I met Jeremiah when I was a 5th grader and he was a 6th grader and roughly a minute later, I started bawling. What a bully he is… let me explain.
In 5th grade, I had one loss coming into AAU State and that was at the first tournament of the year to Cory Connell. He pinned me in :45 seconds. The only time in my entire life where I was simply taken down and turned and pinned right away like some jabronie. Only time that ever happened. After that, I was convinced that Cory was a future Olympic champion and that if he were at my weight class at AAU, the goal was to place 2nd behind him and to just try to not get pinned when I wrestled him. Defeating Cory Connell was something that had simply become impossible.
So AAU State rolled along and when I looked at my draw, I was ok with it. It looked like this:
I had it all mapped out. I was going to dominate my way to the finals from the way I looked at it. And Connell was on the opposite side of the bracket…THANK GOD! My season dream of becoming a state runner-up my 5th grade year was still a possibility. I was familiar with the majority of the guys on my side and felt good about it. I thought I had been placed on “the easy” side of the bracket.
I pinned my first guy in about 4 seconds and after that match, Shea Stamp, from Lisbon came up to me and said, “go figure, you and I end up getting the worst draws out of anyone in the bracket 2nd round.” Shea was making a reference to how the bracketing crooks at our district had paired he and I first round at districts 2 years in a row, when we were hands down, the best guys at our weight in both of those years. I was confused. I inquired, “it’s you that has to wrestle Connell next round, right?” Shea said, “yeah, but you don’t have it much better. You have J.J. Butteris. He is one of my practice partners at Lisbon.” I responded with, “ok, well how bad do you usually beat him?” And he started chuckling and said, “I don’t beat him. He beats me.” “Great,” I thought. My dreams of becoming an AAU 2nd place guy may be more difficult than I had originally thought.
So it was time to start warming up for our 2nd round matches and before we all stood on our designated numbers, I looked around at some of the guys warming up, trying to guess which one was this Butteris dude who Shea told me about. I knew who some of them were. One of the funniest things about this was when I saw this dude named Roland Whitt warming up. I had never met Roland in my entire life at that point and had never seen him, but the instant I looked at him, I knew that’s who it was because… he looked like a Roland. Whatever that means? He was 80 lbs. like the rest of us, but was taller than Wilt Chamberlain and had curly hair. He just looked like a “Roland Whitt.” I had no doubt in my mind that that was him and the funny thing was, I was right. It WAS Roland Whitt. 😂. When I saw who ended up being J.J., I thought to myself, “whoever this Butteris guy is, I just hope it’s not THAT guy.” Because he had a mean look to him and looked strong. Just looked like a total pain in the ass to scrap with. I could tell. Lo and behold, it was Jeremiah Butteris.
When I stepped on the mat with him, I was still confident (I mean how good could he possibly be if the great results memorizer, Joshua Swafford didn’t know who he was, right?) But the dude was a brick-shit house. And I was one of the younger guys in the bracket. When the match started, I shot in pretty early and he basically just shoved my face into the mat as he spun around and immediately locked up an arm-bar and put me on my back. He was bending me like a pretzel as if it were just the easiest thing in the world for him to do. This was bad…this was very bad… 15 seconds in and I could tell that this guy was some other type of monster than what I was used to running into. He wasn’t quite to the level of Connell at that time, but he was most certainly a different kind of animal than what I was used to and I had to find some sort of opening to score points and quickly, otherwise my dream of becoming a state runner-up, would be shattered. I started the next period in the bottom position and when I tried hitting an inside switch off the whistle, he responded by ensuring that I regretted even thinking that I should try something like that on him and he ripped my arms off and beat me with my then until I rolled over to my own back while he secured another 3 point nearfall, in which at this point, I did something I hadn’t done in a couple years… I started bawling while the match was still going. I was a 5th grade kid, crying on the mat…pretty immature, really. And it came off as if JJ hated cry-babies, for when I started crying, it just made him beat my ass even worse. And my dad was in the corner screaming indecipherable words of frustration and seriously looked as if he were having an anger-induced seizure. We went out of bounds at one point and I was still bawling. The official was Gary Stamp (Shea, Tait and Quinn’s father) and I heard him kind of groan when we were walking to the center. He didn’t seem impressed that a 5th grade kid was acting like that. I cried for the remainder of the match and after shaking hands, Gary, who I knew from wrestling Shea and was the golden standard for my dad as being “The Perfect Official” that he wanted to be as good as when he became an official himself kind of patted me on my back and said, “come on, Josh. Act your age. You are better than that.” Haha, I loved Gary Stamp. Everything he ever said to me or talked about with my dad seemed to be short, to the point, the truth and very powerful. I was acting like a 2 year old.
