Archive for Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Bratkovic: Burns built great program, family

January 9, 2008

Dick and Dan Burns made a familiar journey to the front of the wrestling mats on Saturday.

They made the journey with Dan pushing his father in a wheelchair.

Dick Burns has been confined to a wheelchair since suffering a stroke in 1992. He can't talk, but they can always communicate.

The pair made the journey as an announcer told the crowd that they were there to honor Dick Burns before the finals round started at the Dick Burns Mat Classic.

The announcer spoke to the crowd about who Dick Burns was and what he meant to wrestling. He spoke about the state placers he had coached and the imprint Burns left on the sport of wrestling in Bonner Springs.

To some, like the current group of Bonner Springs wrestlers, maybe they didn't have much of an idea who this gentleman was.

Maybe, they just knew him as coach Burns father. To others, well, they remembered well what Dick Burns had taught him on the mats.

The holds, the moves, the life lessons: dedication, commitment, toughness. You know, things a kid can't buy in a shopping mall or after school arcade, but things that can only be taught on places as uncomfortable and raw as a wrestling room can be.

Burns wrestlers worked hard, and won. Most never forgot him. On Saturday, they were there to honor him. They were there to shake his hand.

One jokingly challenged Burns to a match. Both probably wished they could. Those were different days, though. Simpler times when Burns seemed larger than life to these young men who hung on his every word as they worked their way through high school.

Now, Burns has his memories, friends and families. What a special family. His children and grand children were there on Saturday.

Some came up an hugged him. Others sat by Dick Burns side as the wrestling tournament unfolded. They discussed the tournament in only ways that a father who can't communicate well and his children can.

As the tournament unfolded, and the crowd came to its feet, I couldn't help but tear up just a little bit.

I thought about my late father and the relationship we had. I would take him to appointments and hang out with him in his later years. They are times I wouldn't trade for anything now.

But I digress.

For all of the champions that Burns coached and all the accolades that he has received over the years, hall of fame inductions, etc. at the end of the day, Burns greatest accomplishment is his family.

They were the ones who sat by the mats when he coached. They are the ones who are with him now as he enjoys the golden years.

It was fitting that Dan Burns was standing behind his father as the announcer finished reading.

We should all be so lucky to have family like that.

Mr. Burns created quite a legacy in Bonner Springs wrestling and seems to have an even better family.

They should all take a bow.

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