March 21, 2013
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
DES MOINES, Iowa — More than casual spectators, Steve and Bonnie Burak will keep a keen eye on the goings on in the 197-pound weight class at the NCAA Championships in Des Moines. Two of their children — Micah, a senior from Penn, and Nathan, a freshman from the University of Iowa — are on the same side of the bracket and could potentially meet in a quarterfinal bout Friday morning.
“It’s special that we both made NCAAs, but my parents would rather not have us wrestle each other,” Nathan said.
Micah (16-2), a three-time NCAA qualifier who was seventh last season, earned the No. 8 seed and opens against Andrew Campolattano of Ohio State. Nathan defeated Campolattano, 3-2, in a dual Jan. 4 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Nathan (17-15) advanced to his first NCAA Championships by placing fourth at the Big Ten Conference Tournament on March 9-10 in Champaign, Ill. Nathan went 3-2 during the championships; every match was against an eventual NCAA qualifier. He was one of four Hawkeyes to wrestle above their seed at the conference championships.
“It helps knowing I have beaten other guys that are in the tournament, and I know I can beat a lot of other ones who have qualified,” Burak said. “(The key was) staying focused, knowing that I could win, and staying focused on my attacks. I kept pushing the pace, and I feel I could have done that even better at Big Tens.”
If Nathan and Micah meet Friday on the championship side, Nathan would already be one of the major story lines of the tournament. He couldn’t have gotten a more difficult draw for his first NCAA Tournament opponent than Dustin Kilgore of Kent State, the 2011 NCAA 197-pound champion, who is undefeated in 39 bouts and ranked No. 1. Kilgore used an Olympic redshirt to train last season.
“It helps knowing I have beaten other guys that are in the tournament, and I know I can beat a lot of other ones who have qualified. (The key was) staying focused, knowing that I could win, and staying focused on my attacks. I kept pushing the pace, and I feel I could have done that even better at Big Tens.”
UI 197-pound wrestler
“It’s fine,” Burak said about his random placement in the bracket. “You have to beat everybody if you want to be a national champion, so it’s fine.”
Burak isn’t going into the match against an unfamiliar foe. He sparred with Kilgore a time or two a year ago when they were drilling at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“I wrestled against him quite a bit,” Burak said. “Not every day, but for sure a couple times a week. You feel him out, kind of know what his attacks are, how he wrestles. Coach has prepared me very well.”
Nathan has not backed down from top-notch foes this season. Thirteen times he has tangled with a nationally ranked competitor, coming out on top three times and losing seven others by a takedown or less.
Burak struggled initially in duals after going 7-1 in open competitions. He dropped his first three dual matches by a total of three points before downing Tim Murphy of Hofsta, 10-3, on Dec. 16 in the Grapple at the Garden in New York City. That victory started a streak of three wins in four matches. Then it was down (two losses), up (two wins), down (three losses), up (two wins) and down (three losses) for Burak before the Big Ten Tournament.
“I knew I was good enough, it was more doing what I knew I could do out on the wrestling mat,” Burak said. “I would do well in the practice room; I knew was capable of it, I just had to perform on the competition mat.”
A third Burak brother — Gabe — was a 2011 NCAA qualifier at 165 pounds for Penn, and a 2012 NCAA qualifier for Northern Colorado.
“Gabe and Micah are two years apart, and they wrestled each other more,” Nathan said. “I was more by myself so I didn’t wrestle (Micah) as much until these recent years.”
The first session of the NCAA Championships begins Thursday, March 21, at 11 a.m. (CT) in Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa. The official website of the Iowa Hawkeyes, hawkeyesports.com, will have exclusive video highlights from all sessions.