(Editors Note: Montana Tech athletics release)
BUTTE – Montana Tech director of athletics Matt Stepan announced the 2020 Oredigger Hall of Fame Class Thursday. The newest members to the Tech Hall of Famer are Wade Bristol, Don Hawkinson, the 1988 volleyball team, the 1997-98 men’s basketball team, and the 1998-99 men’s basketball team.
Hall of Fame Weekend is slated for Sept. 18-19. The Oredigger football teams hosts Rocky Mountain College on Saturday, Sept. 19.
“We are very excited to welcome this class into our Digger Athletics Hall of Fame,” said Stepan. “This deserving collection of individuals and teams were selected from a robust and competitive candidate pool. We’ve seen an exciting resurgence in our Hall of Fame interest over the last few years that has presented a great challenge to the Hall of Fame committee when having to select amongst a very worthy group of nominees. We are excited to get them on campus and together celebrate the history and success of our programs.”
Bristol, from the Mining City and Butte High graduate, played football for the Orediggers from 1976-79 and was an assistant coach in 1980. The three-time all-conference performer was a leader for the Orediggers and known for his toughness and led by example. Bristol helped lead Tech to a Frontier Conference title in 1979 and was selected a second-team NAIA All-American that season. Bristol received the Ed Simonich Award for the top senior football player.
Bristol graduated with a degree in Mining Engineering and went on to have a prestigious career in the mineral industry. While working for Newmont Mining, Bristol led the effort in their support of Montana Tech academics and athletics programs. Bristol was named a Montana Tech Distinguished Alumni in 2013.
Hawkinson, also known as “Hawk,” has been a loyal advocate and contributor to Oredigger athletics and the Digger Athletic Association for decades.
“Don Hawkinson was one of the first people whom I met upon being hired to coach the Montana Tech football team,” said longtime head coach Bob Green. “When I arrived in Butte, Hawk was totally on board to back our efforts. His enthusiasm was not just limited to the Digger Gridders. Don was, and is, a regular at all home volleyball and basketball contests.”
While a list of contributions is difficult to compile for all that Hawk has done for the Orediggers, some of his efforts included: administered and organized the DAA golf tournament for many years, helped found the Montana Tech Touchdown Club, and consistent contributor to the annual DAA auction, building outstanding wood work and wine barrel furniture.
“Perhaps most important of all, Don Hawkinson’s relentlessly optimistic and positive attitude toward all things Oredigger constantly distinguish him,” added Green. “Everyone fortunate enough to have had a haircut from Hawk receives not only a professional trim, but an exceptional dose of all the great things going on at Montana Tech.”
Led by head coach Rhonda McMullen, the 1988 Oredigger volleyball team finished with a 31-8 overall record. The Orediggers won the Frontier Conference regular-season title with a 7-1 conference record and won the conference tournament. The team went on to win the district playoffs, bi-district championship game and two of four matches in the NAIA national tournament in Topeka, Kansas. The NAIA national tournament appearance was the first for an Oredigger volleyball team.
Coach McMullen was named Co-Coach of the Year and Rona Dickson was named the Frontier Conference Player of the Year. Dickson was also named the NAIA District 12 Player of the Year. Dickson was one of three Oredigger earning first team nods from the Frontier with Lisa Tad and Jenni Miskimins. Tad was also selected to the all-district team with Dickson. Sylvie Adam and Kelly Galloway earned second team honors.
The 1997-98 and 1998-99 men’s basketball teams were led by Hall of Fame Coach Rick Dessing. The Oredigger men finished the 1997-98 season with a 22-11 overall record. The team finished the season winning 15 of their last 17 games including the Frontier Conference Tournament. While not winning the regular season crown, the team defeated No. 16 MSU-Northern 73-67 in the Frontier Conference Tournament and became the first men’s basketball team to reach the NAIA National Tournament.
Hall of Famer Brian Watson was named the Frontier Conference Player of the Year as well as received a third team All-America honor. Four Orediggers received all-conference accolades. Watson and Rod Hurd were named first team, Brodie Kelly was selected to the second team and Jeff Bellach was an honorable mention. Watson led the Frontier in scoring averaging 19.4 PPG. Cassio Mafia led the conference in assists per game with 5.9. Bellach, also a Hall of Famer, averaged 15.8 PPG. Scott Finley led the conference in three-point field goal percentage with 47.5%. Brodie Kelly averaged 6.0 RPG.
The 1998-99 Oredigger men repeated as Frontier Conference Tournament Champions finishing with an 18-15 overall record. The Orediggers defeated Western Montana College 59-58 on a 23-foot buzzer beater by Scott Finley on the road in Dillon to win the conference tournament. The team went on to defeat Lewis-Clark State in the NAIA Regional playoff game to reach the NAIA National Tournament for the second straight year. The Orediggers won eight of their last nine games going into the national tournament.
Watson earned his second Frontier Conference Player of the Year Award and was a NAIA First Team All-American averaging 22.7 PPG and 9.6 RPG. Five players were recognized by the conference with Watson and Bellach receiving first team honors, and Mafia was second team selection. Bellach also received an honorable mention All-America accolade.
More information about Hall of Fame Weekend Sept. 18-19 will be released at a later date.