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Old 03-23-2010
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Danny Burk Danny Burk is offline
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Duke Burk

While standing at the podium on Saturday night at the Cyclone Wrestling Club after-NCAA party, Duke Burk joked and laughed and was his sarcastic/easy going self. But, he was also serious a bit, and he said something that I think defines him as a person much more than a sport ever will. He said something like, "Watching Jake (Varner) and Dave (Zabriskie) win their NCAA titles tonight took away any pain or sadness I have with the way my career ended."

And he meant it. He was able to sit and watch two of his teammates and friends fulfill their dreams, and to him, those 20 minutes overshadowed the fact that his wrestling career as a competitor had ended about 30 hours before that, in a way that he probably never envisioned going out. He was obviously not happy, but, he is a very unselfish person. Instead of sitting around moping and wishing things were different, he moved on. Before the finals, he was drilling with Jake Varner and supporting his teammates who were still wrestling. He sat in the front row for Jake and Dave's matches, cheering and smiling, proud to see his teammates out there winning titles. That's just who he is - things haven't always gone according to plan for Duke, but he has always been quick to get back on his feet and continue on with life.

Sure, things could have been different for Duke. Perhaps he could have stayed healthy his final two years of college and been able to train full time to become a national champion. Perhaps he could have been given an easier draw in the tournament or been at an easier weight class. I guess some people could look at the situation and find a lot of "excuses" to make about why things were the way they were. But, that's not Duke. He has never been one to make excuses for himself or for others. To him, it is what it is - whether it is good or bad, he has to deal with the situation and continue on with his life. He understands that there is a lot more to life than a wrestling match, and that he has other aspects of his life that he has to put his energy towards now. It is not an end to something as much as it is a beginning to something else.

This is not to say that Duke wasn't or isn't upset with his final NCAA tournament or doesn't wish he was healthier and could have trained a bit more. He is a competitor and of course he wanted to go out on top. He had dreams and goals just like everyone else. But, things didn't work out the way he had planned or wanted them to. It really never does, right? But it doesn't do us any good to complain about it. We learn and live and move on. And it certainly doesn't do us any good to make excuses.

I will obviously miss watching Duke compete, or talking to him about his training, or watching film for him on future opponents. Duke and I (and our family) have had a lot of great moments and memories because of wrestling dating back to when we were just little kids and rolling around the basement with our dad. Watching each other compete and helping each other prepare was something we just always did, naturally. When Duke's final match was over, so was the career of my favorite wrestler. There isn't anyone in the world who I enjoy watching compete as much as my brother, for obvious reasons. So, clearly I will miss that portion of our lives, just as I am sure Duke will, and the rest of the family.

I am proud of Duke for his accomplishments as a wrestler but even more proud for who he is as a person. Like I said - Duke is not defined by his competitive days as a wrestler. He is and will be much more than that. He has a passion for the sport and for life and is going to do great things in the future. A lot of people get sad when their career ends or when an aspect of their life comes to an end. I guess I have never been one of those people, and I don't think Duke is either. Instead of being sad that it is over, I tend to think back to all the great things that happened while it was going on, and we have to thank God everyday for giving us the lives and opportunities he has granted all of us. Wrestling teaches so much about life and makes us better people. I wish Duke's career would have ended differently, but it didn't. Instead of complaining about it, I am just grateful that he was given the opportunities he has had and proud that he did his very best to make the most of those opportunities. There is no doubt in my mind that he prepared the best that he could, and that he was ready to compete to the best of his abilities. If he can walk away from the weekend and his career without any regrets, I can walk away without any complaints. I am excited to watch Duke move on with his life, and I look forward to watching him and helping him become a terrific coach/teacher in the near future. As I mentioned earlier - Duke is going to do great things for the rest of his life and will touch the lives on many others.

Also, I have to say it was nice/sad to see the college careers of some other Illinois boys come to an end:

Nick Fanthorpe has been one of my favorite wrestlers to watch since he was in middle school, and I was able to see him compete quite a bit the last two years since he and Duke were on the same team. He went through a lot with the hamstring injury the past two seasons but continued to do things with such great class. Nick is one of the hardest workers in college wrestling and deserved everything he was able to accomplish, and probably a lot more too. Well done Nick, and thanks for serving as such a great role model for younger athletes.

John Dergo finished his career as an All-American. John is someone I have followed quite closely ever since he was in 7th grade and beat Duke at the IKWF state tournament. It was clear back then that Dergo was a special athlete. Congrats to him for all he accomplished as an athlete and for breaking through big time this season on the national scene.

Steve Dwyer also finished his career last weekend as an All-American. I first met Steve when he was in high school and came to the NIU wrestling camps with his high school team. Steve is another one of the hardest workers in college wrestling, and even though he was at the same weight as Duke, I am happy for Stephen.

Dan Dennis was 10 seconds away from winning an NCAA title this year. His work ethic and attitude symbolize the "Iowa Style" almost perfectly, and it was painful to watch him come so close.

