It wasn’t always smooth sailing for Great Bend High School senior wrestler Chris Burley.
After falling to St. Thomas Aquinas’ Isaac Dulgarian in a Class 5A state wrestling tournament championship match as a junior in the 120-pound weight class, Burley felt he’d let people down.
It didn’t matter that he injured his elbow during the match. It didn’t matter that he’d already earned a state title as a sophomore at 112.
“I felt like a let a lot of people down,” Burley said. “They all expected for me to win it because I had the year before.
“I guess I let that motivate me. I wanted to get back there.”
He did get back there, and on Saturday evening at Hartman Arena in Park City, Burley defeated Quinton Harrison of Newton for a state crown at 126.
“It felt like relief that it was all over,” Burley said. “It was like closure. I finally got back there.”
Going out as a state champion his senior year isn’t the only closure he got out of the state title match.
Burley, who went 134-21 in his four years in high school, finished his career with a winning record against Harrison.
Burley and Harrison have a history.
The two wrestlers have gone back and forth their whole careers. They have wrestled seven times. Burley holds the final advantage at 4-3.
“It was kind of like the icing on the cake,” Burley said. “I finished ahead in the whole rivalry thing.”
Burley beat Harrison as a sophomore for his first state title. As seniors, Harrison beat Burley, who lost two matches all season, in a regional championship match a week before the state tournament this season.
So when the two of them saw who was sitting on the other side of the bracket, there was a familiar moment of recognition.
“I did have that moment,” said Burley, whose only other loss this season came against Hoisington High School’s Class 3-1A state champion at 126 Brandon Ball.
“I’ve wrestled the guy seven times. We know each other really well. I knew it was going to be a close match, and that’s exactly what happened.”
Burley won 2-1, and after the match, he spoke briefly with Harrison.
“I talked with him afterwards on the podium,” Burley said. “He was like, ‘I’m going to miss this, competing against each other.’ ”