So I made that dreadful walk to the corner and my dad handed me my clothes and said, “you wrestled stupid. Get yourself together and get ready for your next match and stop bawling. If anyone should be bawling, it’s me and everyone who saw that match because that was hard to watch.” “Whatever Dad, you don’t understand, that kid was on steroids!” I thought to myself. There was nothing I could do for wrestling against Butteris was like trying to wrestle against a good-sized boulder of some sort that was capable of growing limbs and beating me profusely with them. My 11 year old mind was on to something…JJ Butteris was obviously on steroids. Haha, jk… JJ Butteris was just JJ Butteris and that’s the only explanation.
So I walked up the stairs to the bucket seats my mom and youth club were sitting in. Those stairs were a total pain in the ass to walk, especially after suffering a beating at the hands of JJ. I was still sniffling and whimpering when I reached my mom. The first thing my mom did when I got up there was she snapped a picture (that I can’t find anywhere) and was laughing hysterically. The flash of the camera hurt my eyes and probably made me start crying even more. “Oh wow, so now my mom finds humor in my despair,” I thought. When she got herself together, she said, “I’m sorry Joshua, this is just so funny. You look ridiculous. You look like a stressed out drag queen right now.” “Huh?” I asked. My buddy, Phillip Klees then said, “dude Swaff, you have black stuff all over your eyes…it looks like you have mascara running down your face.” What happened was when I was crying during the match with JJ, I kept wiping the tears off my face with the backs of my hands, in which my division and weight class (B-80) written on them with a permanent marker. The marker rubbed off from my hands to my face when I was wiping tears. I seriously did look ridiculous. JJ had actually beaten me up so badly that I literally did resemble a drag queen that had been beaten on some Las Vegas street corner. My dad then decided to chime in with, “go downstairs and warm up for your next match, drag queen!” Thanks a lot, JJ… because of you, my parents were referring to me as a drag queen!!! It was then that my uncle Kevin, who was the only coach or mentor I had who could get me to believe in myself by simply talking to me, said, “I got this.” He then took me to the holding area and Kevin and Joshua were like Mr. Miyagi and Danielson from Karate Kid that weekend. That man was a miracle worker for me. I didn’t lose another match and placed 3rd, respectively. Crazy thing was JJ somehow managed to place lower than I did. He was beaten in the quarterfinals by Roland Whitt and nothing against Roland, but I have never known how in the world that happened. I wrestled Roland in the semi-consoles and I dominated the match with an exception of trying to fight off my back and not get pinned from a cradle the entire 3rd period. Still won 5-3 though… JJ placed 7th and I placed 3rd. When I was standing on the podium, I remember seeing him down there and thinking, “God, I hope he doesn’t kick the crap out of me for standing on a higher podium step than him. This doesn’t even seem right. That guy KILLED me.”
1.) Cory Connell
2.) Ryan Sturm
3.) Joshua Swafford
4.) Tommy Pickerell
5.) Zach Thomas
6.) Roland Whitt
7.) JJ Butteris
8.) Dustin Barfels
It was all uphill from that point on for JJ. It was rare to see him on a spot lower than “2” on the podium again. He was a 3X finalist/2X state champion in high school. He was not happy with that. He hated that he placed 2nd behind Highland’s Tony Sweeting when he was a Sophomore, Tony was a Senior. I got to know JJ pretty well over the years and talked to him every time I saw him. One of these times was at a freestyle tournament a couple weeks after state his Sophomore, my Freshman season. When we saw each other, he was like, “Swafford! What’s up man!” And I was like, “DUDE!!! NICE JOB AT STATE THIS YEAR!” I was dead serious. Tony Sweeting was a Senior in my area who was known around the entire SEISC as being someone that was just borderline unbeatable. JJ had him on the ropes in his finals match and it blew a lot of our minds that a Sophomore was able to give Tony Sweeting a decent match. JJ’s smile immediately shifted into a frown and it was quiet for a few seconds and he looked at me as if he were trying to figure out if I was being serious, or cracking a joke that was below the belt. He quietly said, “thank…you…” And slowly walked away, appearing as if I had just insulted him terribly. “Did he expect to beat Tony Sweeting?” I thought to myself… I hadn’t ever spoken to an underclassmen that seemed to consider that a mere possibility that year. Everyone knew that Tony Sweeting couldn’t be beaten that year, right? Welp, not JJ…. and he almost pulled it off. That’s what separates the 3X finalists/2X state champs of the world from a guy like me who made it to the #6 spot as a Senior.
