Ithaca High wrestler Richie Burke is in the hunt for his third consecutive Section 4 championship.
That would be amazing enough, but add the fact that Burke is a sophomore, and his story gets even better. If he won sectional titles through his senior year, he would become Section 4’s first five-time champion. “That’s my goal,” he said.
Wrestling titles, however, are not the only things Burke hunts for. The 126-pounder, who sports a 29-3 record this season, also enjoys hunting so much that he can be found in the woods before and after practice. “During wrestling season, I hunt a lot,” he said.
Whatever the routine, it has worked. Burke has gone 58-9 over the last two seasons, and eclipsed the 100 career-win plateau earlier this season at the Cortland Duals. He’s ranked second in the section at 126 pounds, behind only Chenango Forks’ Jacob Green, who defeated Burke, 3-2, in double-overtime in the finals at the Southern Tier Athletic Conference championships.
Burke won’t be seeing Green this weekend, however. Ithaca’s two-time champion will be going for title No. 3 at 132 pounds in this weekend’s sectional tournament at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton.
Burke is seeded first at 132, and is one of two Ithaca wrestlers who’ve earned No. 1 seedings for sectionals, the other being 99-pounder Collyn Shippos. Ian Van Valen (152) is seeded third; Julian Korfine was ranked No. 1 this season at 138, but stumbled at the STAC tournament and dropped to a No. 5 seed.
In this week’s edition of “Five Questions,” we ask Burke about his start in the sport, this season, and his father and other influences.
How did you get involved in wrestling?
My dad started me when I was a lot younger. I was only about 4 years old when I started. I’ve been traveling a lot to different tournaments over the years.
Did you think that, as a sophomore, you would be at the level you are now?
Not really. I knew I had to put a lot of time into it if I wanted to be a champion, so I put as much time into it as I possibly could.
What is your wrestling routine like during the season, compared to the off-season?
During the season I mostly just follow what my coach tells me to do, but the off-season is mostly just relaxing. I travel with a few different teams and go to different tournaments.
What kinds of people have influenced you over the years?
My coach (Eric Parker) and my dad (Rich Burke). My dad is always pushing me really hard to do the best that I can do. My dad wrestled when he was young but not for that long, so he wanted me to try it out. He asked if I liked it and I said I did, so I just kept going with it.
How well do you know three-time NCAA champion Kyle Dake?
I’ve gone to a few tournaments with him, because we are family friends. My parents are good friends with his parents.