“OK, let’s grab a partner,” Brown County High School Athletics Director Mark Bruner says, walking around the high school wrestling room.
Senior Katlyn Butcher and junior Bryce Denton stand in one of the yellow circles on the large blue mat. Without a second thought, the two grab each other around the neck and Butcher wrestles with Denton before throwing him on his back. They get back up and go for round two.
For Denton, going against Butcher is like practicing with any of the male wrestlers on the team.
“It’s not like, ‘Oh I want to go easier this round; I am going to go wrestle Katlyn.’ She gives just as much of a fight as anyone else in there,” he said.
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And maybe even more so.
As a sophomore, Butcher took second place in the USA Wrestling Women’s Nationals in Fargo, North Dakota, in the 88-pound weight class.
On Jan. 19, she took fourth at the Indiana High School Girls Wrestling state championship in the 106-pound weight class.
This was the second year for the girls wrestling state competition to take place and the first time a female wrestler from Brown County High School qualified.
“She’s setting that bar for future girls to reach,” Bruner said.
“It was neat. We got to take the walk of champions with her,” assistant coach Jeff Mullins said.
To get to state, Butcher first won the southern regional competition in her weight class. One of the girls she beat, Ciera Broukal of Bloomington South, went on to eventually win first at state.
“When I went out and I beat the girl from Bloomington, they were like, ‘She’s good.’ Everybody was surprised I beat her. Everybody thought I was going to lose to her,” Butcher said.
Butcher wasn’t sure how she would do at regional because she recently had two knee surgeries. “Whenever I won I was like, ‘Alright, I got this,’” she said.
At state, “it was real hot in that gym, so I think that’s what got to me. Once I got there, I was starting to get nervous, so I think that was another thing about it. But fourth is alright,” she said.
“Even though you beat somebody twice, it’s real hard to beat somebody three times. The New Albany girl (Hannah Lynch, who finished third at state), I versed her twice this year and I had to verse her again at state, she ended up beating me.”
Denton said Butcher uses a side headlock move that throws opponents off even when they know it’s coming.
“I’ve been sitting beside the mat before and heard the other team’s coach go, ‘Watch out for the side headlock. Watch out, it’s coming.’ She still gets it,” he said.
Butcher has been wresting since seventh grade. She started because her cousins were wrestlers.
“I was too short to make the volleyball team, so I tried out for wrestling. My dad told me he did it before, so I kind of got interested in it,” she said.
In her free time off the mat, she enjoys hunting deer and fishing. She already has two scholarships to colleges in Illinois and Kentucky because of wrestling. Her dream job is to be either a veterinarian or work in animal rehabilitation.
Butcher said another factor that drew her to wrestling was that not many girls participated in the sport.
She said it feels good to win matches against boys.
“They think, ‘Oh she’s a girl. She’s going to be easy to beat,’ but once I beat them, they’re like, ‘Well, not so much,’” she said.
Denton and Mullins said they have also noticed similar reactions, especially when Butcher wins.
“I’ve been on the other side of that, where I am wrestling a girl for a match, and so I know that there’ll be jokes made with other teammates like, ‘Oh, you’re going to go out there and beat up a girl,’ or, ‘Don’t lose to a girl.’ There’s something different about wrestling a girl,” Denton said.
“It’s funny, because she goes out there and will beat guys. It’s like, ‘What was that about not losing to a girl? She just pinned you.’”
At the Western Indiana Conference on Jan. 20, Butcher placed fifth in her weight class.
“She was facing a kid she was pinned by two weeks ago pretty handily. He made a mistake, and she made him pay for it and pinned him. It was quite humbling on our part to see him just look over at his coach kind of dejected, like, ‘Did that just happen?’” Mullins said.
Butcher then went on to pin a girl during the WIC tournament who had finished second in the 113 weight class at the girls state competition, Mullins said.
“We don’t give her any special treatment,” he said. “We just act like there’s not a girl in the room. That has to be tough from her side, but we wouldn’t know it if we didn’t look over and notice her every once in a while.”
Butcher, 17, describes her teammates like brothers.
“We would never know if a girl is in the room. The only difference is when we leave, she goes to a different locker room than we do,” Mullins said.
Off the mat, Butcher is quiet and a little shy, but that all goes away when she steps into a circle, Mullins said.
“She doesn’t get rattled no matter whether she’s dominating the person or being beat. She draws tough boys. … But her demeanor doesn’t change, her attitude doesn’t change,” he said.
Butcher said it’s important to not let the size of her opponent get in her head.
“Just because they’re big doesn’t mean you can’t catch them. You can catch them and you can pin them,” she said.
“Just because they’re tough doesn’t mean nothing.”