West Scranton senior wrestler Cameron Butka picked up his 100th career win on his way to capturing the gold medal at 285 pounds at the Class 3A East Super Regional and securing a trip to the PIAA Championships in Hershey and a state medal.
In the quarterfinals, Butka decisioned Frederick Retter of Quarkertown, 11-5, to reach the milestone 100th win. In the semifinals, he beat No. 1 seeded Julien Laventure from Upper Darby, 3-1, in sudden-victory overtime. The in the final, he faced Nazareth’s Sean Kinney, who pinned Butka one week earlier in the final at the Northeast Regionals. This time, Butka prevailed, 6-4.
At states, Butka earned the No. 1 seed and will meet No. 8 William McChesney from Greensburg-Salem in his opening match.
Here is more from Butka’s Athlete of the Week interview:
Family: Father, Rob; mother, Josephine (“Pina”); brother, Jake; sister, Mia
Other sports I play: Baseball
Athletes I admire: My dad. He was an athlete in his college and high school days. And he’s been my coach.
Favorite food: Any type of pasta
Superstitions and rituals: Right before I go out and wrestle, I always have to slap my arms and my legs to wake my whole body up. I do it every single match. Kind of like good luck.
Three people I’d like to have dinner with: Both my parents and either my brother or sister. I’m not really into having dinner with famous people. I just love my family so much, they’re always there for me no matter what I’m doing. They’re my No. 1 fans. I came home (from the Super Regional) and they were all waiting outside with party poppers and noisemakers.
How much pressure did you feel going into the Super Regional with 99 wins? I felt a lot of pressure. I was nervous the morning of. It’s a situation that would make a lot of people uncomfortable, especially going into a big tournament. But I managed to pull through. After that first match was over, it felt like a huge weight was lifted off my chest. I only had to win one more to advance (to states). That’s what my main concern was. Did you think about the 100th win during the week leading up to the Super Regional? It wasn’t possible for me to not think about it. It was one of my main goals throughout my wrestling career, to get 100 wins. I tried not to focus too much on it; my main concern was win and advance. No matter if it was by a single point, a tech fall or pinning a kid, I didn’t care how it happened. I just wanted to keep going and make my season last as long as possible.
In the semifinals, you won in sudden-victory overtime. Describe your winning move: With about 30 seconds left, I almost got two (points), but we ended up going out of bounds. At that point, I realized that my stamina, being a lighter guy and more athletic than most of these heavy guys are, that I could wear him out. So I figured I’d wait until sudden victory and try to get another sweep single. I’ve been working on getting ankles better, especially on bigger guys. These guys I’m wrestling, they can weigh up to 70-80 heavier than I am; I weigh-in around 200. So I just have to make sure not to shoot right underneath my guys, just to make sure I don’t get crushed and squashed.
In the Super Regional final, you faced Kinney, who you lost to in the Northeast Regional final. What did you learn from that loss? I learned that as I face tougher competition, these guys aren’t going to be easy. They’re going to know how to use their weight, they’re stronger than I am. I realized I have to get a lot more movement and a lot more finesse on my shots. Just to make sure I can use a lot more leverage to take them down rather than getting stuck underneath them. How were you able to avenge that loss? At practice the entire week, I was doing 100 shots to each leg. I got input from a lot of different places that helped me out and realize what I needed to change to make a difference in the way I’m wrestling these bigger kids. It ended up working out.
You also play baseball and spring sports begin today (March 8). What is it like having the seasons overlap? All I’m concerned about right now is wrestling. When baseball season comes, it’s baseball season. I’m making such a good run right now to states, I don’t want to do too much and risk getting hurt. Focus on one sport at a time. Will you take a few days off after wrestling season before going to baseball practice? I’m sure I’ll want to take a few days off, but I’ll probably end up at practice. I’m probably going to be the lead pitcher for our team this year, so my coach is going to want me to start getting my arm warm. How does the baseball team look this year? I think we’re going to be good. A majority of our team is seniors. They’re kids who have been on the team almost all four years. I think we can make a good run as long as we stay consistent and try our best.
What was it like wearing a mask while wrestling? I tend to be an overthinker and that was just one more thing on my mind. I wear a paper mask and if it snaps, that gives the other guy more time (to catch his breath). One of the main components I’m proud of myself with is conditioning. Being able to have more stamina is a big part of wrestling. Any time off the mat (to fix a mask) can be crucial to winning or losing the match.
Post-graduation plans: I committed to Wilkes University about two or three weeks ago. I had a couple of schools reach out to me for wrestling and baseball. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to play a sport in college. I thought I might be a little overwhelmed. My plan was to just go and study biochemistry and live a normal college life, not as an athlete. I’ve been doing it my whole life and I figured I could use a break. But after this wrestling season, I realized how much I’m going to miss it. I would never wrestle again if I didn’t wrestle in college. So I figured I liked Wilkes’ wrestling program and they have a pretty good science program there. So I figured why not try it out? I’m sure I’m going to like it and I hope to be successful, too.
During more than 30 years at The Times-Tribune, Scott has covered everything from high schools to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. His current beats include motor sports, local colleges, high school cross country and high school baseball. He also is a copy editor and page designer. His articles have won awards from the Associated Press Sports Editors, American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association, Eastern Motorsports Press Association, the Society of Professional Journalists Keystone Pro Chapter and the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association Keystone Press. He also has been honored by the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League and the Minor League Football Alliance. In 2016, he was presented the Media Service Award by the Northeastern Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. A Long Island, New York, native, Scott graduated from the University of Scranton in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in communications. He lives in Peckville with his wife, Andrea, and daughters, Bridget and Emily. Contact him at email@example.com; 570-348-9100, x5109; or @swalshTT on Twitter