Manistee hires new varsity wrestling coach, third in three years

Darrell Burchfield comes from Swan Valley with impressive resume

After battling through a couple years of turmoil Manistee wrestling looks to rebound with some stability by hiring its third coach in three years.

New Chippewa coach Darrell Burchfield is looking to come in and hopefully find some of the success he found in his last coaching position at Saginaw Swan Valley.

“It’s a year-round activity for me,” Burchfield said. “It’s not something that I take lightly. I’m a competitive person and I don’t always have to win, but I have to doing everything I’m capable of doing in order to get us to be the best we can be. As long as we’re doing that I’ll be happy with the team.”

Burchfield replaces Connor Sharp, who led the Manistee program for just one year following the suspension and subsequent firing of long-time coach Chris Codden.

Burchfield coached Swan Valley for 15 seasons, turning the Vikings into a perennial state power in his time there. He began coaching in 1985 and coached the program for two seasons before stepping away.

After a few seasons away from the sport he began coaching as an assistant again in 1992, and helped develop a youth program that paid off in the later years.

“I assisted for quite a few years, from 1992 to 2003, when I took over, and about halfway through that I started a youth club. I started developing our youth, and that started paying dividends immediately. I partnered with another guy (Darren Wass) that ran the Northern Elite Wrestling Club,” Burchfield said.

“We worked together very well. We developed a string of high-caliber kids.”

He was an assistant up until 2004 when he took over as head coach and remained there through the 2016 season.

Prior to all of that he wrestled at Saginaw Valley State and Central Michigan where he was both a NCAA All-American (8th place) and NAIA All-American (6th place).

In his 13 seasons during his second stint in charge the program made it to the final four five times, won nine district titles, won five regionals and won eight conference championships.

His record from 2004 to 2016 was 406-93, good for an 81 percent winning percentage. In two seasons the Vikings only recorded one loss, and they had over 40 wins on three occasions. Throughout his years in that job he had 70 individual all-state qualifiers, 45 all-state wrestlers, and seven individual state champions. He also had 10 wrestlers go on to sign Division 1 scholarships.

Burchfield attributes part of the success that the program had at Swan Valley to the fact that his wrestlers were willing to go and train with other teams, and they would allow wrestlers from other schools to come in and train with them.

After that successful 13-year stretch he left the Saginaw area and took a banking job in Manistee.

“We absorbed a lot of information from a lot of different places. I don’t view myself as a trailblazer or some fantastic coach, but I was good at using the resources that are available. In the end we had guys coming back to work with us,” Burchfield said.

“We were blessed to be able to train guys from all over the area. Our kids got the benefit of our kids working with all of the best kids around.”

He hopes to have something similar to that in Manistee, but he also wants to build a program with the other sports programs at the school. By the time he left Swan Valley the wrestling program was beginning to work with the football program a couple days of the week with leverage and hand-fighting drills.

“If a young man, or a young lady, wants to be successful then I’m going to work with them to try and find a path to success for them. Not only in wrestling, I want to partner with the other sports coaches in Manistee so that our programs are working together,” he said.

“I think of football because I can think of no other sport to pair with football than wrestling. It teachers hand fighting, leverage, tackling, and all sorts of things. It teaches both mental and physical toughness. It teaches all sorts of things that are needed on the football field.”

Practice for the 2017-18 wrestling season will open on November 13.

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Posted by Brian Fogg

Brian is the sports writer for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3110 or bfogg@pioneergroup.com.

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