It all started a decade ago, when Brian Burley qualified for the Class 5A state championships in wrestling his senior campaign at Great Bend High School.
Brian Burley was the first in a long line of top-flight wrestlers in the Burley family. On Saturday, a trio of Burleys — Louis, a 152-pound senior; Greg, 125, freshman; and Chris, 112, sophomore — along with their GBHS teammates, will be vying for state berths as the Panthers head to Hays for 5A regional competition. It starts at 10 a.m.
Chris is top-ranked at 112, sporting a 29-3 record. He placed fifth last season at the state extravaganza as a freshman. Louis is vying for his fourth straight trip to the state, and Greg is trying to qualify for the first time in high school after injuring his collarbone earlier in the year.
This is the culmination of another season for the Burleys, all three of whom have wrestled since they were 5 years old through the Great Bend Kids Wrestling program.
“We’ve all been wrestling for 12 to 13 years,” said Louis of himself and his two younger brothers. “Actually, Chris and I started at the same time and then Greg came the year after.
“My dad never wrestled. We actually got into it from my older brother, Brian Burley. He made it to state his senior year.
Needless to say, because of the roughhousing with three high school wrestlers, there has been some damage to the Bill and Gui Burley household furniture over the years.
“Oh definitely,” Louis said. “There were times when we were kids when we had a Friday night practice with our dad and we’d practice in the living room
“I don’t know how many times we broke our coffee table in there and I recall one time I was wrestling Chris in his room and I threw him and his legs hit the light and it broke the light off.”
No question, the sibling rivalry that initially came into play during Kids Wrestling still holds true today in the wrestling room at the Panther Athletic Center.
“Actually, the two little ones (Chris and Greg) used to wrestle in the same weight all of the time, back when they were 8 years old,” Louis said. “They actually wrestled each other in the district finals once to go to state, I’ve always been kind of older and bigger.”
Louis is seeking to make it four high state berths in a row on Saturday.
“I’ve qualified for three years in a row and I want to make it to four,” he said. “I know what it takes, I know what’s at stake and I hope to get a regional championship.
“Chris is top-ranked and he’s wrestled his tail off all year,” Louis said. “He’s wrestled the best of the best and he’s beat the best of the best.”
For Chris, he says his ranking doesn’t mean anything if he’s not prepared to wrestle every time he hits the mat
“Being ranked is just a number,” Chris said. “It really doesn’t mean anything. I still have to go out there and wrestle.
“Through my brother Brian, I learned the most from him. He always taught us to shoot and go for leg attacks. That really helped me out, and Louis and Greg, they always push me hard on the wrestling mat.”
The competition between Chris and Greg has always been intense.
“We get after it every day in practice,” Greg said. “We haven’t been partners lately because every time we wrestle, it just gets so intense.
“You don’t want to lose to your brother. You’ve got that sibling rivalry where you’ve got to win. We’ll watch each other wrestle and they’ll tell me stuff I’m doing wrong and I’ll tell them stuff they’re doing wrong. I guess it just makes us better.”
Greg was a state runner-up in Kids Wrestling a few years back. Chris has been a Kids Wrestling state champion and also a three-time state runner-up.
Great Bend head coach Norbert Muth says it is a rarity to have three siblings wrestling at the same time in high school competition.
“Them being on the same mat, the same time, all three of them, probably makes it rare,” Muth said. “I can’t think of any in Great Bend and I don’t remember a lot throughout the state.
“Now two (siblings) is something you see quite often, but three is a rarity.”
The sibling rivalry is like any other family members competing, according to Muth.
“It’s like any other situation where you have family,” Muth said. “There’s times where they might want to fight each other, but a nobody-better-mess-with-them-type of situation.
“Louie is very protective of his little brothers and they’re protective of him, yet they don’t mind getting after each other. I’m sure they do it at home, and we’ve had to back them off of doing some different things with them every once in a while at practice because it gets heated at times.”