JJ had an account on the old Iowapreps message boards for a while there. His name was Skoal-something or another. In a predictions thread for my weight my Senior year, JJ was the only person to predict me to win publicly. He took a ton of razzing for this because Cole Pape was also a Senior and going for his 3rd state championship. He didn’t care. He sent me an email telling me to not pay attention to that thread and that I was capable of winning it regardless of what they all said. It was cool of him. I thanked him, but wondered what on Earth would make him think that of me. JJ beat me badly both times I wrestled him. My semis match at state vs. Pape did not go in my favor, but it was cool of JJ.
JJ’s wrestling style was really fun. He put people away, usually straight from their feet and was lightning quick and explosive when he would attack. The only way I can explain it was sometimes he seemed like pissed off cobra, coiled up and could strike quickly and from seemingly any situation and it always had deadly results for the opponents. No one was ever safe wrestling JJ Butteris. At no time, no situation, no match score were you ever safe with him.
Also, he has to be incredibly patient person. I think it’s noticeable to about anyone that I get pretty wound up at times and the most severe this has ever been was when I was trying to think of a name for this site. I plan on having JJ design our apparel and possibly do a podcast with me once we get all that stuff going, so I was sending him everything my brothers and I were coming up with and 90% of what I was landing on, were just the dumbest ideas in the world. And there were tons of them. Hands down, the most stressful part of the sites history for me was the process of naming it. JJ was patient enough to read all of my stupid rantings about the naming process and was able to hold back from driving down to Mepo and stomping another mudhole in my face. I am pretty thankful for that. Cool guy… one of the coolest! Proud as hell of his Lisbon roots, as he should be! And a helluva baseball player to boot! I’d say it’s a safe bet to watch out for his son in the future. The name he gave his son is one of the coolest ones I’ve ever heard… wait until you read what it is.
Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?
First of all, I was born in 1981 in Lisbon, IA. Was there anything else to do? My family didn’t know anything else. However my biggest influence would be my dad and my uncle Greg Butteris. My first memories of wrestling are watching him win a state title in 1987 by fall over Iowa All American Travis Fiser. I still have the pic of him grabbing me onto to the mats at state duals when it was held in the UNI dome that year.
Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?
Yes. My uncle Chuck Butteris placed 3rd at Heavyweight. My father (Bill) was a state champion in 1977 and a JUCO runner up at a believe 27 years old. My before mentioned uncle Greg was a state champion in 1987 as well as a JUCO national champion for North Idaho community college. My brother Zachary was a 4x qualifier (only family member to do so) and 3x place winner. He didn’t start wrestling until 7th grade. Which brings me to my 8 year old son Branzen Gable Butteris (sounds like Brands and Gable Butteris. Still proud of that name. No pressure little buddy, just a sweet name.
What were your youth results? Any rivals there?
Let’s see, that’s a long time ago. I’m that guy who won Tulsa Nationals and was a 3x AAU national runner up but never made an AAU state finals. I placed 3rd 4th and 7th if I remember correctly. My nemesis growing up were definitely Josh Watts, Cory Connell and Ryan Heim. All studs!
What was your record in HS?
134-12 (7 different guys) and they were all state place winners.
How did you place at state every year?
What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?
There are many of them. I’m sure that’s the case for most wrestlers. I’d say cutting weight my sophomore year was the biggest problem I had. It was a struggle to say the least. I wanted to quit, I was banged up, hungry and unhealthy. It got to the point that I moved in with coach Dean Happel and his wife Dawn for a few weeks so that I could get my weight managed and feeling good. Once they showed me the ropes… the rest is history.
How would you describe your wrestling style?
Fun. Explosive and absolutely horrible on the mat. I couldn’t get out from a wet paper sack. I had 97 career falls and I bet 97 of them were some form of feet to back. Hence, the fun and explosive.
How many guys in high school did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?
Ryan Heim and Brett Little.
Who was your most influential coach?
That’s so hard to answer. I had several, each equally as important. Chris Lembeck taught me more technique than anyone. Dean Happel was magic with my mind and asst. coach Aaron Truitt was the guy who just understood me, motivated me and was a damn good workout partner.
Was your team competitive in HS/college?
No, I unfortunately went to Lisbon at the time when we were in a lull to say the least. We did win a tournament with 8 guys though. 7 champs and a runner up.
Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?
