Jordan Burroughs wins wrestling world title 4 weeks after breaking ankle
All is normal again in wrestling. The sport remains in the Olympics, and Jordan Burroughs is still unbeatable.
Burroughs, the 2012 Olympic champion in the 74-kilogram freestyle, won his second straight world championship in the division in Budapest, Hungary, on Wednesday.
He prevailed 4-0 over Ezzatollah Akbarizarinkolaei, the third straight Iranian he’s faced in a world or Olympic final (match video here). It came four weeks after Burroughs required surgery after breaking an ankle in practice.
Doctors said it was a six-to-eight-week recovery process, and he didn’t get back onto a mat until 11 days ago, U.S. coach Mark Manning said.
“This has been the most difficult world championship for me,” Burroughs said, according to an international wrestling federation press release. “I had to fight hard for the gold medal. I’m happy to still be the champion.”
His winning streak is now at 65 matches. Burroughs’ last loss came in 2009, when he was at Nebraska. He tore two knee ligaments in the first period and was edged 3-2, ending a 44-match winning streak. He’s aware of the streak.
“Everyone tells me every day,” Burroughs said in a phone interview from Budapest after winning. “I haven’t been keeping count though. It’s something pretty cool, to tell other people. It doesn’t mean as much to me. It’s something cool to put on posters and flyers.”
Burroughs, 25, became the sixth U.S. men’s wrestler to win three combined Olympic or world titles, joining Bruce Baumgartner, Kevin Jackson, Leroy Kemp, Mark Schultz and John Smith. They’re all freestylers.
Only Burroughs and Smith won back-to-back-to-back world or Olympic titles. Smith won all six Olympic and world titles from 1987 through 1992.
On Wednesday, Burroughs dominated in winning his first three matches by the seven-point-margin mercy rule.
Down 1-0, he came back to take his fourth, a semifinal. Burroughs was up 7-1 when his Belarusian opponent was disqualified for excessive cautions for “slapping Burroughs in the face,” according to USA Wrestling’s Twitter account.
Burroughs needed five screws and a plate in his left ankle after breaking it at the conclusion of an end-of-practice sprint drill Aug. 22. At the end of the sprint is a wall, and Burroughs tried to stop himself by putting his foot against the wall.
“Bam. Snap,” Burroughs said in a phone interview from Hungary on Wednesday. “I knew something was wrong.”
He took his shoe off, was helped out of the room and underwent surgery the next evening in Colorado Springs, Colo. He was then driven back to his hometown of Lincoln, Neb., overnight.
For days, Burroughs had thoughts that he might not be able to compete in Budapest.
“I didn’t have complete faith in myself,” said Burroughs, who was on crutches for a week and a half. “I realized that it may not be possible for me to compete at a high level.
“I thought it would be a game-time decision initially, and the further along in the process of recovery, the better I felt.”
He said the ankle held up “surprisingly well” over five matches Wednesday.
Burroughs is done wrestling for the year, but he will get married in Buffalo next month, followed by a honeymoon in Bora Bora. His plans on the mats next season won’t change. He wants to defend his world title in Uzbekistan.
The 2015 World Championships are in Las Vegas. By then, the rivalry between Burroughs and four-time NCAA champion Kyle Dake could be at its peak. Burroughs beat Dake in the final at World Team Trials in June.
Burroughs previously said his plans were to wrestle through the 2016 Rio Olympics and then possibly switch to another sport. They’ve changed.
“I’ve kind of erased the MMA thoughts,” Burroughs told The Associated Press. “Reaching the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo is a realistic goal. I still have a lot of wrestling left in me.”