Micah Burak may not be the most vocal Penn grappler, but his actions on the mat speak volumes.
At the NCAA Wrestling Championships in St. Louis this past weekend, Burak concluded a stellar season with a seventh-place finish at 197 pounds. The result made him the 26th Penn wrestler to receive All-American honors.
“It would have been great to win, but I’m still happy to be an All-American,” Burak said.
The road was not easy. Burak had to battle through a head injury early in the season, but still managed to finish the year with a 26-6 record.
He was quick to praise God, his coaches, family, fans and teammates for his success this season.
“He was one match away from being an All-American last year,” coach Rob Eiter said. “With that, he started out the tournament a little nervous.”
At the NCAAs, he bested Lehigh’s Joe Kennedy, 2-1, in the Round of 12 to finish among the top eight. Burak had a 3-1 record against his rival this season, whom he also defeated in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Championship semifinals.
Burak improved greatly this year through hard work and practice, something that was apparent to both his teammates and coaches.
“He improved in the bottom and top positions. In years past, Micah was kind of notorious for not wanting to go down on his opponents and didn’t really do the job of riding them — he preferred to wrestle on his feet,” Eiter said. “But doing both actually won him the match against [Kennedy].”
The result was logical after the dominance he has shown all season long, establishing himself as one of the nation’s best.
Although Burak missed the Keystone Classic and Binghamton Open, he finished second at the Midlands Championship, one of the premier wrestling tournaments in the nation.
However, the Colorado native certainly hasn’t achieved everything he wanted this season. Only a junior, he’ll still have one more shot at winning the EIWAs and NCAAs.
He will have the added benefit of seeing his main conference rival and 2012 NCAA Champion, Cornell’s Cam Simaz, graduate. Burak won’t have the chance of notching his first win against Simaz. Nevertheless, his victory over Kennedy, also a senior, in their last bout proves he’s ready to move to the next level.
“[It’s] a nice way to finish out the season for him,” Eiter said.
After being a contender this year, Burak will enter next season as the favorite in the conference — and likely top five in the nation.
He’ll still have to improve, though, if he wants to consistently beat higher-ranked grapplers — something he has struggled with in the past.
“I probably needed to attack more, use my offense a little more,” Burak said.
While Eiter believes that Burak could benefit from a more varied style of wrestling, he affirmed his confidence in the All-American’s ability to improve. He even expects him to take on more of a leadership role next year — despite his quiet nature.
“Micah puts his head down and gets to work,” Eiter said. “Obviously the kids see that. They see the success he has and they’re going to try to emulate him.”
After all, for the coach of the Red and Blue, there’s one thing that matters more than All-American honors — that “he’s very consistent and reliable for us.”
As Burak quietly goes about his work, look out for him to make noise next season.