Burk Van Horn lives on a farm just outside of Morgantown. But he doesn’t just live on the farm.
He works on the farm.
A junior at Franklin Community High School, Van Horn’s chief chore is raising cattle — a sweaty, back-breaking job that produces its share of bumps, bruises and rope burns.
But the work also elicits rewards, especially on the wrestling mat.
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Van Horn is not only one of the state’s most talented wrestlers in his weight class, he is also one of the strongest.
Maybe the strongest.
“He’s got kind of like farmer’s strength. He handles 2,000-pound animals all the time,” Franklin coach Bob Hasseman said. “Burk is real strong.”
But he’s more than that.
Van Horn is also aggressive, technically sharp and determined to make a run at the 160-pound state championship.
He is 31-1 heading into today’s Mooresville Sectional, including 1-1 against the defending state champion.
“My one goal, like everybody else’s goal, is to become a state champion,” Van Horn said. “That’s my one goal, and it’s been my goal ever since Day 1.”
For Van Horn, Day 1 goes all the way back to early childhood, when he continued two family traditions: wrestling and raising cows.
Ranked No. 7 in the state at 160, Van Horn is the last of three siblings to wrestle for Franklin. His older brothers Jae and Cole were standouts a few years ago. They also raised and showed Hereford cows, which little brother also does.
Van Horn spends most of his summer months doing one of two things: training for wrestling or working with cows.
He has equal passion for both.
“We show nationally,” Van Horn said. “This summer I’ll travel to Grand Valley, Nebraska. I’ll travel to Madison, Wisconsin, and I’ll travel to other places around the state to show my cows off and show how much work I put into them.
“I put as much hard work into them as I put into my wrestling.”
That is clearly a lot of work, because Van Horn dedicated much of his summer to getting stronger in the weight room and refining his skills in the wrestling room. The objective was twofold: to avoid a repeat of last year’s disappointment and make a bid for a state championship.
After qualifying for semistate as a freshman, Van Horn did not make it out of regionals last season. To make sure that doesn’t happen again, he went up a few weight classes during the summer club season to 182. The idea was add strength while at the same time becoming a more versatile and aggressive attacker.
“Just taking more shots and creating angles and just getting a feel for bigger kids and not just wanting to wrestle with smaller kids at my weight,” Van Horn said. “I lifted weights and tried to stay in shape and went at it hard.”
So far, the work has paid off.
Van Horn’s only loss was a 3-2 decision against defending state champion Cayden Whitaker of Martinsville at the Mid-State Conference Meet. Later in the regular season, Van Horn handed Whitaker his only loss on the year with an 8-4 decision.
Although there are not guarantees, they are likely to meet again today — and possibly again at the regional.
Martinsville is part of the Mooresville Sectional Field. Whitaker is seeded No. 1 at 160. Van Horn is No. 2. And Center Grove sophomore Gleason Mappes, a state qualifier last season, is seeded fourth.
“That’s a pretty tough weight class. His goal is to move on and do well,” Hasseman said. “The big thing for him is, don’t look at any one match. Take one match at a time and relax and just wrestle. If he does those things and doesn’t get all nervous about somebody, he’ll be fine.
“Sometimes that’s the biggest problem, staying mentally focused and not getting all bent out of shape. If he does that, he’s pretty daggone tough to beat.”
Van Horn’s plan, if not his expectation, is to not get beat. By anybody.
“You have to make it happen,” Van Horn said. “You’ve just got to keep working and try to get better every day, just keep working hard and don’t let anybody stand in your way.”
Name: Burk Van Horn
High school: Franklin
Weight class: 160
State ranking: No. 7
Parents: Chuck and Pat Van Horn
What: Mooresville Sectional
When: 9 a.m. today
Teams: Center Grove, Franklin, Greenwood, Indian Creek, Whiteland, Decatur Central, Martinsville, Monrovia, Mooresville and Plainfield
Advancement: The top four place winners in each weight class advance to the regional tournament.