Monday, October 26, 2015

Bucknell Athletic Hall of Fame Inductance Speech

Thank you, I am truly honored by this award and humbled by those of you that are here tonight on my behalf. As a wrestler at Bucknell, every day on the way to practice we would walk past the hall of fame pictures lining the hallway. Often I would stop and look at the pictures. I specifically remember the images of a football player named Joe wearing some sort of old cloth helmet with a smile on his face and the long lanky muscular body of a swimmer on the blocks. I would look at the faces, sometimes into the eyes, perhaps to get inside the head of what motivated these individuals. I remember coach Ferraro telling us that as we get older our past experiences become more important to us. But it was hard for me to understand these sorts of forward looking statements and I remembered thinking at the time that I hoped I would never be in a position to look back and would always be looking forward. As a freshman on the wrestling team, I might have been voted least likely to be inducted into any hall of fame. Coming into the program from Danville, just 15 minutes down the road, I had only one year of High School Varsity wrestling under my belt and had never competed in a High School District wrestling tournament. I was a “walk on” to the wrestling program and chose Bucknell for reasons more than just sport. I didn’t even know who the coach was at the time when I was accepted. I soon learned that Coach Ferraro’s son Bobby wrestled for Lewisburg High School and my school wrestled Lewisburg that season. I wanted to talk with coach Ferraro after the match. That day, I Lost by a major decision to a tall skinny kid named Vance Noone and coach Ferraro’s first words of encouragement to me were, “ I liked how you never gave up. Keep working hard. “ I would later come to realize that Coach’s first comment to me represented one of his core values. Coach had an ability to look inside the athlete’s head during competition. He could see confidence and fight and he could see when his wrestlers gave up. Regardless of the outcome, he expected you to give everything you had. In the practice room he would do anything to push us to the breaking point, then push a little more. The bond with teammates formed through shared suffering in the practice room is powerful and my best friendships grew out of the wrestling program. Success for me didn’t come overnight, it was truly a journey, shared and shaped by many others who remain important parts of my life to this day. My father has always said, “ Life is about choices.” He would say that elite participants in almost any activity, work or play, are a “ self selecting bunch”. He told me that he himself was not overly gifted, and that his success as a physician was the result of hard work. My father, the former head of the critical care unit at Geisinger Medical Center, is a living example of hard work and preparation. For example, at the football game tomorrow, he will most likely have 3 layers of clothing, an energy bar in his pocket, and an umbrella, just in case of a storm. My mother taught me the importance of believing in myself. She always provided opportunities for me. My favorite wrestling memory with my Mom was an off season tournament, which at the time, Bucknell didn’t participate in… The University Freestyle Nationals. I was unaware of the event, but somehow she found out about it and entered me into it. All the big 10 teams were there. I found myself in the semi-finals and I was up against a Hawkeye. At these events, it is mandatory that there be a coach in the corner. Well, in my corner, my Mom. In the other, Dan Gable. We won that day. So, we joke that my mom beat the legendary coach Dan Gable! As a result, I represented the United States on the University World Team and competed on the team internationally with other athletes from around the country. This is one of the many examples of opportunities my Mom made possible for me, because of her belief in me, and her reinforcement of the importance of positive thinking. My high school coach, Ron Kanaskie, has said, “Surround yourself with positive people”. I certainly have been surrounded by positive people. Starting at home with my parents and family, I have been very lucky to have been surrounded by positive people my whole life. And I look back on my journey so far and realize, that through all of it, wrestling has been an integral part of it. The impact that my coaches, have had on my life has been incredible. I give credit to Coaches Ranck, Heffner, Kanaskie, Ferraro, Jeff Connors, Rob Yoos, and Rocky Bonomo. My roommates all four years of college were wrestlers. And some of them are here tonight. While coaching a youth wrestling camp here one summer, I met my wife, Suzi. Whose favorite phrase after 24 years together is, “ we interrupt this marriage for wrestling season.” Together we have 3 wonderful children who are all here tonight and who we are very proud of. My wedding reception was in this very room and all my groomsmen were teammates. My best man was my high school workout partner. My contribution to community, coaching youth wrestling, stems from my desire to apply what I have learned and teach young men the skills and lessons that can only be learned on the mat. I connect with my own kids through sports and do what I can to pass on what’s been given to me all these years. Ron Kanaskie recently ended a speech with the powerful statement “ athletics is a classroom”. I continue to draw on experience that I learned IN the wrestling program at Bucknell. This honor tonight is wonderful and amazing, but the true honor has been the experience of being a Bucknell Bison wrestler. No award can compete with the lessons learned, relationships built, and experiences had. I’d like to thank the administration for their ongoing support of the wrestling program. It has had a tremendously positive impact on so many For me personally, it has changed my life.

Bryan Burns


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