HETTINGER - Hettinger-Scranton's Kyle Burwick is familiar with performing under the spotlight. The senior grappler has won four consecutive North Dakota state wrestling titles, including his last two at the 126-pound weight class.
His father, Randy, a decorated wrestler in his own right, has been on the sidelines coaching him the entire time.
On Tuesday, Nov. 20, Burwick took center stage again. Only this time, there were no wrestlers to battle and no mat to perform on. Instead, Burwick was seated at a table placed in the middle of the Roberts-Reinke Auditorium in between Randy and his mother, Connie.
In the stands, there were no opposing fans, but rather proud onlookers, ranging from family members, fellow Hettinger Public School classmates both young and old, and other members of the community.
After announcing his commitment on Twitter months earlier, Burwick made his collegiate plans official, signing his letter of intent to wrestle at the University of Wisconsin and becoming the first Division I athlete in Hettinger-Scranton history.
"Today, it means a lot of hard work is paying off," Burwick said. "It means that the support system that has had my back is unmatched. ... There's no way I could have gotten to this point without my family, all of my friends, training partners, teammates, all the parents, everybody."
Burwick was recruited heavily, as interest from various top-notch programs began pouring in the summer of 2017. He first received looks from North Dakota State University and South Dakota State University before getting in touch with the University of Nebraska, the University of Minnesota and other Big Ten schools during his junior season.
Wisconsin was initially not in the running for his services, but after members of the NDSU coaching staff accepted positions with the Badgers, he opted to join a program run by 2017 Big 12 Coach of the Year and former SDSU head coach Chris Bono.
"I knew I wanted to go out and check what was going on in Madison (Wis.)," Burwick said. "I took my official visit out there and ultimately, the coaching staff there is a great fit. I went with my instinct, and although Madison is a ways away, I think it's a great place to not only reach my goals training-wise, wrestling-wise, but also get a top-notch education."
In the most recent USA Today/NWCA Coaches Poll, the Badgers are the 11th ranked team in NCAA Division 1. Their latest recruit says that he is also looking forward to the fan support and competition at the next level.
However, the Night Hawks senior claimed choosing Wisconsin "was the biggest decision of my life," one of which the hardest part featured declining the offers of the schools contending for his services. That's when Randy Burwick, a former National Champion at Dickinson State University, stepped in.
"That was a huge thing for him because he had grown a relationship with those guys. I said, 'Here's the thing, buddy, you have to do right now what's best for you,'" Randy Burwick said. "They'll understand that. That was a horrible time for him when he had to make those phone calls, but I wasn't going to make them. I told him, 'Kyle, this is you. This is another man-up deal.' And he did, and did a great job with that."
At the beginning of the ceremony, Randy Burwick, the Hettinger-Scranton wrestling head coach since 1990, told the crowd that his son entered the sport when he was six years old, explaining all of the hard work Kyle has put in since.
After putting pen to paper, it was Burwick's turn to take the mic, imploring the young children in attendance to set high goals. Born into a family of grapplers, he believes his ambition aided him in developing a love for the sport.
"I think that sport really grew on me. I was an energetic kid, had high goals," Burwick said. "It stuck with me because I learned at a very young age that hard work will pay off. ... It's physical sport, it's a tough sport, it's grueling, but I love the process. Sometimes it gets rough, but life isn't all sunshine and rainbows."
At the end of the ceremony, Burwick was joined on the floor by all the students in attendance for a group photo. But as much as his moment was a community event, it was first and foremost a family affair.
When the gym cleared, the Burwicks took one last family photo. Before the cameras snapped, Connie Burwick raised her cellphone. On the other end was her daughter, Tayler, a sophomore at NDSU, and she participated in the picture via Facetime.
"The work that we've all done is for a reason. We always say as a family that we do things with a purpose," Randy Burwick said. "This is just huge for our family. We're pretty excited with what our kids have done, and this just another step. We're happy as hell."