Story by Chase Burgess
Upon entering the Wrestling room at Missouri Valley College, you will find the words “No Weak Links” amongst other motivational images and phrases. To some, it’s a motto; to others, a philosophy. To Brian Bitney, it’s become a way of life. The senior Biology & Education major from Puyallup, Wash., has been through a lot to say the least.
Two concussions, 10 sprained fingers, a dislocated right-elbow, an IT band injury, a torn meniscus, a torn right-labrum, and a torn right-rotator cuff, to be exact; and that’s just in college. If your body began to ache just reading that, I’m sure you’re not alone. However, Bitney refuses to give it up. His love of wrestling is greater than the pain of injuries and disappointment of setbacks.
“I understand why people quit after injuries, one-hundred percent understand,” Bitney said.
Although small injuries are common with wrestlers just as with any athlete, major injuries tend to stack up and keep athletes from reaching their full potential.
“My community college coach told me that there are three things that can keep you from becoming a successful athlete: finances, grades, and staying healthy,” Bitney said.
While his health has become an issue, his grades have not. Bitney was an NAIA Scholar-Athlete in the spring of 2013, and looks to repeat that success in the classroom this year.
“Being a scholar-athlete shows that he can focus on a little bit of everything at once,” said Mike Machholz, head wrestling coach at Missouri Valley College.
Although a senior in the classroom, Bitney is a junior on the mat. After medically redshirting last season and seeing the trainers three times a day for physical therapy, Bitney is back this season wrestling in the 141 lb. weight class. But as with any injury, there’s always some rust that needs to be shaken off.
“I kept telling myself, you have to get back, you have to get back; it’s tough mentally,” Bitney said.
“It’s easy just to quit and give up, and I think younger guys need to see people persevere through things and that’s something Brian has done a pretty good job of,” Machholz said.
With becoming an All-American as his goal and winning the national championship as a team goal, Bitney knows that his work is cut out for him.
“I know that if I don’t perform, I might not get to go to nationals. Fear and pressure motivates you and you have to learn to handle it correctly,” Bitney said.
With the worst hopefully behind him and his eyes on his goals, Bitney hits the mat everyday with one thing in mind, “No weak links.”