Good luck to all these guys, and others, in the future. They will do great things, whether it is in the sport of wrestling, or in life.
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Old 03-23-2010
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Excellent story. I have to say that watching Dennis lose was absolutely painful and I say this simply as a former wrestler and fan of Illinois wrestling and it's top kids.
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Old 03-23-2010
ol' man river ol' man river is offline
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duke competed on the biggest stage there is, and competed well. What i would've given just to compete on the biggest stage, after i actually had given it my all and it wasn't good enough. no tears for duke...proudness.
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Old 03-23-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Danny Burk View Post
[img2=right]I will obviously miss watching Duke compete, or talking to him about his training, or watching film for him on future opponents. Duke and I (and our family) have had a lot of great moments and memories because of wrestling dating back to when we were just little kids and rolling around the basement with our dad. Watching each other compete and helping each other prepare was something we just always did, naturally. When Duke's final match was over, so was the career of my favorite wrestler. There isn't anyone in the world who I enjoy watching compete as much as my brother, for obvious reasons. So, clearly I will miss that portion of our lives, just as I am sure Duke will, and the rest of the family.
First, what a great thread. Wrestling symbolizes more than meatheads and wacko's out on a mat throwing each other around, its the bonds that are created through teamwork and competition, not to mention the bonds that are strengthened when brothers and fathers are blended together into this wonderful sport.

I am the oldest of 4 boys who all wrestled. When we first started wrestling, my brother and I were the only ones in our small town(4,000 pop.) that wrestled. My dad would drive us to practices and tournaments all over Illinois and Iowa just so we could do what we loved. About the time jr. high started for us we really wanted to get into the state series so dad started the charter for an IKWF club with only two members, my brother and I. He continued to work with the program and numbers gradually rose.

I graduated in 1997 and had the pleasure to watch my next brother win his title in 1998, third brother have 128 career wins with two state appearances, and the youngest brother beat numerous state champions in his high school career. I can't remember all the details to my brothers "big" wins, but I can to their losses, esp. the youngest two brothers. I remember after a sectional loss one year one of the parents from Fulton made the comment that I looked pissed because my brother had lost. By no means was that the case. It was more of a hurt, knowing exactley what they have gone through, the training, weight cutting, conditioning, weight traing, to get to that match and then not come through like they wanted to. As an older sibling in a close knit family you tend to feel like a protector, and thats what I wished for in those cases was to take their pain away, and reguardless of how they preformed, we were proud of them. I commend you for being there for your brother all these years. Its easy to always point out what they did wrong, or what they should work on, but its harder to and means much more just to be there for them when things didn't go as planned. I guess thats another thing I learned from my dad. Good luck to you and your brother in future endevours.
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Old 03-24-2010
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The only sad part about seeing Duke end his career is realizing that I knew both of you guys when you thought The Ultimate Warrior and Hacksaw Jim Dugan were real wrestlers. It make me feel really old and useless. Regardless of how it ended for either of you guys, you will never have to look back and wonder what could have happened if you had worked harder. You squeezed everything out of yourselves and you will never live under the false assumption that given the right set of circumstances things would be different. You both played it out to the very end and went up against the best....so you know where you stand and will never have to hang your head. There are so many out there that will never know that feeling. Just being in the starting lineup for a legendary program like Iowa State where guys like Gable, Peterson and Taylor wrestled puts chills up my spine. It's just a dream for many but was a reality for Duke. But most of all, it's great to see how the sport that has meant so much to me has wrapped itself around the two of you. There are a lot of great wrestling families out there and most of them can't claim national titles. I've been lucky to know yours. Danny's living his future right now and Duke's is just getting started. I have no doubt that you'll both eventually give back more than you ever took from the sport. Thanks!
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Old 03-24-2010
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Originally Posted by Greenskin View Post
The only sad part about seeing Duke end his career is realizing that I knew both of you guys when you thought The Ultimate Warrior and Hacksaw Jim Dugan were real wrestlers. It make me feel really old and useless. Regardless of how it ended for either of you guys, you will never have to look back and wonder what could have happened if you had worked harder. You squeezed everything out of yourselves and you will never live under the false assumption that given the right set of circumstances things would be different. You both played it out to the very end and went up against the best....so you know where you stand and will never have to hang your head. There are so many out there that will never know that feeling. Just being in the starting lineup for a legendary program like Iowa State where guys like Gable, Peterson and Taylor wrestled puts chills up my spine. It's just a dream for many but was a reality for Duke. But most of all, it's great to see how the sport that has meant so much to me has wrapped itself around the two of you. There are a lot of great wrestling families out there and most of them can't claim national titles. I've been lucky to know yours. Danny's living his future right now and Duke's is just getting started. I have no doubt that you'll both eventually give back more than you ever took from the sport. Thanks!
Wait...now I'm confused... Hacksaw and the Warrior aren't real?? Dang!!

Seriously though, the few years that I've known the Burk family, I've seen great things. The whole family is really a class act. I wish nothing but the best for Duke as the next chapter in his life starts.
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Old 03-24-2010
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I am reminded again what a great journey wrestling is.
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Old 03-24-2010
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Nice post, Danny. And please give Duke our best in all his future endeavors.
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Old 03-24-2010
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Awesome story. As being a former wrestler with a older brother it seemed to resemble the same thoughts and feelings we had for each other's careers on the mat and in life.
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Old 03-24-2010
ol' man river ol' man river is offline
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jaguar, isn't that the truth. It's the journey, the destination will always be anticlimactic
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