DEWITT — This weekend, Central DeWitt senior Keaton Zeimet will pass the baton to freshman Royce Butt at the IHSAA State Wrestling Meet this weekend.
Zeimet was the Saber wrestling program’s first freshman qualifier back in his first year on varsity and now Butt is doing the same thing he did four years ago.
“How great is it our first freshman qualifier was Keaton, and Royce is here to take the baton from him,” Central DeWitt coach Matt Ohnemus said. “They’re both around the same weight. Royce is going to learn how this process works from literally the best individual that’s ever gone through this program.”
Butt said it’s inspiring to have someone like Zeimet around.
“It makes me realize what I’m going to step into in the coming years,” Butt said. “He’s seen it all. Four-time place winner, gone to national tournaments and top five in the state at 120 right now. I’m a freshman and I feel like it’s just preparing me for the future.”
Both wrestlers want to take home hardware this weekend.
“This weekend, I’m looking to win all four matches and get a state title,” Zeimet said. “Each match is going to be different. The biggest obstacle is just going to be going out there 100 percent and giving it my all.”
Ohnemus said both wrestlers are more than capable based on recent success.
“I think both guys are wrestling at their best right now,” Ohnemus said. “Royce beat a highly-ranked kid and then was in a dogfight with a really tough West Delaware kid that he has beaten. That kid’s seeded fourth, so that tells me that Royce is right there with the best of them and can certainly be on the podium.
“Keaton getting the enormous win in the district finals over a really, really tough opponent that he didn’t beat three times last year in some big spots. I feel like both these guys can use those districts matches to propel them at state and I feel like we’re wrestling at a really high level right now.”
Zeimet (120 pounds) said though he has high expectations this weekend, he won’t get caught looking ahead. All focus is on his first-round match against Clear Lake’s Max Currier.
“Obviously, the competition’s good out at state,” Zeimet said. “You just need to take each match one at a time and that’s what I plan on doing. If you go too far ahead, then you’re going to get left behind, so you’ve just got to be in the moment and wrestle your best.”
Butt (113) will wrestle Crestwood/Cresco’s Anders Kittelson — who is undefeated — in his first-round match.
Butt’s been at state meets for the lower levels of wrestling in the past, experiences he credits with helping him be prepared for his first varsity state meet.
“I feel like kid state has pretty much prepared me, the first year I ever went to state in fifth grade — I didn’t even step on the mat and I cried,” Butt said. “I lost both those matches, then next year I made it all the way to the blood round but fell short by one point.”
Butt said he’s improved a lot since the beginning of his high school career.
“Earlier in the season, I always kept my matches close because I was still nervous about wrestling high schoolers,” Butt said. “Once I split the gap, I feel like I’ve gotten way better and more aggressive with my technique and movement.”
Zeimet said once a wrestler sets his nerves aside, he said one of the most important aspects is to simply enjoy the event.
“I wouldn’t say I’m nervous — I’m more excited to be back out on the state mats,” Zeimet said. “The best part about state is the community. Wrestlers from all over the state, they’re all connected to the sport. You can go up to any guy and be like, ‘How did you do?’ There’s a connection there.”