Attitude, Belief, Commitment: WSU’s Wrestling Coach Phil Burnett

WSU’s Wrestling Coach Phil Burnett



Phil Burnett, coach of WSU wrestling poses next to the support WSU wrestling sign along Washington Highway 26.

GABRIELLE BOWMAN, Evergreen news co-editor

Attitude, belief and commitment are the values Burnett said he tries to uphold as a wrestling coach. 

“The ABCs of life,” Burnett said. “If you don’t have a good attitude, that’s not a good thing. If you don’t believe in yourself, your teammates, your process and if you don’t commit to it what good is it?”

Since 2016, Phil Burnett has been the WSU wrestling team coach. He has since inspired many wrestlers.

Burnett has been the wrestling coach for six years and has watched the wrestling team grow tremendously.

He was also the coach to start WSU’s first women’s wrestling team which has also grown significantly throughout the years. 

Burnett originally started out as a semi-professional baseball player but discovered he need a place to work out while playing. 

He looked back at his old wrestling coach who invited him to work out with the team at Federal Way High School. That next year he was hired as the head coach of the wrestling team there when he was only 21 years old, Burnett said. 

However, Burnett eventually made his way over to WSU thanks to his first-ever All-American wrestler Hunter Haney.

Burnett trained Haney to a state championship when he was his coach at the high school then Haney joined WSU on the wrestling team.

“That is how I ended up coaching here. The head coach at the time, Kevin Poitra, could not travel to nationals and Hunter had made it to nationals; the team needed a coach, so he asked me to step in, so I did and got hooked,” Burnett said.

Many wrestlers on the team have said Burnett has been an inspirational figure to them.

“Coach Phil is one of the most inspiring people I have met, hands down. He puts more time and effort into the wrestling team than anyone would ever expect someone to do,” said Julie Wilson, sophomore on the women’s wrestling team.

Burnett has talked to many high school students that have joined WSU because he reached out to them and showed them a community they could join and one that would support them, Wilson said.

Over the past 10 years, around 17 people on the wrestling team have later become wrestling coaches themselves as Haney himself is on the WSU staff.

Burnett tries to connect to his players on a more personal level besides just being their coach. 

“We connect a lot through our fundraising,” Burnett said. “Like our golf tournament and our wrestling tournaments, we get a lot of chances to just hang out by the campfire and get to know each other.”

One of the main things Burnett is proud of as the wrestling coach is the family the team has created themselves.

“My wife Susan and I, our whole goal is to try to lead our team into proper family values,” Burnett said through tears. “That drives me.”