As Laveen Cesar Chavez wrestler Bradley Burston prepared for his state-final match last year in the Division I tournament, he was in a state of shock.
“I didn’t think I’d actually make it that far,” Burston said. “Coach had to remind a couple times that I was in the state final.”
Burston was defeated by pin at the hands of Mesa High’s Ben Andrew in the 220-pound division. And that’s where the clarity sinks in.
“It was disappointing,” Burston said. He ended the season 33-9.
But last year’s loss is also what motivates the senior this season.
“Knowing that I came that close, now I know the feeling of what it feels like to be there,” he said. “I’m pretty confident that I can come back and take it this year. It’s going to take a lot of work.”
First-year coach David Speer will be aiding Burston in his quest for a title.
“He’s a natural athlete, incredibly strong. He placed second last year in the state just on pure strength,” he said. “We’ve talked about that match — what went wrong. How he could have done things differently. He’s hungry for a state championship this year.”
Speer, who wrestled in the heavier weight classes when he was an athlete, said he has been working with Burston on harnessing his raw talent and sharpening his technique.
Burston is wrestling in the heavyweight division but plans to slim down and get back to 220 by the end of the season.
He was named a captain on this year’s squad and the role suits him well, Speer said.
“He’s a model wrestler and student; a natural leader for the team,” he said. “He’s a coach’s dream.”
Burston said he feels a lot of responsibility to set an example for the other wrestlers, especially his younger and less-experienced teammates. He often helps them with their schoolwork during the team’s mandated study hall and he always leads the runs during conditioning workouts on the track.
Last year changed Burston as an athlete. And now, the big stage won’t awe him and success will not shock him. There is more pressure now, too, because people have started to crowd around his mat during matches, expecting to see him win. But Burston is up for the challenge.
“I feel ready for it,” he said. “I’m going to come back and beat whoever is in my way of taking my state title.”