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Butte Sports Hall of Fame announces honorees for 2024 induction class

Posted at 4:02 PM, Feb 06, 2024

(Editor's Note: Butte Sports Hall of Fame release)

BUTTE — The Butte Sports Hall of Fame will grow by 13 individuals and seven teams during the induction ceremony this summer.

Individuals set for induction are Steve “Coachie” Schulte, Ron Richards, Matt Buckley, Martha (Apostel) Lonner, Wanda Jean (Matteson) Olson, Linda Lyons-Paull, Dan Lean, Erin Popovich, Kyle Smith, Don Tamietti, Bruce Sayler, Betty Merrifield and John Rickman.

Teams going in will be the 1983, 1984 and 1985 Montana Tech men’s basketball teams, the 1989 Butte High boys’ basketball team, the 1991-92 Butte High wrestling team, the 1996 Butte High softball team and the 1999 Butte Central softball team.

The Green Jacket Ceremony will be held July 19, and the induction banquet will be July 20. Both events will be held at the Butte Civic Center.

Rickman, Merrifield and Sayler were voted in by the members of the Hall of Fame. The rest were selected by the 12-person selection committee. Committee members are Dave Dunmire, Jim Street, Anna Keltner, Mike Hogart, Jason Alexander, Phil Madrazo, Michele Shea, Gina Evans, Cathy Tutty, Ray Jay Johnson, Matt Vincent Krystin (Mengon) Lee

Following is information on each individual and team from the Butte Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2024:

Steve Schulte  

Steve “Coachie” Schulte was an outstanding running back and basketball player at Butte Central. His 2,683 career rushing yards from 1976-78 still stands as the best in BC history. He ran for 368 yards against Livingston in 1976, and that record stood for 21 years.

Schulte averaged 6.7 yards per carry in his BC career. He scored 31 touchdowns and racked up 2,762 total yards. He was named All-State in 1976 (when he ran for 1,008 yards) and 1978 (1,018 yards). He played in the 1979 Montana East-West Shrine Game.

Schulte played basketball for the Maroons, too. He was a member of BC’s 1978 state championship team.

Schulte has also left his mark as a coach. After turning around a nearly defunct program in Browning, where he earned his nickname, Schulte returned to Butte to assist on the 1996 Montana Tech football team.

The Orediggers played in the national championship game that year. Schulte then served as head coach of the Butte High football team from 1997 through 2001. Schulte was also an assistant coach on Butte High’s 2011 State championship softball team and the 2012 State championship football team.

Ron Richards

Ron Richards was a standout as a player and a coach. He was the anchor of the offensive and defensive lines for two State championship teams at Butte High — in 1967 and 1968. He was voted first-team All-State following each season.

He was a unanimous All-State pick on both sides of the ball in 1968. Richards was a captain for the West side in the 1969 Montana East-West Shrine Game. In 1999, Pat Kearney named Richards to Butte High’s All-Century Football Team.

Richards went on to become an All-Big Sky Conference player at the University of Montana, playing guard and tackle for the Grizzlies. In 1972, Richards was awarded team MVP honors as well as UM’s Paul Westcamp Award as the outstanding lineman.

Coach Richards began coaching as an assistant with the Grizzlies in 1973. The next year he started coaching at Butte High, where he stayed until moving to Montana Tech in 1985. Coach Richards served as offensive coordinator at Butte High and Tech. He was part of state championships at Butte High in 1977 and 1981.

At Montana Tech, his offenses routinely led the Frontier Conference in rushing. He served a stint as head coach at South Dakota Tech and as offensive coordinator at the University of Montana.

Matt Buckley

He was a standout football player at Butte Central and Carroll College in the 1970s. Buckley was a member of three State championship football teams at Butte Central from 1971-73. Buckley played both was as a running back and linebacker on the 1973 state title team.

Following the 1973 season, Buckley was picked first-team all-conference as a linebacker. There was no Class A All-State team picked that year. Buckley played in the 1974 Shrine Game before playing at Carroll College, where he played both ways. In his senior year in 1977, he was picked first team All-American on both offense and defense. Buckley was the first Saints’ player to accomplish that feat.

Buckley, an accomplished rodeo cowboy, also posted an undefeated boxing career at Carroll College.

