After spending four years starring on the mat for Buena Regional High School, Milmay, N.J. native Joe Burke originally chose to ply his trade at Wagner College.
In his first year with the Seahawks, he earned Freshman All-American honors following a season in which he dominated nearly every 150-pounder put in front of him. Burke won the Metropolitan Championships and in the final of the New England Conference Championships, handed SHU standout freshman Brendan Ferriter one of only two losses he suffered that year, prevailing by one point to earn a spot in the national championships.
The following year Burke returned to the Garden State, signing on to join the powerhouse Seton Hall program that was continuing to assert itself as a force to be reckoned with on the national wrestling scene under the watchful eye of longtime head coach Al Reinoso.
As it turned out, the addition of Burke greatly aided The Hall’s rise to the distinction of one of the most revered programs in the nation.
Seton Hall’s new 150-pound ace compiled a remarkable 27-3 record in his first season with the Pirates, but it was his torrid run through everyone who had the gall to step into the circle and oppose him during his junior year that announced to the wrestling world that Joe Burke and Seton Hall wrestling were in fact, the real deal.
Remaining at 150 pounds, Burke put the rest of the weight class on notice, winning 16-of-17 dual meet matches and taking home titles from the Coast Guard and Hunter Invitationals. At the New England Conference Championship meet, he qualified for the NCAA Tournament by virtue of his forceful performance and was selected as the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the tournament.
Burke went on to place fourth at the 1993 national tournament, completing the year with a 36-5 individual mark that helped the Pirates to a 12-5 team record and a 19th place finish at the NCAAs. At year’s end, he became the first Seton Hall wrestler ever to attain All-American status.
In 1993-94, Burke and fellow SHU all-time great Lou Cerchio redshirted as the team stumbled to a 7-11 record without their services. He returned to the mat in 1994-95, entering his final season blue and white ranked #2 in the nation at 158 pounds behind only Boston University’s Earl Walker.
The Pirates’ star 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. As the calendar inched towards February, Burke and Walker remained on a collision course to square off at the National Wrestling Coaches Association All-Star Classic, an event that featured the top-two wrestlers in the nation in each weight class.
When the two finally met again, Burke powered his way to a 10-2 victory over Walker, usurping the top spot in the rankings, one 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 national 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.
Following his arrival at the University of Iowa, Burke easily dispatched his preliminary opponents, defeating Wyoming’s Brandon Alderman (8-4) and Clark Conover of Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo (7-3) to advance to the quarterfinal round.
Paired with eighth-seeded Eric Smith of Ohio State with a spot in the semifinals on the line, Burke held a 2-1 advantage with three seconds remaining in the match. Smith managed to score a takedown at the buzzer however, claiming a 3-2 win.
Undeterred, Burke responded by muscling his way through the consolation bracket on his way to earning third-place in the nation. He was named an All-American for the second time in his career and the Pirates finished the season as the 18th-ranked team in the country.
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.
By any measure, he is one of the finest athletes ever to compete with the Seton Hall name written across his chest.
Today, he serves as the Director of Sales for Action Carting Environmental Services, Inc. in New York City.
The SHU wrestling program built a legacy of excellence that spanned much of the 20th century before its final season in 2000-01. On Monday, January 10, Burke will become only the third wrestler ever inducted into the Seton Hall Athletics Hall of Fame, joining Fredrick F. Buechel M.D. who won numerous Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and collegiate titles in the 1960’s, and the late Mark Whitford, a former Pirate standout who valiantly gave his life battling the blaze at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
Also scheduled to be honored as part of the 2013 Hall of Fame class are former baseball captain Rico Bellini '75, men's basketball great Andre Barrett '04, former men's soccer standout sand current SHU men's soccer head coach Gerson Echeverry '94 and four-time BIG EAST champion swimmer Jennifer Heider-Berenyi '94.
The 2013 Hall of Fame Golf Outing and Enshrinement Dinner will be held at Fairmount Country Club in Chatham, N.J. and is hosted by the Pirate Blue Athletic Fund.
For more information on the event, please CLICK HERE
Previous Where Are They Now? Interviews
Seton Hall Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2013 Inductees
Rico Bellini '75 - Baseball
Jennifer Heider-Berenyi '94 - Women's Swimming & Diving
Gerson Echeverry '94 - Men's Soccer
Andre Barrett '04 - Men's Basketball
April 17, 2013
Jamie Bosworth - Men's Golf
March 27, 2013
Kristen Downing - Women's Tennis, 1992-97
February 20, 2013
Alumnus Joe "Gyrating Joe" Lorenzo
February 6, 2013
Luther Wright - Men's Basketball, 1991-93
January 16, 2013
John Morris - Baseball, 1980-82
December 12, 2012
Rimas Kaukenas - Men's Basketball, 1996-00
November 28, 2012
Clark Topping - Men's Golf, 1996-1999
November 14, 2012
Ryan Murphy - Swimming & Diving, 1994-1998
October 24, 2012
Melissa Bellomy - Volleyball, 2006-2009
October 10, 2012
Amy Mellin - Softball, 1999-2002
September 28, 2012
Jason Hernandez - Men's Soccer, 2001-04
September 14, 2012
Arturas Karnisovas - Men's Basketball, 1990-94