Brian Antonelli, assistant wrestling coach at Annapolis for the past eight years, will serve as interim coach for the 2013-14 season.
The academy also announced there would be a reception to honor coach Burnett and his wife Karen prior to the 57th edition of the Army-Navy dual meet on Feb. 21, 2014, with details to be announced at a future date.
During his 13-year tenure at the Academy, Burnett led the Midshipmen to a 113-57 record (.665) that featured six-straight seasons of 10 or more wins from 2002-07. The Midshipmen have finished among the top five at the EIWA (Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association) Championships in seven of the last nine years, winning eight individual EIWA crowns and placing among the top 25 at the NCAA Championship in three of the last seven seasons. Burnett guided Navy to an 18th-place finish at the 2007 and ‘08 NCAA Championships, its highest NCAA finish since placing 13th more than two decades ago (1990).
Burnett’s service to wrestling goes far beyond Annapolis. For over two decades, Burnett helped prepare the United States’ elite wrestlers for world and Olympic competition as the national freestyle coach beginning in 1992. His resume is nothing short of impressive. His teams won five medals at the 1996 Olympic Games (three gold, one silver and one bronze), five at the 2000 Olympic Games (one gold, two silver and two bronze) and eight medals at the 1999 Pan American Games (six gold, one silver and one bronze). Additionally, his teams captured World Team Titles in 1993 and 1995, at seven World Cup of Wrestling events between 1993 and 2000, and at four Pan American Championships in the 1990s.
During that time, Burnett coached Kurt Angle, Tom Brands, Kendal Cross, Kevin Jackson, Brandon Slay and John Smith to Olympic gold medals, while cornering Terry Brands, Tom Brands, Angle, Jackson and Smith to World Championships.
“The values of honor, courage, determination and commitment quickly come to mind when I reflect on Coach Burnett,” said Naval Academy Director of Athletics Chet Gladchuk. “Bruce has been our staff’s benchmark for Academy values throughout his distinguished and nationally respected tenure at Navy. Those who wrestled for him will attest to his brilliance as a coach, but even more significant has been his educational influence on their personal and professional development. So many are proud and grateful for the role he has played in their lives. We will miss Coach Burnett and his lovely wife Karen very much.”
Coach Burnett expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to coach at Navy.
“For 13 years I have had the privilege of challenging hundreds of young men on the mat as they prepare for careers of service and leadership,” said Burnett. “When I came to the Academy in October of 2000, I envisioned this position as a five to seven-year commitment. However, after experiencing the focus of purposeful work and the quality of young men entering the wrestling room, I knew my professional work life would conclude at the Naval Academy.
“At every level, I have experienced on-going support and I commend Chet Gladchuk for his leadership, as well as the Academy leadership, for the direction and important role of athletics within the Academy setting. Within the wrestling program, we have over 23 Navy SEALs and many more Marines and Naval Officers who have been or are on active duty. I do believe that Navy wrestling was a significant contributor in the preparation and readiness for the leadership role they have today.
“I have been blessed with a strong and dedicated coaching staff, supportive and involved alumni and wonderful families who have entrusted us with their young men. Undoubtedly, it will be the day to day contact with those athletes and relationships forged that I will miss the most. I am excited for the future of Navy wrestling and I know we have the support of the athletic department and the personnel in place to keep the program moving forward. I have the utmost respect for Brian Antonelli not only is a graduate of the Naval Academy, but has served alongside me in coaching these young men. Without a doubt, the program is in great hands moving forward with Brian leading the way.”
Burnett's retirement announcement is the second major change to the Navy wrestling coaching staff this summer. In August, Danny Song was announced as a new assistant coach.
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