The Burley brothers are back — minus one.
Last winter, Great Bend High School’s Louis Burley, Chris Burley and Greg Burley made it a family affair as all three qualified for the Class 5A portion of the state wrestling tournament last February in Wichita.
Louis Burley, a four-time state qualifier, graduated last spring and is now attending Barton Community College. He passed the torch to younger brothers Chris Burley (120), a junior, and Greg Burley (132), a sophomore, both of whom are top-flight contenders for the Panthers entering Saturday’s regional tournament at Salina South. The wrestlers will weigh in at 7:30 a.m., and the regional starts at 9:30.
Chris Burley, the defending state champion at 112 pounds, bumped up to 120 this season, where he is ranked No. 2 in the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association poll with a 31-3 record entering Saturday’s loaded regional.
Like last season, a bull’s-eye remains on his chest.
“Earlier in the year, I had a lot of pressure on me and I wasn’t wrestling very well,” Chris Burley said. “I kind of took a step back during Christmas break and just kind of tried to get it all out of my system.”
“Early in the year, it seemed like I was losing my quickness. My technique is getting a lot better, I’m feeling good and I haven’t had to cut much weight.”
Chris Burley says he tries to use his status as motivation instead of pressure.
“Here lately, I’ve just tried to forget about it,” he said. “It is a lot of pressure. Everybody expects you to win and coming from me, I feel like I can’t improve any because I’m expected to win.
“If you lose, you lose everything. If you win, it’s expected. You don’t gain anything. It is kind of a burden, but I just try to keep improving.”
Besides top-ranked freshman Isaac Dulgarian, out of St. Thomas Aquinas, who will be competing in another its own regional on Saturday, the Nos. 2 through 6 will all be at Salina South.
That group includes third-ranked Quinton Harrison of Newton, No. 4 Kevin Arnhold of Hays, No. 5 Patrick Burrus of Wichita Kapaun-Mt. Carmel and Ben Lightfoot of Arkansas City.
“My regional is pretty stacked,” Chris Burley said. “It will be tough. I will have to wrestle good just to get out of there with a win.”
Harrison, you may recall, is the guy Chris Burley pinned during the second period last February to capture the state championship.
Greg Burley, meanwhile, is ranked No. 6 at 132 pounds with a 16-2 record.
“I feel like I’m wrestling good,” Greg Burley said. “I just got back into action a few weeks ago and I’m not burned out yet.
“I’m still improving, which is the important part.”
Because of concussions, Greg Burley missed some time on the mat. It also helped him put things into perspective.
“I missed like four or five tournaments,” he said. “I got a concussion or two, but I’m definitely back to normal and how I want to be wrestling.”
Of the six 5A top-ranked wrestlers at 132, Greg Burley has two wrestlers ranked above him that will be in his bracket this weekend in senior Luke Lee of Andover Central, which is ranked No. 3 in the team rankings, and Newton junior Anthony Moneras, who is ranked fifth for the Railers, the fourth-ranked team.
Bo Pursel, a senior from Lansing, is top-ranked at 132 and is wrestling in the Emporia regional. No. 2-ranked Cody Eastman of top-ranked Arkansas City will be taking part in the Valley Center regional.
Great Bend’s Brodie Bretz (138), who sat out last week’s home dual with Hays, allowing time for a shoulder injury to fully heal, is ranked No. 6 in the state. He owns a 21-13 record.
The wrestlers will be vying for berths in the 6A-5A state tourney, set for Friday and Saturday, Feb. 24-25, at Hartman Arena in Park City.