My uncle Greg was my wrestling hero with a pretty good supporting cast. My dad would take me down to Carver to watch Royce Alger wrestle. That was always in my mind, but the Light boys were who I wanted to be like. Especially Zach and Ike Light. They were so good on their feet!
What is your favorite memory watching Lisbon wrestling?
Anytime we beat Don Bosco or Mount Vernon! Haha, honestly one moment that is embedded in my head is when my brother took 3rd as a sophomore pinning #1 ranked Dane Reiter of Hudson. I will say winning state duals this year was pretty damn exciting, but did so watching on the tube this year however. You ever been to nationals? You get the feeling that it’s Iowa vs the rest of the nation… well it feels like it’s Lisbon vs everyone else. Someone once said you can’t fling a dead cat in this town without hitting a state champ. Things ya don’t know… probably not much. The support is second to none.
Besides me, of course (haha), who was your most ferocious competitor?
Ryan Heim. Hands down. Also have to give a shout out to Brett Little. Dude gave me nightmares for weeks. No offense to Brett, but Heim was a different animal.
Who are your favorite current wrestlers?
Non Lisbon guys…. Ayala. Damn. Cael Happel and Robert Avila Jr. Those guys are so dominant at this level. So impressed.
What tunes would you listen to back in the wrestling days?
I’ve never been a music kind of guy, but I would listen to “another one bites the dust” on the way to school or weigh ins before every meet.
What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?
When I got 2nd my sophomore year I was bawling to my mom about how I felt sorry for all the kids I placed higher than because I didn’t feel i deserved it. As I mentioned before, my sophomore year was brutal. I think somehow my mind was to weak to feel sorry for myself so I felt sorry for someone else. I would say losing to Little was hard ,but not devastating because I still moves on with the season after it. That 3-1 loss to Heim in 8th grade of the AAU semifinals got me pretty good. I wanted to stop him from his 5th title and had beaten him 2x that year. Yeah, that was tough.
If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?
For starters, I would make sure my studies were better and I would have tried the freestyle circuit a little more. However, I loved baseball so I’m not sure how that would of went.
What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?
Standing on top of that podium as a 2x state champion… 1 more than my dad and uncle.
Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?
The 8 guys I lost too! Mike Elliot (3x freshman year), Mount Vernon. Yuck. Will Buster, Wapello. Marc Juergens. Tim Ironside. Tony Sweeting. Brett Little. Ryan Heim and Cliff Moore.
Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?
Seasonal. I still have baseball records 🙂
How would the guys from your day stack up against the guys today?
The guys I just listed would do just fine. The wrestlers today are different because of technology IMO… I would like to think that we all would of adapted to the new styles.
What other sports did you play?
3 year varsity starter in football, 4 year starter in baseball and ran track one year.
What are your favorite sports teams?
I’m a Chicago guy. Bear Down and Go Cubs Go!
What are your hobbies other than wrestling?
Other sports (besides basketball) and recently started traveling more with my amazing girlfriend. Are kids hobbies? I have an artsy side and a little graphic design business that I absolutely love to do as well.
How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?
Personally, it’s made me comfortable in who I am. I know deep down that if I want to do something, I can do it and I credit that entirely to wrestling.
What do you do now?
I’m a granite/quartz fabricator by day and I dabble in graphic design at home.
Are you still involved with wrestling?
Started getting back in the room the last couple years but only with the Kids club. My son has taken a liking to this sport and I’ve always loved coaching the sport. We will see how it goes because I’m not to fond of coaching my own son. I just want to be his dad. I love coaching those kids, so again…. we will see where it goes. If my body can hold up.
Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?
Enjoy it. Embrace the grind. It’s the hardest thing to understand at the adolescent age because we all thought we understood. but you never do and there really is no way of knowing until you’re actually done competing. You’re literally at your best phase of life right now, seize the moment and you’ll be surprised how far this sport can take you.
Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?
Not one single chance, sounds fun but I know better.
Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?
Yeah, some of my best friends for life pretty much because of wrestling. Highland State Champion and current asst coach Nick Cole. My childhood best friend Tyler Jones who was by my side for everything and last but not least an eventual HOF track coach, best friend, teammate and someone who always pushed me, Coach Casey Baxa. Oh and one more, keep doing your thing Gorby, you the man!
My mom gets the biggest shout out of all for putting up with me and always being my number 1 fan!
Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia? Etc.
I was 134-12 with 97 falls, 3x finalist, 2x state champ…. I can’t even sniff the top 15 for best wrestling careers at Lisbon. That’s crazy for a town of 2,500 people.