrestling tournament scheduled for the second weekend in December and Butte Wrestling Club managing the event. The tournament is being held at the Butte High School gymnasium due to the Civic Center being temporarily occupied for television production.

On the day of the promotion, Advantage Butte approved up to $1,600 to fund a hospitality room for the tournament. Holman said a request for financial assistance was recently received and advised “we should look at it positively.” The discussion centered on the fact that the tournament is good for Butte’s business and for the image of the community. Melvin has increased the group’s OC funding to $1,600, with receipts required. Buttesports.com supported the motion through Representative Bruce Sayler and the motion passed unanimously.

“We should go ahead and fund it, cover revenue,” Melvin said ahead of the vote.

“I think this is an important year for this tournament,” said Stepan. “It’s always been a tent tournament in Butte and I know there are plans to expand it regionally.”

Wrestlers continue to be nurtured in Butte, which has a historic tradition in the sport.

Stepan added that this year the wrestling club offered free registration.

“The mission is to provide access to all Butte boys and girls who wish to participate,” he said.

Stepan said Montana Tech has been a busy place over the past few days as the school recently hosted seven events in 10 days. In addition to the Special Olympics, basketball, volleyball and soccer competitions were included.

The volleyball playoffs on Saturday and the men’s basketball games on Friday and Saturday at the HPER complex will rock the facility this weekend.

Butte High Activities Director Chuck Merrifield noted that there are big events on the school year schedule, including the Western AA Seeding Tournament for wrestling at the Civic Center on February 3-4, the State Class AA basketball tournaments in March, and then the State Class AA-B Track Meet end of May. He said volunteers will be asked to help with many needed for the track meet.

Treasurer Brad Spear, who represents accounting firm Anderson ZurMuehlen, said Advantage Butte has $25,273 in the bank and $23,100 for events. He added that bills have been sent out to renew memberships for that school year.

The next Advantage Butte meeting is scheduled for December 20th at the Butte Plaza Inn.

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