NEW PALESTINE — This is it, and Landan Burton knows it.
A highly-decorated wrestler throughout his high school career, which includes three consecutive semistate appearances and 119 wins, there’s still one thing the New Palestine senior 220-pounder wants to achieve more than anything before it’s over.
And he believes this could be the year.
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“I’m just putting everything I got into it,” Burton remarked on his IHSAA state finals aspiration. “I’m not holding anything back. This is the final chance.”
Falling short of his primary goal in each of the past three campaigns, Burton is focused on breaking through this month, and he’s on pace to potentially accomplish it, fueled by a brewing, yet grounded, confidence.
“I think he understands what it’s going to take and what he’s capable of,” New Palestine head coach Alex Johns remarked on Burton’s approach this season. “He’s worked really hard, and he’s put himself in position to do well.”
A standout defensive lineman for the Dragons’ Hoosier Heritage Conference championship football team this year, Burton dedicated himself to the weight room during the summer months to build his overall strength. His bench press increased from 205 pounds to more than 300, and his footwork has skyrocketed.
The results have been a 37-1 record on the year — the most wins in a single season by Burton. The timing couldn’t have been better, since it’s now or never for the three-time sectional champion.
Set to pursue a career as a welder after graduation, wrestling in college isn’t something actively on his radar, though he admits, he would consider it, if offered.
For the time being, though, Burton is entering every match this postseason as if it was his last, and at the Shelbyville Sectional this past Saturday, he made sure it wasn’t.
After a pair of forfeits, Burton, who is ranked seventh in the state by Indianamat, made short work of the competition. He won his first match by fall in 1 minute, 30 seconds against Triton Central’s Gavin Cook. In the finals, he pinned Greenfield-Central’s Hunter Gulden (30-9) in 2:45 to lock down his third title in four years.
“It’s a pride thing really. I don’t want to lose my senior year. I’d rather go out my senior year with a bang and say that I won,” Burton said.
More times than not, Burton has done just that, opening the season 25-0 before losing to fifth-ranked Evansville Mater Dei’s Michael Boots by decision 4-2 this past December.
Since, he’s been on a tear, racking up 12 straight wins.
“It eats away at me. I think about (that loss) nonstop,” Burton said. “I can’t stand that I lost. I think I could beat that kid. If I was feeling 100 percent like I should, I think I could beat that kid, no problem.”
If there is a rematch, if would be at state in downtown Indianapolis at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, but Burton isn’t getting ahead of himself. He’s embracing the process and leaving nothing on the mat with two more hurdles to clear.
At the Perry Meridian Regional this Saturday, he will be seeking his second career championship after consecutive runner-up finishes at 195 pounds. A top-four placement will advance him into his fourth straight semistate.
His top regional competition this weekend could be 12th-ranked Frank Hammond (20-4) of Perry Meridian, who will face off against Gulden in the opposite bracket’s opening round.
Burton locks up with Will Hickman of Indianapolis Manual (26-14) in the first round with either Carlos Mitchell (32-10) of Warren Central or Roncalli’s Spencer Fears (23-13) in the semifinals.
“I know it will be tough. I might see that kid from Perry (Meridian),” Burton said. “He beat Andy Guhl (of Cathedral), who I lost to (7-6) at semistate (last year), so I know it will be a tough match in the finals. But I hope I can come up with a W again.”