by Samantha Lefebvre
From first hitting the mat when he was in Kindergarten to among the state’s top wrestlers at 195 pounds, Blaine sophomore Caleb Butler continues to thrive and climb his way to the top in the challenging sport he fell in love with years ago.
Butler is 16-2 on the mat this season and is currently ranked seventh at 195 pounds in Class AAA . He is one out of four underclassman to be ranked in the top ten for this weight class and the only one in Class AAA, which is usually dominated by upperclassman.
But when it comes to wrestling seniors and juniors, Butler does not let the age and status of his opponents bother him. To him age is just a number and all he focuses on is their level of experience.
“It seems like I have been wrestling the same amount of years as them, so that is the way I think of it,” Butler said. “I don’t think of how old I am. I just think of how many years I’ve been wrestling compared to how many years they have been wrestling.”
So far this season Butler has wrestled and beaten top ranked state athletes including Mound-Westonka’s Will Van Sant who is currently ranked third at 195 pounds in Class AAA.
“He is in a tough weight class,” said Bengals first-year coach Josh Prokosch. “It is a solid weight class to be in as a sophomore.”
As the post-season approaches Butler prepares to take on top ranked wrestlers in his section in order to get to the state tournament. Standing in his path are juniors Michael Burckhardt of Coon Rapids and Mitchell Eull of St. Michael-Albertville. Burckhardt and Eull are both in Section 7AAA and are ranked fifth and fourth, respectively.
“I’ve never wrestled them,” said Butler. “But I want too.”
Despite the tough road to state Butler has his eyes set on getting to the state tournament this year and Prokosch thinks that goal is well within reach.
“The sky is the limit for him,” Prokosch said. “He should do well in sections and state.”
This season is Prokosch’s first year as head coach in Blaine and also his first year working with Butler.
“He is the nicest guy,” Prokosch said about Butler. “He coaches them [his teammates] and he tries to help them. He is a great team player.”
According to Butler, Prokosch has helped him and the rest of the team by not only teaching them the necessary skills for the sport but he has also offered many words of encouragement.
“He always has motivational words, more than our last coach,” Butler said. “Our last coach made us run more, do lots of cardio and just drill-drill-drill. Our coach now still drills, but he also teaches us more moves and helps with techniques that require less muscles and stamina.”
This season is Butler’s third on varsity for the Bengals. His dedication to the sport and his teammates has earned him a captain role this season.
“Being a sophomore and a captain is incredible,” Prokosch said. “He shows his leadership from a vocal stand point and by doing more than what is expected of him. That is rare to see in someone who is younger than the rest of the guys, yet they look up to him.”
Not only does Butler lead the team in skill, but he also tries to lead by example. Before his matches, you can see Butler shouting, “Shoot. Shoot. Shoot.” from the sidelines as his teammates try to take down their opponents.
“He is invaluable to the team,” Prokosch said of Butler. “The more kids you have like him on the team the more it makes my job easier. Having him for another couple years is great. He will build our program and when he is gone hopefully we will have a stronger team.”
Although he still has two and a half more years left in high school, Butler says that we would love to wrestle in college.
“It would be great to get to that next level of competition,” said Butler. “I like the [University of Minnesota]. They have a good wrestling team and a good engineering program.”
But for now Butler remains focused on winning matches and going on the mat with the mindset that he can beat anyone.
“I go in thinking that people are better than me,” said Butler. “You can never down play anybody. If you think someone is easy to beat then you don’t wrestle to your full potential.”
The Bengals will be wrestling at home on Feb. 3 against Maple Grove and will be holding an invitational the following day, Feb. 4.