Apex North and Central Instructor
Joe Burke adds yet another layer of depth to The Apex Wrestling School staff. Many members of our staff had athletic careers whose strength at the high school and collegiate levels were relatively similar. Joe Burke bucks this trend, as he is a prototypical example of a “late bloomer”, as well as exemplifying why early career success is not necessarily a scripted predictor of future success. While Burke was absolutely a star wrestling athlete on the mat for Buena Regional High School in Milmay, New Jersey, it was not until he began his collegiate career that his true prowess on the mat was realized.
Originally choosing to attend Wagner College in Staten Island, NY, Burke earned All-American honors in his freshman campaign for the Seahawks, while also winning the Metropolitan Conference Championships and the New England Conference Championships.
The following year Burke returned to New Jersey, signing onto the since defunct Seton Hall University wrestling program. As a 150-pound competitor, Burke compiled a remarkable 27-3 record in his first season with the Pirates, winning 16 of 17 dual meet matches and taking home titles from the Coast Guard and Hunter College Invitationals. At the New England Conference Championship meet, he qualified for the NCAA Tournament and was selected as the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the tournament. Burke then went on to place fourth at the 1993 NCAA Division I national tournament, completing the year with a 36-5 individual mark and becoming the first Seton Hall wrestler ever to attain All-American status.
In 1993-94, Burke redshirted, returning to the mat in 1994-95 ranked #2 in the nation at 158 pounds behind only Boston University’s Earl Walker. Burke went head-to-head with Walker twice early in the season and the two split a pair of 4-3 decisions and the rankings held steady. The two then squared off again at the National Wrestling Coaches Association All-Star Classic, an event that featured the top-two wrestlers in the nation in each weight class. Burke powered his way to a 10-2 victory over Walker, usurping the top spot in the rankings, which he did not relinquish for the rest of the season. Due to the proximity of the two universities, Burke and Walker met for a fourth time that year, as their match at the Big Northeast Wrestling Championships effectively decided which man would enter the NCAA tournament as the #1 seed at 158 pounds. The result was a grueling affair that saw Burke emerge with a 3-2 victory and the distinction of the man to beat heading into the NCAA Championships. After an upset loss in the quarterfinal of the NCAA tournament, Burke responded by muscling his way through the consolation bracket for a third-place finish, becoming a two-time All-American.
Unquestionably one of the most potent forces to take to the mat during the era, Burke won more than 90 percent of his matches for Seton Hall, finishing his career with a 112-12 record for the Pirates and a 148-20-1 mark overall. Burke is only the third wrestler ever inducted into the Seton Hall Athletics Hall of Fame.
Joe Burke currently lives in Park Ridge, NJ with his wife, Jenny, son Jojo, and daughter Frankie, and is the Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Interstate Waste Services, Inc.
Joe Burke’s proudest moment as a wrestling coach: “I helped in the effort to take a team of Apex middle school wrestlers, including my son Jojo, to Wisconsin for the freestyle national tournament, and that was a really special experience. Without having trained very long for the freestyle season, everyone we brought out there made the podium. It was amazing to see, and for me, it reinforced that the core wrestling principles and training of our program are transferable to all styles of wrestling. In short, we are doing all the right things at Apex and as a coach that’s really always the biggest concern.”