Martha (Apostel) Lonner 

Martha was an outstanding skier for Butte High School in the early 1960s. It was acclaimed by one of her coaches that the Butte High ski team had a prodigy among them with Martha, as she demonstrated exceptional talent and skill on the mountain.

She was the first female athlete awarded a varsity letter for skiing or any other varsity sport for girls at Butte High School four years in row, making her a pioneer for women to join the ranks of varsity athletes.

She was on three straight State championship teams in 1960, 1961 and 1962 and was often the winner in most of the ski meets before the annual state championship meet.

She was the leading scorer for girls at the 1962 and 1963 annual state high school finals. During her senior year in 1963, Martha went through the season undefeated in the slalom, giant slalom and downhill. Lonner was awarded the Butte Athletic Council’s outstanding skier award twice.

She was selected as a member of the Northern Rocky Mountain Ski Association (NRMSA) Team and successfully competed in the annual Junior National Ski Championships throughout the United States four years in a row.

Wanda Jean (Matteson) Olson

Wanda Jean (Matteson) Olson was an outstanding runner at Butte High and Flathead Valley Community College. In 1977, she won three national titles in one day at the National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association. Her effort led the Mountainettes to the team championship.

Wanda won the 440-yard dash before anchoring championship runs in the 880-yard medley relay and mile relay.

Before that, Matteson was Butte High’s middle distance juggernaut of the Western AA division. Wanda won the Western AA divisional in the 440 three times during her career as a Bulldog, 1975. She finished second at the State AA meet as a senior and fourth as a junior and was awarded Butte High’s prestigious Bill Hawke Award both years as the school’s top girls track athlete.

Matteson passed away at her home surrounded by her loved ones in Roundup on October 9, 2022, after a long battle with Multiple System Atrophy and a short battle with cancer. Wanda will be remembered as one of the greatest girls’ middle-distance runners in Butte history.

Linda Lyons-Paull

Linda Lyons-Paull was a standout in girls’ basketball, gymnastics and track for Butte High in the 1970s. She played on the first two girls’ basketball teams at Butte High in 1974 and 1975. She was a three-year letter winner in gymnastics for the Bulldogs, her best sport. She also earned three letters in track for the Bulldogs.

Paull earned seven varsity letters at Butte High. She took her talents to Montana State, where she competed four years in gymnastics for the Bobcats. Following her playing career, Paull began coaching girls’ track and gymnastics at Helena High in 1980. Her 1988 Bengals gymnastics team won the state title, the only one in school history. Her 2000 girls’ track team won the state championship, the only one in school history.

Dan Lean

Dan was a long-time coach at Butte High School. He was an assistant football coach for the Bulldogs from 1974 through 1993. He was part of Butte High Class AA State championships in 1977, 1981 and 1991. Lean was on the Bulldog staff when the Bulldogs finished State runners up in 1975, 1975, 1986 and 1987.

Dan was an assistant basketball coach for the Bulldogs from 1976 through 1994, when he took as head coach for three seasons. He was on the bench as Butte High won the Class AA State basketball championship on St. Patrick’s Day in 1984. He was an assistant on the runner-up teams of 1989 and 1990.

Dan assisted with track at Butte High and helped coordinate and run the Butte track meets for many years. Dan was part of a small group involved in the development of the Butte Softball Association in 1968 and assisted that group as they fostered the success of organized softball in Butte.

Dan also served as a referee as a member of the Montana High School Association from 1967 through 1977.

Erin Popovich

Erin Popovich, a 2003 Butte Central graduate, was a world-class swimmer who is a member of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame. Popovich is a three-time Paralympian and 19-time Paralympic medalist. That includes 14 gold medals.

Popovich attended Colorado State University, where she received her Bachelor of Science degree and competed competitively against able-body athletes on the Rams swim team.

The Paralympic Games in Sydney in 2000 is where Popovich’s career really took off. She won three gold medals and three silver medals. She set four world records in her first trip to the games. Four years later, Popovich won seven gold medals in seven races in Athens. That included three world records and four Paralympic Games records.

Popovich is a two-time winner of the ESPY Award for Best Female Athlete with a Disability. She was also named the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Sportswoman of the Year in 2005.

