Heart of a Lion

Foreword by Dan Gable

Brenda and Larry Burton adopted Willie as a baby, a baby with the odds against his survival. This book is about their struggle, their victories and defeats together as a family, and the drive of a young man to be a wrestler. Award-winning author, Barry Kienzle, met Willie and his family and worked with them to write their story for the world to read.


An inspiring story of overcoming life’s hardships through faith and courage. Willie Burton was born with cerebral palsy. He suffered through painful surgeries and endless physical therapy sessions throughout his youth but his spirit and determination never wavered despite his disabilities. With the support of his adoptive mother, he signed up for the wrestling team at Fairdale High School where he was accepted by the team as an equal, later gaining national attention for his perseverance in order to win a single match on the mat.

What People Say

“Willie’s story is one that we all can learn from.  And there is a reason that Willie walks and talks differently than others – he is a wrestler.  And he’s earned the distinction.”  –Dan Lindberg, Feature Producer – E:60 | ESPN

“Disability is only in the eye of the beholder, and Willie proves it again and again. His life story is an inspiration not only to those with handicaps but to anyone who must overcome any challenges in their own life.”  –Scott Casber, Sr. Vice President, Takedown Media

“Willie tackled every challenge put before him. The teen faced the ultimate test, though, when his determination to earn a place on his high school’s wrestling team put everything on the line. He relied on his faith in God to help him prove that life would not ever pin him to the mat!” –Karen Kuhlman, Northern Kentucky columnist


Brenda Burton, Willie Burton, Barry Kienzle







Year Published



6 x 9


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About the Authors

Barry Kienzle was born, raised and educated in northern Kentucky and is in every sense, a Kentucky boy, proud of his heritage and the state he calls home. As such, he is very familiar with its history and culture and feels honored that his first novel, The Crossings, is a story with northern Kentucky origins.

Barry... Read More