When Jordan Burroughs won a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics — where he said, “If the queen of England came onto the mat, I would probably double-leg her” — he went into the stands to search for his mother, Janice.
After the American won his third world championship Saturday night at Orleans Arena, Burroughs’ father, Leroy, was on hand to watch his son win a world title in person for the first time.
“My dad doesn’t even have a passport,” Burroughs, 27, said at a news conference before the World Wrestling Championships, which were in the United States for the first time since 2003. “This is the first opportunity he’ll be able to be in the stands to watch his son compete at the highest level in the world, and hopefully I won’t squander that opportunity. This is big for me.”
Burroughs didn’t waste his chance, beating Unurbat Purevjav of Mongolia by technical fall (10-0) at 5:58 of their 74 kilogram/163-pound gold-medal match before a sold-out crowd of about 7,000 that chanted “U-S-A! U-S-A!” throughout the final.
Draped in an American flag after the match, Burroughs took a victory lap in front of the adoring crowd that included his wife, Lauren, and 1-year-old son, Beacon.
“My family was in the stands, but it was too dark in there for me to even find them,” he said. “I didn’t know where they were sitting. That’s why I didn’t go in the stands.”
The title was especially sweet for Burroughs, who settled for the bronze medal at last year’s world championships in Uzbekistan after spraining the medial collateral ligament in his knee in his first match. He suffered only the second loss of his international career — Burroughs is an astounding 114-2 — to three-time world champ Dennis Tsargush of Russia in last year’s world semifinals.
“Last year was an extremely tough year for me, losing to Tsargush in the semis, and a lot of people forgot what I was capable of. But I always knew what I still had in me,” said Burroughs, who joins John Smith (four world titles, two Olympic golds) and Bruce Baumgartner (three worlds, two golds) as the winningest wrestlers in U.S. history.
“That’s No. 4. I’m in elite company now,” said Burroughs (three worlds, one gold). “There’s Burroughs, Smith and Baumgartner. When I think of the Mount Rushmore of wrestling, I definitely can say I’m on it now.”
Tsargush didn’t compete here, but Burroughs outlasted another Russian in Aniuar Geduev, 4-3, in the semifinals after going ahead 4-2 on a takedown with less than a minute left.
“I’m back, dude,” he said, sporting a gash above his left eye incurred in the second of his six matches Saturday that took four stitches to close.
A New Jersey native, Burroughs won his final 71 college matches and two NCAA titles at the University of Nebraska in 2009 and 2011, when he became only the fourth wrestler ever to win an NCAA title and world title in the same year.
He won a U.S. record 69 straight matches to start his international career and claimed his second world title in 2013 less than a month after breaking his ankle.
“He wasn’t 100 percent, but his 90 percent is more than most people’s 100,” Nebraska coach Mark Manning said. “He’s a tremendous competitor. He’s like a lion after a gazelle. He’s gonna keep chasing it down until he gets it.”
Burroughs, who fittingly wore gold shoes, will now set his sights on winning his second gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics. But first things first.
“A bacon cheeseburger is probably first on the pecking order of things to do,” he said.
* NOTES — American James Green, Burroughs’ training partner and fellow Nebraska alum, won a bronze medal, pinning Mirolsav Kirov of Bulgaria at 2:12 of their 70 kg/154-pound freestyle third-place match. … Russian heavyweight Bilyal Makhov became the first person in 42 years to medal in Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling at the same worlds, twice earning bronze here. … Ohio State 19-year-old wrestler Kyle Snyder became the youngest world champ in U.S. men’s history Friday, when he stunned defending world champ Abdusalam Gadisov of Russia, 5-5 (criteria), in the 97 kg/213-pound freestyle final. … Three-time world champ Adeline Gray became the first American woman to win back-to-back world titles Thursday when she beat Zhou Qian of China in the 75 kg/165-pound women’s freestyle gold-medal match.