Bryan Brunk enters his ninth season at the helm of Messiah wrestling in 2011-2012, serving as the program’s fifth head coach in its 39-year history.
It did not take long for the Buxton, Maine native to put his stamp on the program, as Brunk was named the 2004 National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) NCAA Division III Rookie Coach of the Year following his initial campaign. Since that time, Brunk has coached six NCAA National Championships qualifiers and three conference champions, including 2009 NCAA Division III All-American Craig Gin.
Perhaps most importantly, however, Brunk has orchestrated a program that has become known for excellence both on and off the mat. Brunk earned the 2005 NWCA Bob Bubb Coaching Excellence Award — an honor bestowed to “an outstanding coach who epitomizes the qualities and characteristics of a role model and mentor for developing young student-athletes” — while Messiah has appeared within the NWCA’s Top 20 for team grade point average in each of his seven years at the helm. The Falcons’ program boasted the highest team GPA among all of NCAA Division III in 2006, and finished second in both 2004 and 2007. To date, Brunk has coached 18 NWCA All-American Scholar-Athletes during his time at Messiah.
“We want to provide the best overall wrestling experience in the country,” Brunk said. “Team unity, academic excellence, spiritual growth and competitive wrestling ... those facets are equally important here. I think that’s what makes us unique. It’s common to find places where one or two of those things are important, but we pride ourselves on valuing the entire package.”
Brunk’s holisitc approach has yielded incredible results, as Messiah has boasted an NCAA National Championships qualifier in all but one of Brunk’s years as head coach. Forty-five wrestlers have finished as conference or regional place winners over the past seven seasons, while Brunk was named the 2005 Middle Atlantic Conference Coach of the Year.
“We strive to win, but it’s not our overriding purpose,” Brunk said. “Make no mistake, winning is a clear goal. But it is not our purpose.”
Prior to coming to Messiah, Brunk was an assistant coach for the University of Southern Maine from 1998-2003. He served at USM under long-time mentor Ted Reese — a Maine Amateur Wrestling Association Hall of Fame Coach and National High School Coach of the Year.
As a prep, Brunk wrestled for Reese at Bonny Eagle High School, and delivered outstanding results: Splitting time between the 130- and 145-weight classes, Brunk compiled a 112-8 record, winning three Maine State Championships. He was named Honorable Mention All-American by Wrestling USA magazine and was named Academic All-American byAmateur Wrestling News.
Brunk began his collegiate career at Wheaton College (IL), serving the Crusaders as a two-year starter at 150 pounds. He placed fourth and second in the NCAA Division III West Regional, and was named the first alternate to the NCAA National Championships as a sophomore. While at Wheaton, Brunk finished second and first in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin Championships.
Brunk then transferred closer to home in 1996, attending Western New England College for his final two years of athletic eligibility. He won New England Conference Championships at the conclusion of each season, qualifying for the NCAA Championships as both a junior and a senior. During his final year of collegiate wrestling, Brunk was named an NWCA Academic All-American.
Brunk graduated from Western New England in 1998, earning a bachelor of arts degree in history. He received a master’s degree in teaching and learning from the University of Southern Maine in 2004.
Brunk has been married to his wife, Bethany, for 11 years. The couple has four children: Asa, Reeese, Abel and Ky. The family resides in Grantham.