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Butler’s dramatic win leads La Plata wrestlers to revenge over Leonardtown
By JAMES A. McCRAY III
What a spot to be in as a freshman wrestler.
All of the eyes on you. The match win or loss to be determined by the outcome of your bout and not to mention falling behind 4-0 in your bout.
So was the case for La Plata 106-pound wrestler Cameron Butler in the final bout of the Warriors’ SMAC contest with the hosting Leonardtown Raiders on Tuesday night.
With his Warriors leading 33-31 going into his bout with Leonardtown’s Aaron Mortensen, Butler simply had to win and he would not only deliver the Warriors a win, but help avenge a Warriors loss to the Raiders from last season.
Butler was down 4-0 late into the third period when it all happened.
The freshman earned two reverse points to cut his deficit to 4-2. Then with 40 seconds remaining in the match, he earned three back points to take a 5-4 lead.
Butler then rode Mortensen out for the final moments, with fans of both teams in full throat, to win the bout 5-4 and deliver La Plata the 36-31 match win.
“It was great, being a freshman and first-year wrestler, to have a chance to win a match for the team against the team we lost to last year,” Butler said. “It was just a great feeling.”
He added, “I was just thinking … I had to prove myself as a member of this team. I was making sure I would do it for them and my grandmother and everybody up in the stands for me.”
La Plata head coach John Pankhurst and the Warriors had to depend on Butler after dropping three straight bouts heading into Butler’s bout. Despite that, Pankhurst and the Warriors wrestlers went from worry to exuberance, thanks to Butler.
And also thanks to Butler, La Plata remains undefeated at 4-0 (4-0 SMAC) heading into a dual meet tournament that it hosts beginning at 2:45 p.m. today and lasting through Saturday.
“It doesn’t matter what the score is, we keep going, chip away and get back into it,” Pankhurst said. “[Butler] wanted to be a little bit frustrated because at the end of the first [period] he made a little mistake there. But, he fought hard, got his reversal, got his turn and rode him out. He did an excellent job and I’m very proud of him.”
Senior Marty Margolis got things going for the Warriors, putting the first points on the board for his team with a second-period pin over Marco Cucinotta in the 120-pound bout. John Papanicolas (126 pounds) added a pinfall victory in the following bout, giving La Plata a 12-6 lead.
After a Dakota Wilhelm pinfall victory at 182 gave La Plata a 33-15 lead, the fireworks in the match began.
At 195, La Plata’s Tyler Padgett, down 19-6 late in the third period to Leonardtown’s Brandon Dennee, flipped Dennee on his back. And despite the referee calling a pin in favor of Padgett, the ruling was that the buzzer sounded before the called pin, delivering Dennee the victory via major decision.
Brian Mays earned a pinfall victory for Leonardtown in the ensuing bout at 220 and a La Plata forfeit in the heavyweight bout took the score to 33-31 in favor of La Plata and set the stage for Butler.
“Oh my goodness,” Margolis said of Butler’s bout. “I know he is a talented kid because I have watched him wrestle all season, but when he gave up the only four points that the kid scored in the last seconds of the first period, it made me a little nervous. He had a hole to dig back from, but I believed in him the whole time.”
Margolis was on the La Plata team which lost to Leonardtown in December of last season that ended a streak of 88 straight SMAC regular season victories.
“When we realized that they took away that undefeated [status] from us in SMAC last year, it really just added fuel to the fire,” Margolis said. “It made us that more mad and angry enough to go out to wrestle with more intensity.”
Leonardtown (0-3, 0-3) took an early 6-0 lead after Hunter Shelton earned a second-period pin in the opening bout of the match at 113.
But despite the late-match momentum heading into the final bout, the Raiders fell just short of winning a second match over La Plata in as many years.
“It was a good effort and we came up short,” Leonardtown head coach Dave Cummins said.