The day after winning his second state title a year ago, Nathan Butler went to work towards a new goal.
“I knew it was a possibility, that if I worked hard enough I could do it for a third time,” the Leavenworth wrestler said. “It wasn't a goal of mine, per say, to go undefeated, because I believe in just wrestling in the present from one match to the next. But I knew if I worked hard, good things would happen.”
Three hundred, sixty-four days later, that notion became a reality. At the Class 5A state wrestling championships Saturday in Wichita, the senior capped off a perfect 44-0 season by capturing the 285-pound crown.
“It's definitely exciting,” Butler said. “It's also bittersweet because my journey here at Leavenworth is nearly over. I just think of all my friends and teammates and coaches... it was a really great ride.”
For the Stanford-bound grappler, who holds multiple school records including most wins in a season, it was his third-straight state title. He is the only Pioneer to ever accomplish such a feat.
“It's hard to put into words the level of excellence and standard Nathan has set,” LV coach Jay Johnston said. “I remember him as the gangly-looking freshman who had a lot of ability, but not a lot of confidence. And now, I'm just really proud of the wrestler and human being he has become. Who knows if I'll ever get one like that again, but I just know he made it fun for me to be a coach.”
As a team, Leavenworth placed 13th overall with 53 points. On top of Butlers' ring, Danny Wilson also earned a medal after going 3-2 at 113 to nab fourth overall.
“It's been a long road with Danny,” Johnston said. “He has had two years of heartbreak where he could've got a medal and different things cropped up, and so you always pull for a kid like that. I'm just glad something good happened for a good kid.”
Next was 220-pounder Jesse Colver and 160-pounder Tilden Edwards, who both secured 2-2 marks. At 182, Josh Ammel went 1-2.
The remaining Leavenworth participants: Brad Young (106), Danial Wilson (132), Jacob Harrington (152), Peter Gardner (170) and Kenneth Sculley (195), each finished 0-2.
“Overall as a program we are climbing,” Johnston said. “I thought our kids did well and all of them battled. We finished second in league and took 10 to state, so I'm very proud of the level that our guys have brought this program up to. I'm just real blessed with the kids that this community has and I think we have a very bright future.”
Page 2 of 2 - Pair of Lions capture wins
Like its rival, Lansing had multiple competitors participate at the Class 5A state championship meet.
Leading the Lions were Cole Hoing in the 126-pound division and Caleb Ward at 182. Each recorded wins to finish 1-2.
“We were real proud with how we went and competed,” Lansing coach Ron Averill said. “With Cole and Caleb, I felt like they did the job they were suppose to do. Overall, a little disappointed that we couldn't get a few more wins, but they all went in with positive attitudes and put their best efforts forward.”
As a group, Lansing placed 26th overall with 4.5 points.
Jordan Girard (113), Sky Summers (120), Elijah Hill (132), Will Gering (138) and Camden Chiles (160) all finished the tournament with 0-2 marks.
“I'm very positive about the future,” Averill said. “All those guys on the way home from the tournament were already making plans for next season, and that obviously pleases me as a coach.”
Ram comes up one victory shy
For Pleasant Ridge's Jared Johnson, Saturday was a bittersweet day.
The 170-pound wrestler had the privilege to compete for a perfect season, only to see it dissolve away with a 7-5 loss at the Class 3A state championship finals in Hayes.
Thus, a silver medal wrapped up a stellar career for the PR senior, who ended up with over 150 wins to his name.
“It was unfortunate that it couldn't end in a more happier way, but to see what Jared has become over the last four years, I could not be any more proud of him,” PR coach Darren Weber said. “There were a lot of great moments and he deserved everyone of them.”
Clayton Gum was the other Ram to compete at state. The 106-pounder went 2-2 in the event, helping Ridge come in 20th overall with 27 total points.
“I was really happy with how Clayton wrestled,” Weber said. “He competed hard and came up just one win short of a medal, but he left everything out there and that is all you can ask for.”