Danny Buteau’s hand is raised after he earned a victory at the National Collegiate Wrestling Association championships last week in Allen, Texas. Buteau, a former Oak Hill athlete, wrestles for Husson University’s club team. (Sam Janicki photo) Sam Janicki photo

 

After coming within three wins of a national collegiate wrestling championship last year, Danny Buteau dedicated himself to that goal for the 2018-19 campaign, so much so that Eddie DeRoche couldn’t help but get swept up in it, too.”

Former Oak Hill wrestler Danny Buteau and former Mountain Valley wrestler Eddie DeRoche, who both wrestle for Husson University’s club team, earned podium finishes last week at the National Collegiate Wrestling Association championships in Allen, Texas. (Sam Janicki photo) Submitted photo

“It was something like I’ve never seen before out of anyone,” DeRoche said. “It was like being with a D-I wrestler, like, wake up wrestling, go to sleep wrestling, dream about wrestling …”

“He’s one of those kids,” DeRoche continued, “that before a match, I think his exact words to me before every single match was, ‘Let that fire burn, Eddie.’ When you’re an athlete, that’s something only a few people can say to you that get you going, give you goose bumps before you go, and Danny just happened to turn himself into one of those guys this year.”

Buteau, a four-time state wrestling champion at Oak Hill High School, made himself into a national champion last weekend, even while dealing with a family tragedy.

A Husson University sophomore, Buteau won the 141-pound title in the National Collegiate Wrestling Association championships last weekend in Allen, Texas. The event is for schools that do not have a varsity program.

Buteau was one of two local wrestlers to attain All-American status at nationals. DeRoche, his fellow Husson sophomore and practice partner and a former standout wrestler at Mountain Valley High School, finished sixth in the 149-pound division.

Buteau rallied to win his quarterfinal match with a pin, then emerged from both his semifinal and final matches with one-point victories, the final coming in double-overtime against the wrestler who had earlier denied him a conference title.

He wrestled those three matches with a heavy heart, though. Moments before his quarterfinal match, Buteau learned his uncle, Shane Sauer, had been murdered in a Swanville shooting.

“I found out about 10 minutes before,” said Buteau, who had last seen his uncle around Christmas.

Austin McDevitt of Morrill has been charged with Sauer’s murder, and is being held without bail in Waldo County jail until a court hearing next month.

Buteau, 16-2 and seeded fourth in a 64-man bracket, was still in shock when he stepped onto the mat for his quarterfinal. He quickly found himself facing a 2-0 deficit.

“I got taken down within the first few seconds of the match, and then I ended up getting a reversal (to tie the match, 2-2 at the end of the first period),” he said.

“After that, I kind of cleared my mind and tried to focus more on wrestling,” he said.

He pinned Big Bend Community College’s Beau Wiebe 1:37 into the second period.

Buteau had another three or four hours until his semifinal match, which was against the wrestler who beat him in overtime in the national quarterfinals last year, Wesley Hollingsworth of East Carolina.

“It was pretty hard at first, but after my quarterfinal match I talked to my mom (Crystal), and my dad (Dale) was actually there in Texas with me,” Buteau said.

“My mindset was, I’ve just got to keep wrestling and I’ve got to stay positive and keep my mind on wrestling and my one goal right now, and I’ll worry about it when I get back home,” he said.

DeRoche said the normally outgoing, happy-go-lucky Buteau turned inward to regain his focus.

“When he got that news, we all gave him our love and support and told him it was all good. He could still do it. He was more than capable,” DeRoche said. “Once he went out and talked to his mom on the phone and said what he had to say to his family, he put his headphones on and basically didn’t say another word until after he won his (semifinal) match.”

“It was kind of different to see him like that. It was almost nerve-wracking to watch him go onto the mat and see if he was going to perform well or if this was really going to get to him,” DeRoche added. “It’s amazing. I’m not even sure if I would have continued to wrestle at that point. That’s all heart.”

Buteau’s semifinal was scoreless after the first period before he took a 3-0 lead in the second with an escape and a takedown. Hollingsworth answered with an escape and takedown of his own to tie it in the third period before Buteau was awarded a riding time point at the end of regulation for a 4-3 victory.

The finals were the next night against Marcos Mercado of Springfield Tech Community College, who had beaten him two weeks earlier in the Northeast Conference finals.

“For my finals match, I wasn’t that offensive. But I had a game plan and I stuck to my game plan,” he said.

Buteau had tweaked his knee in a quarterfinal match, which took away some of his aggressiveness. So he decided to use Mercado’s aggressiveness and tendencies against him.

The match was tied 2-2 through regulation and the first overtime. About midway through the second overtime, Mercado was penalized for his second stalling call, and Buteau waited him out for the final 30 seconds to win the championship.

“I honestly wasn’t sure whether it was over or not,” Buteau said. “I was still ready to wrestle and the ref said, ‘You can take your anklets off.’ I took them off, I got my hand raised, ran to the other coach and shook his hand, hugged the coach that was in my corner (Maine Maritime Academy coach Don McCann), then I absolutely sprinted over to the bleachers and climbed all the way up to where my dad was sitting and gave him a big hug.”

Buteau returned home to Wales the next day for a brief reunion with his family before returning to Husson for Monday classes.

Buteau and DeRoche were the only wrestlers for Husson this year. They fund-raised for their expenses, practiced and traveled with University of Maine club wrestlers, facing Division III and club wrestlers over a short regular-season schedule.

Buteau said he couldn’t have won the national title without DeRoche.

“He was a huge part of my success this year,” Buteau said.

DeRoche took his freshman year off from wrestling but returned after last fall after Buteau doggedly recruited him to join.

“He wasn’t not in my phone for the first five weeks of school (recruiting DeRoche to join him). I couldn’t be more grateful to him, honestly,” DeRoche said. “We carpooled to practice every day. On some of those days, he would text message me a half-hour before it’s time to go and I’d tell him, ‘Danny, I’m not really feeling it.’ He’d call me right up and start yelling on the phone, ‘It’s time to go Eddie! We’ve got nattys (nationals) to win!'”

“That’s all he’d talk about all semester was how bad he wanted that ‘natty’ title and how much he wanted it for me and Husson,” DeRoche said.

DeRoche had to shake off some rust early in the season, but ended up winning the Northeast Conference 149-pound title.

“It was a little rough at first. Obviously I wasn’t in as good of condition as I was in high school,” he said. “But as far as competing, I felt like I was wrestling pretty well. And then come the last couple of tournaments, I really felt like I was getting into a groove. I kind of wish the season lasted a little longer.”

Danny Buteau wrestles at the National Collegiate Wrestling Association championships last week in Allen, Texas. Buteau, a former Oak Hill athlete, is a member of Husson University’s club team. (Sam Janicki photo) Sam Janicki photo