Kyle Smith  

Kyle Smith was a three-time state champion wrestler at Butte High and a two-time NCAA All-American. The1998 graduate’s dominating career helped the Bulldogs win two state titles in the 1990s. In four years for the Bulldogs, Smith compiled an incredible 148-8 record for a Butte High team that also placed third at state in 1996 and second in 1998.

After going 33-4 and placing second at state at 145 pounds as a freshman, Smith went 36-1 and won the state title at 152 pounds. He won the 171-pound title with a 37-1 mark as a junior. The next year, he won the 189-pound title with a 42-2 mark.

Smith went on to a stellar career at the University of Michigan. In 2002 and 2003 he qualified for the NCAA Tournament, placing seventh at 197 pounds both times. He was named All-American both of those seasons.

In football, Smith was a two-year starter for Butte High at linebacker. Following his senior season, Smith was named first-team All-State.

Don Tamietti

Tamietti was a youth sports contributing legend in the Mining City. During his lifetime, Tamietti’s passion for sports and his contributions are many. From skiing to rodeos to speedskating and finally wrestling, he gave his all. He organized many events on his own to include bringing the district High School Rodeo to Butte in 1975 and 1976.

Wrestling was his greatest joy and his passion. Having started out coaching his grandchildren, he soon expanded to many more individuals. He spent countless hours training and mentoring many young men who went on to become high school champions.

As a proud member of the Butte Wrestling Club, Tamietti worked to organize and run many tournaments and matches at the Civic Center and other venues. The Joe McCarthy tournament, the NAIA tournament, and the Mining City Duals are just a few that my Tamietti organized or helped organize. The Cyclops Memorial Tournament was named in his honor.

During his years in the Butte Wrestling Club, Tamietti did everything from going out to recruit sponsors for programs to selling 50/50 tickets to coaching the wrestlers. Tamietti would often travel out of town to events, usually taking wrestlers with him. He took teams to Fresno, California and Waterloo, Iowa for tournaments.

Bruce Sayler

Bruce Sayler was a longtime sports writer for The Montana Standard newspaper. Sayler was hired at the local paper in 1979 and stayed at the Butte establishment until 2012. He served as sports editor for the final decade and a half of his run at the Standard, and he was a leader in making sure the paper covered every sport — including the girls. He was a pioneer in this regard.

In 2012 Sayler started working for, where his career continues into his 70s. He is currently in the middle of his 51st school year covering high school and college sports, and he has been a voter for the Heisman Trophy for nearly a quarter of a century.

Betty Merrifield

Betty was a teacher and administrator in the Butte School District for over thirty-six years with her last twelve years spent as Principal at West Elementary, before retiring in 2002. However, Betty’s involvement with kids and athletics has continued even after retirement.

She is a true contributor as her involvement in sports through the years has been and continues to be entirely voluntary.

Betty was instrumental in starting the Butte Track Club in the late 1960’s, and she continues to serve today as club president.

She was the organizer and meet director of AAU & USATF Junior Olympic Montana State Association Championships, when hosted in Butte several times, and she has been the longtime meet director for the Butte Grade School Track meet. She has been the scorer, announcer and officials’ coordinator for Butte High track meets since the late 1960s.

Betty has also worked to put on road races in Butte and been a timer for Butte High and Butte Central cross country meets and speedskating meets. She was the chief of protocol for many world and national speedskating meets in Butte.

John Rickman

He was a standout basketball player for Butte Central in the late 1950s. Rickman was a starter for the Maroons in 1958 and 1959. He led the Class AA in scoring during the 1959 regular season.

He averaged 19.0 a game during the season scoring 458 points. John had 140 field goals and 177 free throws. The free throw mark set a new school record which still stands today.

Rickman scored in double figures in 23 of the 24 games he played in during the year. He tallied 20 or more points in 10 games and 15 or more points in 18 of 24 contests. During the 1959 state tournament in Butte, Rickman led the Maroons to an 80-64 opening game win over Kalispell.

John pumped in 37 points in the victory. At the time that set the school record for points in a game. The next night he had 28 points in a 70-58 semifinal loss to eventual state champion Butte High. He tallied 78 points in three tournament games.

Rickman was named to the All-Tournament and All-State team. He went on to play basketball at Gonzaga. In 1999, John was selected to the Butte Central All-Century basketball team.

