‘I’m in it for the team’: Kinnick’s Butts would be happy to cede spotlight
January 15, 2009
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — A significant achievement virtually got lost among the many other headlines in last year’s Far East High School Wrestling Tournament.
M.C. Perry’s army of one, Craig Bell, captures 122-pound title! Osan’s Emily Albonetti shatters glass ceilings, becomes first female wrestler to place in a Far East tournament! Kadena’s Jacob Bloom, Kubasaki’s Scott Wood become three-time champions!
So one might understand if Nile C. Kinnick’s Cameron Butts felt slighted, even resentful, that his Far East Tournament Outstanding Wrestler honors fell slightly below the radar.
But the senior 135-pounder says that while individual honors are all well and good, they take a back seat to the team.
"To me, winning doesn’t necessarily involve myself," Butts said during Saturday’s Kinnick Invitational "Beast of the Far East" Tournament, in which he was also named Outstanding Wrestler.
Butts would trade such honors in a minute, he said, for a chance to bring home the team title banner from next month’s Far East tournament at Okinawa’s Camp Foster Field House.
Last February, the Red Devils were 10th out of 11 teams in the freestyle team standings and failed to place in the dual-meet portion of the tournament.
Thus, rather than plying his vast knowledge of the game for himself, he’d rather give that wisdom to his teammates to help them get better.
"To me, if I’m doing well, but the team isn’t, then I’m doing something wrong," Butts said.
True, individual wrestlers are not competing for team honors, but they’re all there cheering for their guy on the mat at that moment, and as the team support grows, it helps each individual ramp up his game, Butts said.
"Without that team support, you’re not going to go anywhere," he said. "Teammates need you as much as you need them. It’s an individual sport, but it’s also a team sport. I’m in it as an individual, but more than that, I’m in it for the team."
That’s been Butts’ attitude, his coach Nico Hindie said, since Butts arrived from Fletcher High School in Jacksonville, Fla., just after Thanksgiving in 2007.
Butts began wrestling as a third-grader living in New Jersey, and the two seasons before he came to Japan, Butts twice earned Gateway Conference championship honors.
"From Day 1, he came to practice very humble and he was willing to help out all the wrestlers," said Hindie, who’s also Kinnick’s athletics director. "He puts the team before himself."
Other coaches took notice, not just of Butts’ ability, but the way he carries himself off the mat.
"He’s a nice kid. He’s humble. He’s a great wrestling tactician, he’s in great shape and he’s mature. He gets it," said coach Steve Schrock of defending Far East champion Kadena. "His wrestling ability speaks for itself. It’s fun to watch him wrestle."
Butts’ route to Far East saw him go unbeaten at 135 pounds; his only two defeats in 35 bouts came at 141, when he went up in weight to challenge then-reigning Far East champ David Heitstuman of E.J. King.
Butts’ season culminated with a 8-0, 9-0 superior decision over Kadena’s Dylan Bruton for the 135-pound Far East title.
"It’ll take a tough kid to bring him down," Seoul American coach Julian Harden said. "We need more wrestlers like him out there."
There could be, if Butts has his way.
"This year, I’m taking everything I know and putting on the team so the team can get one [title]," he said.
One thing he does know is, he won’t sneak up on anybody this year. The Outstanding Wrestler is always a marked man.
"I still get jitters before every match," Butts said. "But I take every challenge that comes to me."
The last thing he can afford with everybody gunning for him is a big head.
"I know I have a good chance to repeat, (but) I know I’ll have a tough bracket at Far East," he said. "I’ll take it one match at a time."
Putting the team first the whole way, no doubt.