His way of battling through it, both on and off the mat, has been nothing short of remarkable. And over the weekend, the Chestnut Ridge senior secured a spot to wrestle at the next level in signing with West Virginia University.
Buttry, who spoke to Sam Shuss for Monday's Bedford Gazette, has overcome two anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears in three years to get to this point — a 95-31 career record that includes a third-place state medal from last March, which was about a month after he tore the ACL in his right knee.
"He never let his injuries dampen his mood or change his goals," said Chestnut Ridge coach Greg Lazor.
There's no doubt about that. After going 17-17 as a 160-pound freshman, Buttry hurt his left knee early in that offseason, but returned to post a 36-9 sophomore record at 182, which was the most improved win-loss mark of any wrestler in the county. He reached the state tournament for the first time. At 195 as a junior, he was 42-5, won a district championship and placed second in the Southwest Regional before getting third at states.
As stated previously, the individual postseason saw Buttry wrestle on a torn ACL in his right knee, one which he suffered during the state team semifinal match with Wyalusing Valley. Buttry used all his injury time before coming back to pin his opponent and keep the Lions rolling on their way to a 45-21 victory to put them into the Class AA team finals.
He's not playing football this fall, and he is likely to be cleared for wrestling later this week. He'll be at 195 pounds again, where he will certainly be among the favorites to claim gold in Hershey.
Buttry's selection of West Virginia centered around the ability to be close to home, the school's nursing program that he will be a part of academically, and the opportunity to compete for WVU coach Sammie Henson, who is a former NCAA and world champion.
His mom, Michelle, is a graduate of West Virginia and is in the nursing profession herself.
"I am so proud and excited for his family," said Lazor. "It is so nice to see a great kid who has earned his success get rewarded by getting to wrestle for the college of his choice."
Buttry's decision gives Bedford County three Division I wrestling commitments from the Class of 2016. Bedford state champion Jonathan Gabriel will attend the United States Naval Academy, while Buttry's teammate at Chestnut Ridge, Aaron Burkett, announced he is heading to Lehigh University.
———Taking my reporter's cap off for a moment or two, you won't find many young athletes who are more likeable or approachable than Conner Buttry. When I asked him about the next level at Friday's Chestnut Ridge football game, he said he was close to deciding, and obviously that was the case. I'm definitely pleased for him and his family, as I also am for Gabriel and Burkett. To have three top-level NCAA wrestling prospects from two schools in this area is quite a feat. And for Lazor to have two in his practice room is a tremendous achievement for the Lions' program.
I know Buttry, who coincidentally shares the same birthdate as my son, is tired of hearing about his knee injuries, but you can't tell his story of desire and dedication without that aspect. The way he wrestled the final month of last season on a torn ACL without ever seeming to complain or waver to the injury is something I will long remember.
Photo by Ryan SpringChestnut Ridge's Conner Buttry, seen here finishing off a pin in the state team semifinal match last February, will continue his wrestling career at West Virginia University.