1983, 1984 and 1985 Montana Tech men’s basketball teams

Coach Kelvin Sampson’s Orediggers were the talk of the town during their magical run in the 1980s. Tech won the Frontier Conference tournament titles in all three years. The Orediggers won the regular-season crowns in 1984 and 1985. In those three seasons, Tech compiled a record of 66-25, and the Orediggers advanced to the NAIA District 12 playoffs.

Those teams included stars like Cevin Johnson, Darryl Luoma, Terran Carter, Kent Andre, Robert Montague, Joe Puckett, Craig Russell and “Flyin’” Brian Vaughns.

1988-89 Butte High boys’ basketball

The Butte High boys’ basketball team might be the best Montana team to not win the state championship. Even without a title, they are in the conversation as being the best high school basketball team the Mining City has ever seen.

The 1988-89 Bulldogs won the Western AA Divisional title and took a 19-0 record into the state tournament. Kalispell, which fell to Butte High twice in the regular season and in the divisional title game, shocked Butte High 53-50 in the championship game.

Butte High entered the state tournament with three players averaging in double figures. Gary Kane averaged 22.3 points, while fellow seniors Jasson McNallie averaged 13.8 and Todd Ericson averaged 11.4 points. Senior Scott Hemmert and junior Corey Dunstan rounded out the starting lineup for Coach Pat Foley’s team.

Reserve players included (but are not necessarily limited to) seniors Fritz Daily, Marc Kelly and Dave Chamberlin and juniors Curtis Smith and Jason Booth.

The 1988-89 Bulldogs’ 21-1 record is the best record in school history.

1991-92 Butte High wrestling team

Coach Jim Street’s Bulldogs capped their run of 13 straight Class AA State titles in February of 1992 in Billings.

The Bulldogs scored 180½ points for the title. Billings West finished second at 164½, and Bozeman placed third at 156. Brodie Cooney at 98 pounds, Brent Choquette at 130, and Jason Street at 171 won individual titles to lead the Bulldogs to yet another championship. Choquette finished the season unbeaten.

In all, 10 Bulldogs placed in the top six. That includes Brian Church, who placed second at 135 pounds. Butte High got third-place finishes from John Burke at 105 pounds and Robin Moodry at 140. Dan Beckman placed fourth at 145, Brad Salvani took fifth at 119 pounds, Randy Riley placed fifth at 189, and Chuck Hazlett finished fifth at heavyweight.

1996 Butte High softball team

These Bulldogs prove that you don’t have to have a banner to be champions. Butte High captured the Western AA crown in 1996, but they were robbed of a chance to play for a state championship by heavy rain in Billings.

Butte High went 15-4 and finished the conference schedule undefeated, and the Bulldogs were ready to take the state by storm at the Class AA State tournament in Billings. The storm, however, struck first.

Jori Petersen led the 1996 Bulldogs from the pitcher’s circle, posting a 12-0 record with a 1.57 ERA. Keli Renz led the offense with a .488 batting average. Jennifer Hope (.471), Beth Toivonen (.438) and Misty Balentine (.432) all batted over .400.

Mandi Ueland (.293), Shannon Croley (.324), Heidi McCarthy (.323), Amanda Evans (.314) and Kristen Uggetti (.275) were also forces at the plate for the Bulldogs. Chrissy Leathers was a standout before suffering a season-ending injury late in the campaign.

1999 Butte Central softball team

A quarter century has nearly passed since the Maroons went 26-0 on their way to the Class A State title.

After rain moved the State tournament from Butte to Anaconda, Central beat Polson 72 before clobbering Laurel 13-1 in the championship game to complete the perfect season.

Anjie Lacey pitched both those games to run her record to 15-0. Alicia Wheeler went 11-0 on the season. The offense was powered by Heather Ryan, Jackie Hogart, Bryn Olson, Kacie Briney, J.J. Hogart, Melissa Brophy, Wheeler, Kaci Regan, Kate VanDaveer and Kelsey Orizotti. Sarah Thatcher was a standout outfielder, and Meghan Foley, Cianna Roeber, Erica “Bubba” Mahoney” also saw action for the champs.

Ryan batted a team-leading .5-7 during the regular season. Briney (.443), Brophy (.431) and Hogart (.410) all hit over .400, while Wheeler (.397), Olson (.373) and Hogart (.369) were not far behind.